Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Czech Out the Castles - Part One (Czech Republic)

The travel wonder of Prague Castle and the spires of St Vitus Cathedral overlooking the Vltava River (top photo) is one of Europe's most enduring images. Central to a number of prominant Prague hotels and being at a focal point of European history, Prague Castle is only one of a number of enchanting, historic or ornate castles around the Czech Republic. This article highlights seven other castles sprinkled across the Czech Republic worthy of a visit - the first three heritage listed by UNESCO and the final four within a couple of hours of Prague.

Litomyšl Castle's detailed decorations are in a style called sgraffito where different coloured plasters are applied to the walls and then scratched to produce outlines of varying colours. The striking design gives the aristocratic feel of a French chateau. A still accurate 1728 sundial sits in the courtyard. Furthermore, the castle is treasured as the birthplace of the country’s most famous composer, Bedřich Smetana, known locally as “the father of Czech music” and which is sometimes played in the attached original Baroque theatre (one of only five in the world). The nearby main square is huge for such a small town and truly elegant with renaissance houses painted in a variety of pastel colours.

Lednice Castle was owned by the Princes of Liechtenstein until communist rule after World War 2. Denuded of all its furniture by the departing family, it has been restored to some of its former glory. The interior includes stunning oriental wallpapers and a staggering wooden staircase, hand-carved from one immense piece of hardwood with intricate railings. Outside is a huge park including the chance of a boat ride down the meandering river highlighting a towering out-of-place minaret (ready for a call-to-prayer) and a purpose-built ruined castle, purely for decoration.

Kroměříž Castle is the baroque palace of the local archbishops in the east of the country. The castle has a historic library and some fine paintings but the highlight is the surrounding formal garden complete with ornate symmetric designs, colourful blooms, crisply clipped hedges and elegant statues. The gardens have a lot of the style of the best of the French chateaux with their precision, creativity and floral opulence. The phenomenal garden has earned this castle its UNESCO heritage listing.

Four more Czech castles are featured in part two.


Collin said...

Very impressive blog. I have linked to you. Hope you would like to do the same.

Heather Dugan ("Footsteps") said...

How lovely. There's good reason for the film industry to be so enamored with that area!
I have a fold-out postcard of Prague given to me years ago that sits above my desk for travel "inspiration".

colinwright said...

Ah, I'll definitely have to keep the Czech Republic on my list of possible next countries to visit (though visitors to my site will ultimately decide which I go to :)

Nice blog! I'll be checking back!

Mark H said...

@collin: Thank you for your kind remarks

@heather: I recall Prague had palces where Amadeus was shot - a superb movie.

@colinwright: I hope your visitors vote for the Czech Republic (I might go and record a vote for that if I can) as it is a truly special country. Make sure you escape Prague to get a more complete experience of the place.

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