CASTLES AND CHATEAUX

To get a good idea of what Czech Republic is, there is a thing you have to do besides visiting its capital, Prague: you should take a tour around the country, visit its towns and old castles.

To do this, you don’t have to go far from Prague. The most beautiful of all the Czech castles, Karlstejn, is located only 33 km south-west of the city. As seen from its name, the history of this castle is connected with the name of Charles IV – it is for him that this unassailable fortress was erected in the XIV century. Karlstejn (or Karlstein) stands on a high rock above the Berounka river. A wonderful view observed from here makes tourists grab their cameras and forget about what the guide says. Meanwhile, Karlstejn was not only the king’s residence, but also the place for safekeeping royal treasures. Royal regalia were kept in the Chapel of the Holy Cross, walls decorated with precious jewellery and Gothic panel paintings by Master Theodoric.

While Karlstejn belonged to the king himself, other castles were the property of local aristocracy. After the so-called Velvet Revolution some castles were returned to their former owners. One of them is Cesky Sternberg, built in the 13th century, whereas in XVIII it was rebuilt in Baroque style. The castle boasts of its antique interiors, walls adorned with huge paintings and hunting trophies. At the same time, while walking around the castle, you feel ill at ease – this is a private property and you feel like you’re having an excursion around someone else’s flat. The excursion is guided by some relative of the castle’s owner, who lives in its other part. Still, you get the feeling that the old duke will appear soon, and its even hard to believe that you live in the XXI century!

Each castle has its story, its zest. For instance, Konopiste castle, built in the XIV century keeps the largest European collection of armory and medieval weapons. For a period of time, the castle belonged to Franz Ferdinand of Austria, who was assassinated in Sarajevo – this triggered World War I. The historical castle is located about 45 km from Prague and is surrounded with an English rose garden.

Those who are assured that the only thing you can find in Czech Republic is beer should visit Melnik town and its castle, famous wine-making sites. In XIV century king Charles IV brought vine from Burgundy, and since then, wine was produced in Melnik. Nowadays visitors to the castle wine cellars can try excellent wine and hear its story. The castle is situated 35 km north of Prague.

Castles not far from Prague are often visited by tourists, but only those who value real beauty venture for a trip to remote castles. Lets move to the south of Czechia, as it is here that you can feel national diversity. There are many beautiful cities in this region which you are advised to visit whenever you have a chance to: Tabor, Ceske Budejovice, Cesky Krumlov and many others.

For instance, Ceske Budejovice is often called “the Bohemian Florence” for the fact that its historic centre looks very much like Italian squares. The city is also famous for its “Budvar”, produced here since the XVI century. 10 km from Ceske Budejovice you will find one of the most visited Czech castles – Hluboka nad Vltavou – a huge castle with numerous towers and a rich decoration. The museum’s collection contains Baroque furniture, antique tapestries, Italian faience, pictures and sculptures. Another reason why ladies are advised to visit this castle is that here they will find a mirror one look into which will make you young and beautiful.

A real gift for the most curious ones is a visit to another southern city, Cesky Krumlov, with an undamaged architecture ensemble and monuments included in UNESCO list. The main city’s attraction is its castle, famous for its Baroque theatre (completed 1766), complete with original stage machinery, scenery and props and a unique three-story bridge, 40 meters high.

A trip around Czech castles will be an unforgettable experience into the past, where every stone and every article has its own history. Choose the castle you are most interested in but don’t forget that some of them are opened May to September only.