Slupenec- A Hidden Gem
8.7.07 19 °C
Summer of 2003, 2005 and 2006.
A horse, a horse! My kingdom for a horse! That's what I wanted to shout out, during my trips to Cesky Krumlov. Most people are aware of the charms of the Czech Republic and especially of its well-known holiday retreats like Cesky Krumlov. This beautiful little town, rightly a UNESCO protected site, sometimes gets completely overcrowded in the summer months and soon enough you need a vacation from the vacation spot. For those who enjoy walks in solitude or riding through the forest and hilly slopes, without the chatter of Japanese photographers and the banging of beer mugs on wooden tables, a ten-minute drive from the centre of Cesky Krumlov, is a haven called Slupenec. You can either walk up the steep incline along a zig zag path or take a taxi up to Slupenec, to the riding stables. A mere 80 Czech Crowns (just about $4) will take you up there. I recommend the walk. Besides working up an appetite for the meaty meal that awaits you later it will put you firmly back in touch with nature. Little cheerful houses dot the incline and once you've reached the top, there will be a sign for the riding stables. All along the walk there are sudden fields filled with spots of red and yellow blooms, lilac and daisies.
Once you choose your steed, depending on your ability, you can set off with the guide ahead and make your way through open meadows, up the slopes and into the fairly dense forests. The horses are sure-footed and you won't slip, even if you are an absolute novice. The forest is filled with the smells of wild mushroom and berries and you might just spot an old grandfather and his grandson picking some. Nothing but the sound of birdsong, the wind in the trees and the clopping of the horses. The best part is that during the summers, this area is so thick with foliage that even in the daylight, there are some parts of the forest that are cool and shaded, leaving the sunlight to shine upon the open meadows. The two guides I met hardly spoke any English, except for basic instructions and so you could ride on in silence without having to make any conversation at all. Naturally, guests are not allowed to ride off alone with the precious stallions. There are full grown Arabians so experienced riders can really live it up. You can't carry anything with you while on horseback so there aren't any urban annoyances like cell phones ringing. Once you're back from your ride, you can wander around the area, lie down in the grass and overlook the entire valley, quiet, gorgeous and inspiring. If you are an impressionist painter, there are beautiful spots about 200 metres further up from the stables where the vantage points would be perfect to pitch an easel.
Since summer is the time tourists crowd into Cesky Krumlov, it's a good idea to book at the stables, for a time and number of horses. Most of the hotels or hostels know the place and will call for you. Since they don't allow more than six or eight people out with the horses, at a time, you are assured of the solitude and peace. During the winters, it's even better. I found no more than two or three people out on the snowy slopes and the chilled forest. Calling it a Christmas postcard would not be far from the truth. An experienced rider will appreciate that the horses perform much better during the winter as they don't have to contend with the heat and summer horseflies. Once again, though, call ahead as sometimes intense winter winds and avalanches force the stables shut. A day or two in Slupenec really allows you to appreciate the best of nature in quiet solitude.
Those who aren't riders are not allowed into the stables and should best stay put in Cesky Krumlov and leave the peace of Slupenec to the man with the flying stallion.