kayaking the Vltava

another incalculable upside to visiting Krumlov in late September? even in the absolutely perfect weather, I had the whole Vltava River to myself.

because of the town’s location in a crook of the Vltava river, water sports (along with all other manner of outdoor activity — I told you, the Czech enjoy the outdoors) are quite popular and several companies offer kayak and canoe rentals. both my guidebooks recommended getting out on the water, so on my (unanticipated) third day in Krumlov I tracked down one that rented single kayaks.

looking back at the Vltava from the direction I came

I showed up just as the shop opened and, upon hearing that I — a single person — wanted to rent a single kayak received a dubious look that could have wilted fresh flowers. “You know,” the rental guy said, “it really is better to have someone to go with you, take a two-person kayak.” I am not generally one to get legitimately offended by anyone, but the incredulity with which this guy infused his words struck me. I have kayaked, I have canoed, I have dealt with mild rapids and know how to handle myself. so I told him as much and made it clear that I intended to go no matter what he might think.

so I did (though not until a couple of hours later, when they brought boats into town from the boathouse). I passed sites along the river that, during the high season, offer refreshment (beer) and camping; late September, though, they were all closed. the water was calm and mostly quite shallow. I encountered a few rough patches, had to portage around the weir in town and battled a tendency to turn myself backwards from overcompensating my strokes; but on the whole my biggest concern stemmed from the fact that neoprene does have a saturation point and, upon reaching that point, water leaked through the skirt and soaked through my pants. good thing I opted for my quick-drying pants rather than jeans and against taking the option to bike back to town from the pick-up point in Zlata Koruna.

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Krumlov under water

Krumlov has much to recommend it, in spite of the tour bus groups that inundate the town and clog streets, bridges, and every nook of the old town. both the castle and the old town are UNESCO World Heritage sites and, because of the proximity to both Prague and Vienna, it is a highly popular day trip well into the fall. I can’t imagine what the town looks like mid-day in August! even in late September I had gaggles of pensioners, couples, and other tourists to contend with around every corner.

the town sits in a bend of the Vltava River; or rather, it straddles a switchback-like ‘S’ curve, with the Castle perched on a hill at one end overlooking the town center on a near-island below. this location made for an exceptional defensive position in the age of knights and castles, but not necessarily so great in the modern era when the town relies heavily on tourism that the vagaries of nature can disrupt. in August of 2002, the Vltava River flooded badly, submerging much of the historical section of town. (check out photos of the flooding here.) the Lazebnický most was completely submerged (the bridge in the picture), though the railings were removed in time to prevent worse damage from occurring. though the flooding certainly took its toll, the town seems to be doing just fine these days.

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