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March 14, 2019

Czech Republic: Telč

Renaissance and Baroque houses line the sides of Telč’s main square.

As we readied to leave Český Krumlov’s tourist throngs behind we went downstairs to load the luggage into the car. We were greeted by two police officers preparing to attach a boot to the wheel of our rental car. The car had been parked in a remote garage and had just been moved to the front of the hotel by the staff. We knew the entrance to our part of the hotel was in a pedestrian zone. But the hotel desk staff was insistent on moving the rental car to the front of the building rather than allowing us to shuttle our luggage through the cobbled streets to the garage as we did on the way in.

This left us with an annoyance as we departed.

I pleaded with the officers that I hadn’t actually driven the car into the town center myself. It was true. I didn’t drive the car into the old town. Technically it would seem that I shouldn’t have been liable for the fine. But it didn’t matter. We were issued an on the spot penalty of 2,000 Czech “crowns”. It was a seriously annoying way to start the day.

Telč’s castle was only partially open at the time of our visit.

Two thousand koruny české seemed a steep fine for a pedestrian zone violation, particularly in the generally less-expensive Czech Republic. Doing the math the fine translated to the price for 50 standard-sized beers at a Czech bar. That’s equivalent to 20+ liters of beer, more than enough to keep a Czech beer lover happy for several evenings. Though $90 US may not get you much in San Francisco, it is a lot of money in the Czech Republic. Fifty Czech-sized beers in San Francisco will run you $300 or so.

I could complain as much as I wanted, but there was little choice but to pay the fine. Thus I passed over most of our remaining Czech currency and we were allowed to proceed to our next destinations.

After the rough start and a drizzly stop in Třebíč we ended up for the night in the town of Telč(pronounced “telch”). In 1992 UNESCO inscribed the “Historic Centre of Telč” on its list of World Heritage sites. As with Český Krumlov and Třebíč we were visiting in part because of UNESCO’s designation.

Our hotel was located just outside Telč’s historic center. After parking in the hotel’s lot comfortably protected from parking cops and settling into the room we walked over to see the commune’s large main square.

The pump still works

The experience in Český Krumlov and Telč was very different: There were far fewer tourists on the streets in Telč when we arrived. We figure without verification that Rick Steves and the other influential international television travel personalities feature Český Krumlov and not Telč in their programming. After the crowds we experienced in our last three stops, Munich, Salzburg, and Krumlov, the low tourist density in Telč was a good thing.

It was good that Telč was off the tourist radar. It was less good that some of the attractions we wanted to visit had partially closed. The beginning of October was the end of the prime tourist season; things were closing down in this area of Europe. We had arrived a couple of days too late to see everything.

What we were able to see on the inside we found interesting. But Telč’s main attraction can be seen year around. The commune’s central plaza is lined with similarly sized pastel colored buildings all with arcades and high gables. While there’s uniformity of scale to the well-conserved Renaissance and Baroque houses, the exterior stylistic details vary dramatically. Each house in Telč has its own distinctive character. Taken together it is striking.

Rows of pastel

Telč is photogenic.

In its World Heritage listing UNESCO describes Telč:

“The houses in Telč, which stands on a hilltop, were originally built of wood. After a fire in the late 14th century, the town was rebuilt in stone, surrounded by walls and further strengthened by a network of artificial ponds.”

Curiously UNESCO refers to Telč standing on a “hilltop”. I’m not usually one to disagree with UNESCO’s descriptions, but in this case I will. UNESCO observes Telč is partially surrounded by a “network of artificial ponds”. That would be hard to accomplish if Telč was actually on a hill. Though there are low hills near Telč, it is on a hill and it is incorrect to call it a hill town.

Nevertheless UNESCO hits on the essential elements that make Telč appealing: A fire in the 14th Century led to the reconstruction of the buildings surrounding the commune’s large central square in consistent Renaissance and Baroque styles. The result is attractive. For sure it is worth traveling to see even if Rick Steves seems to have missed it.


We visited Telč at the start of October in 2018.

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