|Travels in South Western Bohemia: August 2007|
The region around Třeboň is dotted with large fish ponds created during the medieval ages, each containing numerous carp. Such is the beauty of the place that the Třeboň area has now been included in the international system of UNESCO Biosphere Reserves. Many of the fishponds are connected by canals passing through fields and forests and we were told provide the majority of the carp that Czech's traditionally eat at Christmas time.
The origin of Třeboň dates back to the 12th century. In 1367 the Rosenbergs founded the monastery in Třeboň with the church of St. Jiljí. Approximately during this period the stronghold on the southwestern side of the town gradually changed into a small castle which was then considerably expanded before the beginning of the 16th century. During the period of the last Rosenbergs also the city changed its shape considerably. Beautiful townhouses in Renaissance style grew at the square, among the first the present hotel "White Horse" with a remarkable "fortress" architecture of the five story gable. The Třeboň town hall with additionally built tower dates about 15 years later (1563).
We just had to go back to Cesky Krumlov again. It is such a delightful medieval town. Situated on the banks of the Vltava river, the town was built around a 13th-century castle with Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque elements. It is an outstanding example of a small central European medieval town whose architectural heritage has remained intact thanks to its peaceful evolution over more than five centuries.
The town is dominated by the River Vltava which almost forms a complete loop around the town. One of the fun things to do is to hire a canoe or raft and to then drift down the river, passing over small rapids on the way. Robert couldn't convince Stephany to join him so one day- whilst she was still in bed he crept out, hired a canoe and travelled down the river only to come back absolutely soaked to the skin. A fantastic experience that will be repeated!
Views of the town from the castle grounds can be breath-taking.
This time we took a tour of the interior of the castle and then later attended a concert of medieval music there in the painted room.
Rožmberk, founded in the middle of the 13th century, lies on the banks of the Vltava river. It developed on a trade route from Český Krumlov to Linz in Austria. While owned by the Bohemian aristocratic House of Rožmberk, it obtained township rights and grew in wealth. In 1620 the town became property of Karel Bonaventura Buquoy, after the battle of White Mountain, and the castle contains many examples of weaponry used at that time.
The Rožmberk castle is composed of the remains of the Upper castle founded in the 13th century of which the Gothic tower called Jakobínka remains and of the Lower castle that was built in the 14th century and later in the 16th, 17th and 19th centuries it was rebuilt.
Much of the excitement however is not generated by the castle but by the canoeing and rafting that takes place on the river Vltava between here and Cesky Krumlov.
The Cistercian monastery of Vyšší Brod is located about 30 km to the south of Český Krumlov, on the right bank of the Vltava river. The picture above shows what it was like at the height of its powers. The monastery holds the second largest library of mediaeval books after the Strahov Monastery in Prague.
The monastery was founded by Wok von Rosenberg in 1259 who called the Cistercians Monks from Wilhering in Austria to go there. Ten generations of the family were buried there and a number of memorials to them are to be found in the church. Such are the fortifications surrounding the complex that it was used as a command centre by the German army during the second world war and was then taken over by the Russian and Czech armies as barracks. The armies have left and it is heartbreaking to see what is left.
Alas, the massive complex of buildings have fallen into considerable disrepair and although a restoration programme is now under way and it will take many years before the site recover some if its former glory.
The town of Prachatice is frequently described as being one the most beautiful Renaissance towns in South Bohemia. The town is situated in the Šumavské Podhůří (Šumava Foothills).
It used to be a settlement on the trade route called Zlatá Stezka (Golden Path), which was used for the transportation of salt to Bohemia. It probably lay in the place of the present town Staré Prachatice (Old Prachatice). The new settlement was founded in the 14th century around the square, together with the church, which is situated in the corner of the square. It is first mentioned in 1323 as a town with the license to crenellate. The importance of the town grew quickly and the town obtained a lot of rights and privileges due to its advantageous position - e.g. the rights of the import of soles, warehousing and the sale of salt from Passau (Austria).
In 1420 the town was burnt down by the Hussites. After the short twilight the growth started again and in 1436 Prachatice became the royal town. The biggest boom started in the 16th century and all the town passed the large Renaissance reconstruction, which is also the present appearance. During the Thirty Years' War Prachatice was captured and all rights and privileges were seized. The town declined and the new development began in the 20th century.
The Late-Gothic and Renaissance face of the historical centre of the town has been preserved up till this day, because of a long building stagnation, which lasted for hundreds of years. The remains of the town walls from the 14th century, which were enlarged in the 16th century (the second line of walls and artillery bastions were added) can be seen in the town. The entrance to the historical centre is through the huge Gothic-Renaissance Dolní Brána (Lower Gate), which is the only preserved gate from three original town gates.
One of the oldest buildings in Prachatice is the dean's St. James' Church in the corner of the square, which was founded together with the town.
