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Europe's latest 'in' spot: Cesky Krumlov in the Czech Republic

Castle overlooks fairy tale town of Cesky Krumlov. Image courtesy of Czech Tourism

Chances are you don't know much about Cesky Krumlov. Like most Americans, probably nothing. So you might be surprised to learn this tiny town in the South Bohemian region of the Czech Republic is fast becoming a big draw for tourists from all over Europe. What's more, the sign-in ledgers of its hotels are showing more and more addresses from places like Beijing, Yokohama, Pusan and Bangkok.

What's there? First, Cesky Krumlov is a wonderful example of a small medieval town that hasn't changed much over the centuries. Second, on a continent loaded with impressive castles, Cesky Krumlov has a real jaw-dropper. No wonder it made the prestigious list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

The town – Cesky means “Czech” and Krumlov translates to something like “crooked meadow,” perhaps because the city is nestled in a meander of the Vlatava River – has roots going back to the 13th century when then castle was built by the Lords of Krumlov. The town sprung up around the castle.

Looking much like something out of a Gothic-Renaissance-Baroque fairy tale, the town (population: about 14,000) is packed with colorful squares, old-world homes and shops along cobbled lanes, dozens of museums and galleries and lots of cafes and bars. All told, visitors can explore some 300 medieval buildings around the town and 40 more in the castle complex.

Tours of the castle wind through gardens, chapels, courtyards and palaces once home to noble families with names like Witigonen, Rosenberg, von Hapsbursg, Eggenberg and Schwarzenberg. Among features of the immense castle is a Baroque theater dating back to the 1400s and a 180-foot-high tower offering a sweeping view of the surrounding town.

The Czech tourism folks offer a free mobile guide to the city and pointers on what to see and do there, where to stay, schedules of upcoming festivals and much more.

Vacationing in Prague? Think about rounding out your experience in the Czech Republic by zipping down to Cesky Krumlov for a few days. Travel times from Prague run from three to four hours by train, bus or rental car. Rides take about the same time from Munich and Vienna.

Lodging lists show over a hundred hotels, inns and b&bs around town including a dozen or so tourist-class hotels.

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