Our guide said “Student Agency Bus” and I immediately envisioned a big yellow school bus with sliced-up seats.
The bus that meets us is instead a two-story land yacht with video screens and drink service. The ride is un-notable with the exception of our arrival in Český Krumlov at which point the stewardess curtly informs everyone to “Get off bus, now.”
Český Krumlov was effectively frozen in time during the 1600s and but fell into moderate disrepair during the Communist era. It seems to have recovered.
Today begins the hottest portion of our trip and I was initially concerned that our hotel, built in the 15th century, would be miserable. But our room is pleasantly cool and I remember that old buildings are made of thick, insulating stone and that I am an idiot.
We have lunch at a vegetarian restaurant by the riverside. It is a much needed break from the traditional Czech food and the first time I have seen a salad since arriving in Europe.
The town is small so our walking tour is appropriately brief. Highlights include a Jesuit monastery which has burned down multiple times due to the priests’ beer making and the castle that dominates half of the town.
The town and castle are significantly less crowded than Prague so that we have time and space to explore the details.
More traditional food for dinner, I pick the roasted rabbit, which is surprisingly good and not stringy or tough as expected. We are told it is too early to visit the cocktail bar (it is 9 PM) so we migrate to a another restaurant with a river terrace.
Our guide suggests that I try slivovice, a Slavic plum brandy.
“It is not good, but you should try it.”
It smells like plum saké and I cannot imagine that it will be unpleasant.
“Sip or slam?”
“Slam, definitely slam.”
Our guide looks on expectantly as I throw back the shot. It is very good and I should have sipped it – almost exactly like plum saké.
The waitstaff has not offered to re-fill our drinks and we take this as a hint that it is late enough for the cocktail bar.
It is a Thursday night but the bar is completely empty. Random Euro-Pop blares throughout the labyrinthine building. Surprisingly, the bartender knows what an Old Fashioned is or at least a cartoonish version of it with giant slices of orange.
Our group finds a comfortable nook and settles in. One of the Australian girls dances by herself while everyone else talks – our group bonding continues.
I flip through the cocktail menu.
Turns out, this is absinthe country.