Wednesday, 18 March 2015
Spotting Czech Castles
The Czechs proudly boast that their country has more castles per square mile than any other country. Of course that is partly explained by the Czech Republic's rather violent history - there are so many castles because they were needed.
As you drive around the country, you will frequently see signs to a hrad (castle), or zamek (manor house or palace) or occasionally to a tvrz (translated in my dictionary as stronghold but more often in my experience it is a fortified manor). And if you follow those signs you may come to just a pile of rubble barely recognizable as a castle or you may come to a hugely impressive structure heaving with visitors. Either way this is a country for castle spotters.
It is even a country for castle collectors, as the authorities sometimes offer dilapidated castles at cut-down prices. However such deals come with lots of strings attached - you have to get certain repairs done within a specified timescale or forfeit your ownership. One hears of poor castle owners hardly managing to get the necessary permissions before their time runs out and their castle reverts to the former owner.
But back to castle spotting. Given the sheer number of castles in the country it is surprising that so few are visited by tourists. There are certain castles that are on the tourist's radar: Prague of course, Český Krumlov, Karlštejn, Hluboka Nad Vltavou, and Křivoklát: all castles that are visitable on a day trip from Prague. But there are hundreds more. Some of these are equally impressive, all will be less touristy, and many will give you an insight into the history of the country.
I recently looked through my previous blogposts and was surprised that I had only written posts about Sloup Castle in Czech Switzerland, the massive castle at Jindřichův Hradec and Český Krumlov castle, even though I have visited many Czech castles over the years. Over the next year or so, I intend to rectify this and write a series of occasional posts about some of my favourite castles. Watch this space.