We got up at 7 for the third day in a row. And for the third day in a row, Justin woke up well before the alarm, and Crystal cursed it because she'd been up in the middle of the night. Rather than go on another long day of walking, leaing at 8, today we had a 8:10 pickup for a transfer/day trip to Cesky Krumlov. Originally we were going to take the train from Prague to Salzburg, which would give us a good amount of flexibility, and allow us to use this day to see whatever we hadn't been able to see in Prague the first two days. But we'd seen and heard a lot of good things about Cesky Krumlov, and in researching day trips from Prague and Salzburg, we'd run across transfers between the cities that included a stop at Cesky Krumlov. We found a company, CK Shuttle, that appeared to do all sorts of transfers between Prague and different spots in Austria that stopped in Cesky Krumlov, and we'd booked with them about a month prior. The price wasn't too bad, and it was on the way anyway.

Sure enough, after two days of gray and mist, this morning there was blue sky and some pink clouds. It was Prague's last attempt to convince us to come back sometime (presumably in nicer weather). It was quite cold outside, but we didn't want to wait inside and potentially miss the shuttle. At 8:07 Justin got a text that our driver was running 5-10 minutes late - very professional of them. Our driver, Martin, picked us up a little before 8:15. He told us it would be a full van, with 8 (or maybe it was 10) passengers. We decided to sit up front, as we could see more and we would be less likely to get carsick. It was a little odd being in a vehicle after taking only public transit and walking the past couple of days. Unsurprisingly, it was really loud bouncing around over all the cobblestones on the street.

On the way out of town we went past Wesceslas Square, The Dancing House, across the bridge right next to the Dancing House, then south on the west side of the Vltava. After 10 or so minutes on the west side, we eventually got on a highway headed out of town. Surprisingly, there was lots of snow as we left the city, and the concrete, behind. We're not sure how there could be literally no signs of snow anywhere in Prague, but quite a bit just south of the city. Aside from the snow, the scenery was otherwise not very interesting. A little before 10, we stopped at a gas station, and got some snacks and stretched our legs. We eventually made our way through Cesky Budejovice - a good sized city - and arrived in Cesky Krumlov just after 11.

It was freezing (literally) outside, with snow on the rooftops and the hillsides all around town. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site, as it is one of the few places that wasn't damaged in any serious way by World War II. The reason - best as we can tell - is that it was part of the Sudetenland that was just handed over to the Germans in 1938, so there was no fighting. After the war, all of the Germans were expelled, and the town returned to Czechoslovakia. The city dates back to the 1200s, with a large castle that was built in 1240 and spreading out from there. It is a very picturesque town, with the central part of town surrounded by the Vltava river almost completely (270 degrees give or take) due to a weird bend in the river.

We parked at the top of town, and walked downhill into the main square, where, not surprisingly, there was a Christmas market. We walked across a small bridge to the northeast to the area where the castle and tower were. At the tower there was a moat with signs saying don't feed the bears, but we couldn't see any bears. We surmised that they were perhaps hibernating. We don't blame them. We walked up the tower, the stairwell was not nearly as claustrophobic or hard to navigate as in Uzbekistan. There were nice views from the top. Similar to Prague, Cesky Krumlov was like Disneyland for adults, with lots of bright colors, snow, a river, castles, etc. We walked around the castle area for a bit, then headed back the way we came.

On the way back we stopped at Cesky Pernik, which was the only place we'd jotted down in our notes prior to the trip. The notes said to get schnapps and gingerbread there, so we did. We got a sour cherry schnapps and the smallest thing of gingerbread we could find. Most of the gingerbread was an old school design, and some of it looked like it shouldn't even be eaten. What we got, meanwhile, definitely looked it was intended to be eaten. It was tasty, but Justin's grandmother's is better. We asked the proprietor if there was anywhere she recommended for lunch. We'd seen a ton of restaurants right along the river, but most of them looked like they were summer oriented, with large outdoor patios and rooftop terraces. As it was, everything looked empty and not too many tourists were in town. We walked around for a bit, just wandering the streets, trying not to get too lost or turned around. The place must be a zoo during the summer, when all the restaurants and stores are filled.

As far as we were concerned, this was a perfect day trip place, along the way from Prague to Vienna or Prague to Salzburg/Halstatt. The town is quite small, so you can walk it all in just a few hours, and there didn't appear to be too many sites besides the castle and tower, just a bunch of shops and restaurants. One of the stores we saw was for CK Shuttles, and we had the epiphany that CK must stand for Cesky Krumlov. It also makes sense that the company would be based in Cesky Krumlov, as that is the center point of all the places they drive, so they can easily split up their days and re-arrange vans in the middle of the day by having things based in Cesky Krumlov. We also saw a shop with stuff from Egon Schiele, whom we'd never heard of until Heidi raved about him a week or two before we left on our trip and asked us to get her something of his. We took this as a sign, and grabbed her something that looked like it was a painting of Cesky Krumlov. Also, at one of the shops we got a "Little Mole" for our nephew Levi. The Little Mole is an animated cartoon character, we're guessing like Mickey Mouse or Bugs Bunny or something. We'd seen Little Mole dolls and other gifts all over Prague as well, so we figured he was big all over the country.

