Sunday, 9 September 2007

A visit to Ceske Budejovice

Normally when we go to Ceske Budejovice it is with a specific purpose - we go, do what we need to do and come away again. But a few days ago we decided to spend some time as tourists. Ceske Budejovice is a place which is often compared unfavourably with Cesky Krumlov – it is a large town and comes with retail parks, factories and all that that implies. It simply is not as pretty as Krumlov and it doesn't perch quaintly in a lovely setting.

However were it not being compared with its UNESCO-rated neighbour Ceske Budejovice would score highly on the tourist map. The old town bounded by the river on one side and moat on the other is a delight. The town square is enormous surrounded by arcaded renaissance and baroque buildings. We wandered around the square and the various streets that radiate from it – finding that Budejovice offers a far better range of shops and gifts than Cesky Krumlov does. Krumlov's shops tend to all of a kind, offering the same gifts in every shop. Why is that? Surely the tourists at whom Krumlov's shops are aiming their wares would like more variety. But no, it is all part of the lack of imagination which Krumlov displays in dealing with tourists. You will like wooden toys, amber beads and fancy soaps, or else!

But the highlight of our visit to Budejovice was unquestionably the Church of the Sacrifice of Our Lady. The church is impressive sitting on another large square, although the eye goes to the building of the former city armoury next to it first. But it is the inside of the church that excels. The medieval murals around the nave (on walls and nave pillars) are real stunners (see picture). The side aisles have some great painted vaulting brackets showing a number of gurning faces. On the altar is a panel painting of the Virgin Mary of Budejovice (early 15th century). All of which mean that the church alone makes visiting Budejovice well worth while.

1 comment:

Philip Wilkinson said...

One thing that I like about Ceske Budejovice, something that sets it apart from Krumlov, is its unselfconsciousness. It's not trying to be anything, it just gets on with being itself. Krumlov tries a bit too hard to be a tourist centre, amber beads, fancy soaps and all, whereas the presents you can buy in Budejovice are more likely to be from the shops used by the locals.


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