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Trains from Prague to Ceske Bude­jovice (two hours and 40 min­utes) link with trains to Cesky Krumlov (less than an hour). More: raileu­rope.com.au. Cesky Krumlov Tourist Of­fice (In­fo­cen­trum) of­fers lo­cal ticket sales, Cesky Krumlov Card valid for 30 days, book­shop and in­ter­net. In­fo­cen­trum staff and of­fi­cial guides are among the rare English­s­peak­ers. More: Na­mesti Svornosti 2; ck­rumlov.cz/info. The his­tory of Cesky Krumlov hov­ers be­tween the aris­to­cratic world of the Lords of Krumlov and the lives of the peo­ple at their feet. To­day, it’s still a steep climb from Cesky Krumlov’s me­dieval Old Town, built around the me­an­der­ing Vl­tava River, to the cas­tle com­plex. The for­ti­fied cas­tle, seat of the Rozm­berks, Eggen­bergs and Sch­warzen­bergs, is a labyrinth of 40 build­ings in­ter­laced with court­yards — up­per and lower cas­tles, tower, mu­sic pavilion, win­ter and sum­mer rid­ing schools, brew­ery, sta­bles, baroque apart­ments, chapels and gal­leries.

Its old­est build­ing dates from 1253, with the lat­est ad­di­tions from the 16th cen­tury. The Gestapo con­fis­cated the cas­tle from the last Sch­warzen­berg in 1940.

The Cas­tle Mu­seum, opened last year, is a se­ries of apart­ments packed with elab­o­rate dec­o­ra­tions, fur­nish­ings and arte­facts from the House of Rozm­berk.

Tick­eted sight­see­ing routes and guided tours with for­eign com­men­tary are about CZK240 ($12). More: cas­tle.ck­rumlov.cz.

CARNIVAL FROLICS

Painted in 1748, the cas­tle’s ro­coco Mas­quer­ade Hall is a riot of colour and trompe l’oeil tricks.

Around the walls, aris­to­crats and ac­tors ca­vort in cos­tume ( commedia dell’arte, Span­ish and Turk­ish folk dress) un­der chan­de­liers and on balustraded bal­conies. The cas­tle’s Guided Tour 1 in­cludes some orig­i­nals of cos­tumes and in­stru­ments painted on the walls.

The Baroque The­atre ( oc­ca­sion­ally the scene of per­for­mances in authen­tic cos­tumes and pow­dered wigs) re­tains its orig­i­nal au­di­to­rium, or­ches­tra pit, stage, ma­chin­ery and li­bret­tos (the­atre tours, CZK380).

SHOP­PING JEW­ELS

Czech gar­nets and Baltic am­ber-and-sil­ver jew­ellery are ev­ery­where, flam­boy­antly huge (for the Rus­sians, I’m told) or stylishly mod­ern. At Praha-Col­lec­tion (La­tran 45) the Croa­t­ian shop­keeper has in­ter­est­ing sto­ries to tell and a range of de­signs at less than Prague prices. At Manus Ode­vni Ga­lerie (Dlouha 92) de­signer Vanda Plasilova makes clothes, quirky hats (some in felt) and bags by hand. Up­mar­ket col­lec­tors will find porce­lain Haps­burg Em­pire clocks at Sterzinger An­tik (Ka­jovska 62).

FINE FRES­COES

Visit St Vi­tus’s Cathe­dral, be­neath the spindly white tower that can be seen from just about ev­ery­where in the Old Town, for 15th-cen­tury fres­coes, the early Baroque altar and gilded wooden pul­pit stairs. The eeri­est pres­ences are the en­tombed hearts of some of the Sch­warzen­berg clan, as well as Wil­helm von Rozm­berk and his third wife, buried be­neath red-mar­ble Re­nais­sance tomb­stones.

EX­PRES­SIONS OF IN­TER­EST

Rad­i­cal ex­pres­sion­ist pain­ter Egon Schiele at­tracts the at­ten­tion of art lovers around the world. When he moved here ( his mother’s home town) from Vi­enna in 1910, he soon at­tracted the notice of scan­dalised small-town con­ser­va­tives and was later driven out.

Now Gallery Egon Schiele Art­cen­trum (Siroka 71) ex­hibits manuscripts, pho­to­graphs, paint­ings and an en­gross­ing film about Schiele’s life. There’s also an ex­cel­lent shop of books, prints and sta­tionery (closed Mon­day). More: schieleart­cen­trum.cz.

ALL DOLLED UP

Any­one in­ter­ested in cos­tume, tra­di­tional crafts and the the­atre (or even chil­dren) will love Muzeum Mar­i­onet (La­tran 6) run by the na­tional Mar­i­onette The­atre. A for­est of near life-size, gor­geously cos­tumed, an­tique and mod­ern pup­pets dan­gle from the heavy ceil­ing beams of St Jobst Church. There’s also a Baroque pup­pet the­atre with func­tional ma­chin­ery, stage de­signs and prop­er­ties (open daily). More: mozart.cz.

SNAPPY BITES

Sip espresso with home­made cakes in a court­yard be­tween gothic houses at Cafe Vlassky dvur (Dlouha 32). Try mulled wine in the colourful am­bi­ence of Cafe Van Gogh (Masna 130). Visit the tiny bak­ery op­po­site the Egon Schiele gallery for staro­ceske trdlo (pas­try wrapped and baked around a wooden rod, the hol­low cylin­ders rolled in su­gar).

TASTE TRA­DI­TIONS

Book a ta­ble on the can­dle-lit, riverside ter­race at Ho­tel Dvo­rak (Rad­nicni 101) and or­der de­li­cious tra­di­tional dishes (such as pork, duck, bread dumplings, cream sauces, ap­ple strudel) with the Cas­tle Tower loom­ing above. Cross Lazeb­nicky Bridge from Ho­tel Dvo­rak to Bolero Res­tau­rant (La­tran 6), for rus­tic Czech dishes in a wood­lined cel­lar (gar­lic soup, Czech sausage, salad and beer). More: hoteld­vo­rak.com. Ju­dith Elen was a guest of Rail Europe and In­fo­cen­trum Cesky Krumlov.

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