We grabbed lunch at the place recommended by the woman at Cesky Pernik, a restaurant named Konvice. From the relatively limited menu, we guessed that this was the sort of place that catered to large tour groups and could feed lots of people in short order. Today, we were almost alone inside. We both got the roast pork, which came out in almost no time at all, and it was quite good. After finishing our meal, we looked on TripAdvisor for something to do in the afternoon, as we weren't leaving for Salzburg until 4 and it was only around 2. We saw some pretty good reviews for a place called the Seidel Photo Museum, so we decided to give it a try.

It was very cool, lots of old materials on photography and whatnot. The original Mr. Seidel started his business back in the late 1800s, and apparently was either A) extremely organized and/or B) a hoarder. There was all sorts of old equipment (not that odd), but also all sorts of logs, books, negatives, and more. His son took over in the 1900s, but, as we had learned at the communist museum, individual businesses were effectively shut down after WWII, and this was one of them. In 1989, when the communists left, the family and the town agreed to turn the place into a museum, and there was a fairly short audio tour that explained things about the dark room, the studio, the kitchen, and more. If you're in Cesky Krumlov, we definitely recommend it. We tried to find other stuff to do before our 4pm pickup, walking up and down the street near where we were going to get picked up. We didn't see anything to do, but did see a hotel with a great name, the Margarita Villa.

Eventually we got one more drink at the place we had lunch. We gave all our remaining Czech money to the proprietor, since she took pity on us regarding the credit card minimum. We didn't have enough cash for the drinks, but the drinks were less than the credit card minimum. She made an exception for us, which was extremely nice of her. Right at 4pm we were picked up in a different van by a different driver, Fabio, who was originally from Portugal. Our bags were in the new van, so that was good. We asked Fabio how his day was going - he was momentarily taken aback. We're guessing that doesn't happen a lot. We're both doing our best trying to be more cognizant of this sort of thing.

We were both in the front again, and both fell asleep almost immediately. When we got up, the signs were in German instead of Czech, and we were in some very cosmopolitan looking city, about to cross over the Danube. From the street signs we figured we were in Linz. As in the morning, we made a brief stop at a gas station to stretch and use the facilities. It was bitterly cold outside, but it may have just felt that way since inside the van was so warm. Or both. There was some evening traffic as we passed through town, but once out of Linz, the speed limit went up - WAY up - to 140km/h (90 mph). We fell asleep again, and woke up just as we were entering Salzburg. It was bigger than we thought, and looked to be a real city (not a small town, like Cesky Krumlov). The first stop was to drop a couple of folks off at the train station. We were the next stop, not too far away. We told Fabio "obrigado" and went inside to check in.

The hotel, the Sheraton Grand, looked to be a very nice place next to Mirabell Gardens in the newer part of the city, across the river from the older part. We hadn't spent much time doing diligence on the hotel, as we were using points everywhere, and Salzburg had two peroperties in town, but one was closed for renovations, so our choice was basically made for us. We were on the first floor, but we quickly realized that in Europe, the first floor is the first floor above the ground floor - or what we call the second floor in the US. Between the elevator and our room there was this little contraption that puzzled us at first, but then we realized it was a shoe cleaner/buffer, presumably to get mud and snow and other crud off of your shoes.

We had a nice big room, with a large bathroom as well. The hotel bathroom looks quite a bit like our bathrooms back home - our house design must be very European. We went out for dinner, with no real idea where to go. Justin had done a quick web search in the hotel room, and found some place with good reviews that was nearby, just on our side of the river. But it had no room, and they didn't even offer a waiting list, so we walked across the river into old town. In old town there was a street just off the riverbank that paralleled the river, and it was full of stores (and people), so we followed that for a bit. Eventually we ran into more Christmas markets near the Mozartzplatz. Above us to the south was a well illuminated giant fortress, which we planned to visit the next day (and perhaps night as well). We found a beer hall, Gasthaus Zwettler's, and it was busy was there was a couple empty tables.

Our seat was right near the bar, and the bar was full of rowdy (but good natured) folks enjoying their alcohol. We had a fair amount of catching up to do, not that we wanted to. A couple of the people were too drunk to walk without assistance. We just did a bunch of people watching, and Crystal attempted to listen to whatever German she could make out. She'd been practicing for a couple months before our trip. She'd been fluent(ish) when she was quite young, before Kindergarten, and had taken a little bit in school, but nothing any time recently.

One of the rowdy bar folks tried to get Crystal to dance, but she wasn't interested, and the guy wouldn't take no for an answer until his buddy told him to cool it. Justin ordered the schnitzel, after purposely avoiding eating any schnitzel in the Czech Republic - he wanted to have it in Austria first. The food was good, as was the beer. As if those weren't heavy enough, we shared some fancy dessert with raspberries that almost looked like a ship's sails. Apparently it's a thing in Austria, but we had no clue. On the way back we saw an outdoor ice skating rink, and aside from it and the market nearby, the city was very quiet with almost everything else closed. We walked back across the river and up to the hotel. We were asleep around midnight or so, and despite this being ostensibly a "travel" day (which it was), we had still managed to walk almost 8 miles.

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