For weeks, I’d been talking about the beach; for the first time in my life, I missed it. I grew up in sunny, coastal Jacksonville, where sea, sand and sweat practically pumped through my veins. On my first trip abroad, I went straight to the tropics. My body was comfortable with the uncomfortable effects of the sun, but this feeling of being without it was a new experience for me. Eight months after planting roots in the first landlocked country I’ve called home, the longing started to set in.
In lieu of a beach and in light of a long weekend, Filip and I decide to escape to Český Krumlov, a UNESCO World Heritage site and arguably the most beautiful town in the Czech Republic. It’s a first for both of us, and we couldn’t be more excited to discover it. And with good reason. Oft-called the pearl of South Bohemia, this idyllic Renaissance town looks something like a utopia.
We camp on the Lipno Dam, a few kilometers from Český Krumlov, to avoid hostel prices and to get our dose of fresh air. The first morning, we go running and, on a whim, drift towards the marina. There is an opening, a sandy stretch of shore that leads to the water, complete with lounge chairs, cabanas with thatched roofs, Jimmy Buffet-esque music, and summer cocktails with those little umbrellas in them. In other words… a beach! Manifestation wins and the world makes sense again. I scribble a mental note to return to this oasis, weighing the possibility that it might just be a mirage. Still, there is exploring to do.
We walk around Český Krumlov, sampling coffee at almost every kavárna we see. Filip’s barista brain wants to compare the beans–the taste, the brand, the complexity of flavor, the skill or flaw of the person preparing them for us. If he’s impressed, he won’t leave the shop without complimenting the barista.
We wander around like the tourists we are, walking in and out of shops, and wasting money on things like gimmicky archery. Even so, I shoot that bow and arrow with strength and accuracy, under the good guidance of a medieval forest maiden. Later, with some persistence, I convince Filip to climb to the top of the palace, even though his European upbringing means he’s kind of over the castle thing. He agrees the views are worth it, though, and we enjoy the architecture, the labyrinthine gardens, and the scene of lazy, drunk rafters floating by on the river below us.
At night, we head back to the beach and pull up chairs on the shore, the water gently lapping in front of us, our toes digging circles in the sand. I drink a mojito because it feels appropriate and we watch the sun set together, after trying to take a dip in the chilly water only to be shooed back to shore. The mood is blissful. I sit back and don’t have to drift far to find myself in a faraway land.