I read recently Czech Republic are considering changing their country name to ‘Czechia‘, the anglicised shortened version of Česko. This is distressing news, partly as I would have to edit my blog posts but also just, urgh. Yes, there are other republics we don’t announce (France for example), but some things just fit, don’t you think? We’d all just got used to Czech Republic. The Czech’s own version Česko, is far better, in my opinion.
Down in the south of Czech Republic, in what feels like the deep end of Czechia’s bosom, lies Třeboň (pronounced more like T-rjjjeb-onnyn, but just say Tshebon because you’ll never get the knack of the r). This is a lakeside town, one of those quintessential lakeside towns that are embarrassed enough by the nearby natural beauty to try and make the human settlement pleasant as well. Not only does Třeboň achieve this, it seems to reached that point then got carried away, like an artist focused in a tunnel vision of explosive creation with the eventual output being something of almost surprised exquisite beauty, as if it had never intended to reach such lofty heights.
What’s the fuss about? Are those photos not doing it for you? Well, if you don’t enjoy tranquility, beauty, lakes, castles, forests, parks, cobbles with a big brewery attached, maybe look elsewhere. Go for some netflix and chill with a Doritos chilli heatwave packet or palm-slap Chronicles of Riddick into the VHS.
The big thing here, along with the unfettered beauty, diverse flora and fauna is the closeted sandbox feeling of provincial safety, the kind you often get with isolated lakeside towns. This is one of those places where everyone knows each other, and got me thinking of a Czech version of Twin Peaks more than once. It is local life at its most local. Trapped pensioners trapped with trapped teenagers, and a load of fishermen inbetween minding their own business and hoping modern life isn’t on its way any time soon.
The old town is the epicentre of the artists great works, the central square being supernaturally gorgeous, grand yet modest, not even an inch taller or a paintbrush flourish longer than required, as if they found the perfect design and see no need whatsoever to tamper with it then, now and hopefully forever. The surrounding streets with colourful meticulously clean facades and cobbles will briefly take you out of your Czech surroundings into something almost more akin to a Scandinavian fishing village, such is the scrupulous cleanliness and bright painted fronts.
It must be said that the place is really very small and exploring the centre will take no more than an hour. The castle area, parkland and lake, along with the dramatic and faintly eerie Schwarzenberg tomb with romantic carved figures of angels (yet another UNESCO inscription) extends what you can get out of this town and makes it well worth a day and night of your life. There are numerous fish restaurants but I would recommend Bily Jednorozec, which is in all the guide books but the quality of ingredients and standard of cooking here is superior for the Czech Republic and to a loftier standard than the average pub fare, and constitutes a nice break from the roast duck, ghoulash and potato pancakes.
If you can’t spare a day of your life for this place then frankly join poor old Schwarzenberg and get in grave.
In summer the lake transforms into a bit of a playground with the usual watersports activities on offer and reportedly attracts quite a few out-of-towners. However, when I was there all tourist activities were in hibernation. Quite a shame as it was a lovely warm sunny day and I’d like to have at least rented a bike. If this is your thing, please be aware nothing will be going on before May.
You mentioned a brewery. So I did. Bohemia Regent is a reasonably well known regional beer that does export across Europe, including the UK now thanks to JW Lees. It is based and brewed in the centre of town in the original buildings. They do some quite traditional Czech style including one of the most stereotypical dark lagers in central europe, but their brewery also does a delicious yeastier version of the light lager, and a semi-dark lager which is superb. Their brewery tap is open and welcoming even off season and dropping in for a beer seems like the right choice at any time of day. The food is decent but they have no English menus and the staff don’t know English well enough to point out “this dish has liver in”, which is fairly important if you don’t like liver.
It serves an essential purpose as sadly, the nightlife was absent on my visit. I took a trip to the characterful cellar bar U Certa, all upturned barrels, gothic designs and wax flaking off everything, however it was made less atmospheric by the fact no fucker was in there except me. Despite my attempt at conversation the barmaid herself seemed to be happier not saying anything either, so all that was left was to sup an average pint of Svijany (albeit costing hardly anything) then leave.
Matters turned even more desperate when I attempted to visit the other bars she had recommended. One closed at 9 in the evening, the other was a desolate waiting room of death. A preserved in aspic 1980’s era working men’s club, all tables and chairs in perfect order, a games section in the corner occupied by no-one except ghosts. Had it not been for the delicious Kozel on tap. I could not think of a single cheerful thing to say about it. It was that bad I revisited U Certa later on, where thankfully there were actually a few humans there.
How the effing-hell do I get to Třeboň? Not too difficult actually. Despite being nestled in South Bohemia, taking a trip from Prague to Ceske Budejovice and Cesky Krumlov will give you the opportunity to take the half an hour journey from Ceske Budejovice bus station. If you’re arriving from Brno you’ll need to take country roads through Trebic, Telc and on to Trebon. A bus comes and goes four times a day, but turn up early for it as Czech bus drivers seem to think timetables are for pussies.