The centre of the historical part is the square with the Baroque fountain. The dominant feature is the new town hall. It originates from 1903 and it was built in the Pseudo-Renaissance style. The valuable Renaissance old town hall, which was built between 1570 - 1571, is located in the south-western corner of the square. A lot of Late-Gothic (the second half of the 15th century) and Renaissance (the 16th century) houses can be seen around the square. Most of them have the facades with graffiti.
We had originally booked a two night stay in a hotel built into the City's walls. We discovered that first night that a big outdoor rock concert was being staged near to us and upon discovering that it was scheduled to play again the next night we rapidly decamped and arranged to stay another night in Klatovy.
Some 5 km north-west of the town Prachatice, the town is famous for being the reputed birth place of the well-known theologian and religeous reformer Master John Huss in about 1371.
A quiet little town of few streets the first mention of the town dates back to 1359, but it was probably founded before 1340. It arose near the trade route Zlatá Stezka (Golden Path) and it was property of the domain of the Hus castle. At the end of the 14th century Husinec was under the ownership of two owners, but from the 16th century the whole town was under the ownership of the castle town Vimperk.
The originally parochial Gothic Church of the Holly Cross in the square was reconstructed in 1802. The town hall with the Late-Gothic portal from the 16th century can be found in the centre not far from the church.
The memorial with exhibitions of his life and of the Hussite movement can be visited in his house of birth. The photo above shows Stephany standing outside the house.
The ruins of the castle of Rabi are described in the guide books as being the Czech Republic's most majestic surviving ruins, with a past that reaching all the way back to the 12th century. Anyone who has ever travelled by car or bus to the town of Susice near the Czech Republic's Sumava region will most likely remember the sight of Rabi, the castle's broken white masonry sharp against a blue sky or pelted by rain on an overcast day.
A rich past, a history of survival and dilapidation, Rabi Castle has witnessed many turbulent periods in history and seen many dramatic events under a slew of different noble owners including the Ryzmberks - the family that left the most significant mark in Rabi's history in the 15th and early 16th centuries - to the castle's last owners the Lamberks, who held it for two centuries right up until the 1920s, letting the complex fall into dilapidation and disrepair. A hundred years earlier, after Rabi was hit by a devastating fire it was never restored but became a site for excursions.
Without a doubt Rabi is one of the most excellent examples of Gothic architecture in all of Bohemia. The whole complex gives the impression of so much scarred white stone and broken masonry rising up like impressionistic blocks, broken up by tiny black windows. Surrounded by the odd curve in a wall dotted with slits from which arrows once rained down. Its sheer size remains imposing even now: not only is Rabi surrounded by a deep ditch but its massive outer and inner fortifications still guard the castle's inner most sanctuary. One can only imagine having to storm such a castle with dread - there was a time when Rabi was believed to be unconquerable. Below is a picture of Robin Kafka learning to have a go at defending the castle.
Ultimately, the casstle did fall twice. During the Hussite wars the brilliant military tactician Jan Zizka of Trocnov led his forces against Rabi and succeeded in taking the castle both times. The first victory was in 1420, when Catholic forces loyal to King Sigismund gave up without a fight; the second was just a year later, Zizka's forces retook the castle after a siege and battle, after which Zizka had seven monks famously burned at the stake. The battle, however, proved fateful for the famous one-eyed commander: he suffered an injury that would lead to the loss of his remaining eye, leaving him now completely blind. It was a high price. One final note: the castle was far from complete in Zizka's time, and would only undergo major transformation over the next 200 years, under the ownership of the Ryzmberks.
K l a t o v y
The town of Klatovy lies near to the south-western border of the Czech Republic with the Federal Republic of Germany and is set amidst rolling hills and valleys. The town was founded during 1260 - 63 by Přemysl Otakar II. Imposing town walls with bastions encircle the town square along with a number of ecclesiastical buildings. We stayed for 2 nights in an excellent hotel just off the town square.
There are several architectural jewels in the town such as the Black Tower, the Baroque Pharmacy, the Jesuit church with catacombs and the Archeacon's church.
The water castle of Švihov built at the break of the 15th and 16th century on the site of a former stronghold under participation of the constructor Benedikt Rieto has an important place among fortification buildings.
The core of the castle consists of two residential wings which enclose two internal regular yards. The presbytery of the chapel stands out from the moat in the east, in the west there is a mighty prism tower. Around the castle there was a settlement fortified by bastions and another water dike.
The interiors of the castle illustrate the life in the 16th century. There are precious sculptures in the chapel, the armory of the castle is also remarkable. There is a valuable set of Gothic art from the collections of the National Gallery in the castle. Historical exhibitions alternate in the exhibition hall.
The castle of Velhartice belongs to an exceptional period of Czech castle building. It was established on the turn of the 13th and 14th century on a high promentary surrounded by steeply inclined wooded valleys on all sides. So secure was the castle considered that the Czech crown jewels were moved here from Karlstein to protect them during the Hussite wars.
Much of the castle has been destroyed in the intervening years. What can still be seen are here are the ruins of an old Gothic palace called Paradise House and a large fortified tower standing opposite to it which had both defensive and residential character. Both these parts are connected by a mighty stone bridge with four ogees. Next to the Paradise House stands a late Renaissance palace built for Colonel Martin Hoeffe de Huerta, a mercenary present at the Battle of White Mountain in 1620. The interior of the palace contains a lot of medieval furniture and memorabilia from the time of the Hussite wars.
Set amidst woods and fields the monastery of Teplá owes it foundation to the Czech nobleman Hroznata who founded it as a compensation for the fact that the Pope freed him from the participation in the Third crusade. Hroznata invited the Premonstratensian monks from the Strahov monastery in Prague to come over and found the monastery. Later Hroznata himself became a member of the order and the caretaker of the property.
The monastery Church of the Annunciation of the Lord was built at the turn of the 12th and the 13th century as a Romanesque-Gothic three-nave hall church. Christoph Dientzenhofer made several Baroque changes on it at the turn of the 17th and the 18th century. In the chapel the Hroznata´s remains have been buried. The monastery library with more than 100 000 books is unique. Recently there is a hotel in the complex
The oldest building of the Abbey is the three-nave Church of the Annunciation. It was built between 1193 and 1232, in romanesque-gothic style. The buildings of the cloister and the prelacy (the southern wing) were built on the eve of 18th century by the baroque architect Christoph Dietzenhofer in the place of former gothic buildings destroyed by fire. The farm buildings were built gradually during 15 th -16 th century. The buildings of the library and museum (the northern wing) represent the youngest part of the abbey-complex. They were built between 1902 and 1910 in the new baroque style.
At the beginning of its history, the existence of the Abbey enabled the colonization of the sparsely-populated outer territories of the kingdom and for centuries became the intellectual, cultural, scientific and also economic center of whole area. Teplá owned much of the land around Marianske Lazne and grew rich as the famous spa town was developed.
The 750 years of spiritual life and economic activities of the Teplá Abbey ended with the dissolution by the communist regime in 1950. From 1950, the Abbey was used as a barracks for the Czechoslovakian Army, with exception of the library and the church (opened to public in1958).
Since 1990, when the Abbey was returned to it's original owner - the Premonstratensian Order, the restoration of the buildings gradually continues.
We had been to Marianske Lazne several times before and wanted to go back there to attend some of the concerts of the International Chopin Festival held there every year. We managed to attend two concerts during the three days we were there and greatly enjoyed the atmosphere.
We couldn't leave the town without promenading and sampling the waters of the various spar sources and listening to the singing fountain in the evening.
We stayed at our usual hotel, Hotel Bohemia, the turreted building below, and when not walking around the town or enjoying concerts we spent sometime walking in the forests surrounding the town. And eating at the restaurants too!
The chateau of Kynzvart is situated in a large parkland. The history of Kynzvart starts in the latter half of the 13th century. At that time, the Czech King Premysl Otakar II ordered here the erection of a borderland castle, called Kunigeswart, ruins of which can still be seen atop the steep rock above the township of Lazne Kynzvart. A Renaissance keep was erected below Kynzvart in the late 16th century.
In 1623, after the Battle of White Mountain, the confiscated demesne of Kynzvart, along with the castle and the Renaissance keep, was taken over by Johann Reinhard and his brothers William, Charles, Emmerich and Lothar - officers of General Wallenstein's army and nephews of Lothar Metternich, Archbishop and Elector of Trier. The Metternichs kept the domain of Kynzvart until its confiscation in 1945. Between 1681 and 1691, Count Philipp Emmerich ordered the replacement of the dilapidated Renaissance keep with a Baroque mansion.
Klement Wenceslas Lothar Johann Nepomuk, the second Prince of Metternich - Winneburg, was born on 15 May 1773 in the Palatine-Rhenish town of Coblenz. He served as Austria's envoy to Dresden, Berlin and Paris. Between 1809 and 1848 he occupied the post of Austria's Minister of Foreign Affairs. In addition, he became the State Chancellor of Austria in 1821. In 1813 he was elevated to hereditary princedom. Convened under his auspices upon the defeat of Napoleon, the Congress of Vienna (1814 - 1815) addressed international relations by ushering in a system of treaties between the major powers. Between 1820 and 1833 Pietro Nobile conducted the remodelling of the castle in the style of Viennese Classicism.
At the outset of the revolution in March 1848 and after having handed in his resignation, the Chancellor left for London and Brighton to live there in voluntarily exile. Following his return three years later, he frequently stayed at Kynzvart until his death on 11 June 1859. The house contains many of his effects, including a lot of Napoleonic memorabilia.
When not walking around the house and grounds we relaxed at the castle's outside cafe. There we discovered a lovely dessert consisting of a fruit coulis, yoghurt and fruit and have been re-making it at home ever since.