The very first trip, organized by Brno Day Trips, was for 2 journalists from Romania- Bogdan and Adina from eCoolTour-Oameni, Fapte, Idei . These two very kind persons travel around the world and write traveller blogs and tourist guide books for Romanian tourism market and this time they decided to explore Moravia. Before their arrival they had made very deep research of the area and had sent detailed request of which we selected most interesting places. Their main focus was on chateaux and castles. To be honest some castles I had not visited until with them so I was very excited to take part in their journey.
Our schedule was very busy from the first moment . Based on our e-mail conversation we met upon their arrival at the bus station and after very quick welcome we headed to Lysice town. Our goal was to visit the very charming Lysice castle of Baroque appearance from the 18th century (1705-1711). The castle offers its visitors two tours to its interiors and from April to October you can visit castle garden with a promenade colonnade and orangery.
On our way back to Brno we made a visit to the Veveří castle which is being renovated over the past years. The castle is located about 12 km northwest of Brno city centre towering above the river Svratka and the Brno Dam. First written records about the castle date back to years of 1213 and 1222 and it makes the castle older than the Špilberk castle found in Brno centre. Throughout centuries the castle was in the possession of many noble families and it hosted many important personalities including Winston Churchill.
During summer months the castle area is venue for many summer festivals, concerts and exhibitions. Travelling to the castle you may choose from different means of transport including a boat. Boats cruise on the Brno Dam and on the Svrata river in regular times from April to October.
On the second day we continued exploring of the region of Jižní Morava (South Moravia) by visiting its most popular attractions – Lednice Valtice Cultural Landscape UNESCO and Mikulov town. Our first steps led to the chateau of Lednice in order to take pictures of its interiors for Adina`a and Bogdan`s upcoming traveller book. Since both are journalists, in most of visited castles we were offered a special tour with no interpretation and with the permission to take pictures of the interiors. In most of castles in the Czech Republic is not allowed to take pictures of its premises.
The house of Liechtenstein acquired Lednice in 1249. Today appearance of the chateau is of Neo-Gothic style from the years 1846-1858. It was a summer residence of Liechtenstein where they hosted important guests.
After visiting the chateau premises we walked in the chateau baroque garden where the greenhouse is situated adjacent to the chateau eastern wing. We were in hurry so we did not make a visit to the greenhouse but for those who love colourful flowers and tropical plants I can highly recommend it.
The chateau park spreads out to the north from the chateau. From the end of the 18th century the area in front of the chateau was gradually transformed into a large traditional English landscape park with many interesting structures reflecting current fashion in antiquity (the Aqueduct), middle ages (the Johann castle), ancient world (the Obelisk) or Oriental culture (the Minaret). When walking alongside of Ružový pond we got to the Moorish waterworks (1836-1844) which supplied the greenhouse and the chateau bathrooms with water.
From this place you have several options for a tour of the park – a ride on a carriage drawn by horses, cruise on the river Dyje (Thaya) or walk alongside Zámecké ponds. All ways lead to the main attraction of the park the Minaret. We preferred walking. There are two paths leading to the Minaret and it is recommended to take the left one because it offers more beautiful views over ponds and on the Minaret. Taking the left path, we passed along other interesting structures of the park – The Aqueduct (artificial fragment of a Roman Aqueduct) and the Hell (artificial cave). After 30 minutes we reached the Minaret, the most controversial and most expensive structure of the chateau park. At the turn of the 18th and 19th century aristocrats were fascinated with the Oriental culture. The minaret in fact was built as an oriental chateau with minaret as its viewing tower and it was secular building from the very beginning. Although on facade you can see Arabic quotations from Koran and crescents, the purpose of them is decorative only and crescents are used here as the symbols of the Enlightenment era.
After ascending the view tower via 302 stairs we took pictures of the landscape of Lednice – Valtice area. The weather was favourable so we could see landscape of 2 foreign countries – Slovakia to the east and Austria to the south. When descending the tower, we felt little bit exhausted so we decided to take a cruise on the Dyje river back to the Moorish waterworks. The cruise takes 25 minutes and is enriched by interesting commentary of a ship captain who explains how the river Dyje was regulated in past to enable to build Lednice park in the spirit of Enlightenment. We terminated our tour of Lednice at recently renovated riding halls well known as the Chateau de Cheval. Today these halls of Baroque origin are the oldest buildings of the chateau complex.
Our next steps on this day led us to the town of Valtice, located only 12km from Lednice town. The area between these 2 towns is created by 3 ponds – Hlohovecký, Prostřední and Mlýnsky. Around these 3 ponds are found very interesting structures of some of which we took pictures – the Temple of Apollo, the Temple of Three Graces and the Border Chateau. These structures were built in the first half of the 19th century, inspired by Antiquity. Before WWI through the centre of the Border chateau ran the border line between Lower Austria and Moravia. After WWI this area together with Valtice town became a part of the new established state of the Czechoslovakia.
In Valtice town we first took a tour of the Valtice chateau which was the main residence of the princely house of Liechtenstein in the 17th and 18th centuries. Today it is a four-winged structure of Neo-Baroque appearance from the 19th century. Although chateau premises were quite damaged by their misusing as a forced-labour camp for extra-judicial political prisoners (1948-1954), they were renovated in 1980s.
The baroque theatre is also recently renovated, but due to lack of time we preferred visiting chateau cellars.
Valtice town is the capital of Czech wine and the seat of the Wine Salon of the Czech Republic. Every year the highest national wine competition is held here when a hundred best Czech and Moravian wines of the year are selected and awarded. Selected wines are then presented in the Valtice chateau cellars. Visitors have a chance to taste all exhibited wines individually or to select from the wine-tasting programmes supervised by a sommelier.
In the area around Valtice are situated interesting structures among which we decided to visit – the Colonnade and the Temple of Diane.
The Colonnade stands on the highest point of the whole area of Lednice – Valtice landscape, the ridge of the hill Homole (also known as Rajsna). The structure of Colonnade is combination of using triumph arch and colonnade. In both of the corner pavilions, there are spiral staircases leading to viewing terraces on the flat roofs now using as the viewing tower from where you may see even the Lednice Minaret.
While the Colonnade here celebrates Liechtenstein family, the Temple of Diane (Rendez-Vous) celebrates hunting. The Temple, in reality a small chateau or pavilion is found in the former game-park of the Pinewood few kilometres from Valtice in the direction to Břeclav. The interiors are reached by a spiral staircase, which leads to the quarters of the hunt-master, a small salon, a large central hall with stucco reliefs and a rooftop terrace. From the exterior the temple has an appearance of a triumphal arch.
Our last stop on this day was Mikulov town, according to me the most picturesque town of Moravia. The main dominant features visible from far distance are the Mikulov castle and the Holly Hill. Castle exterior is impressive from every angle of view. Sadly, the same cannot be said about the interior. In the past, interiors were lavishly decorated (saloons, apartments and halls) but after disastrous fire during WWII the castle burnt down to the ground. Almost nothing survived and castle was newly built according to original plans. Nowadays, the castle houses the Regional Museum of Mikulov.
Mikulov was in the possession of the noble family of Dietrichstein who acquired the property in the 16th century. After WWII they emigrated to Argentine and their holdings became the state property. We learned that current head of Dietrichstein family Princess Mercedes visited the castle with her granddaughter just few days ago. She has visited Mikulov several times since 1990s. When walking in town streets surrounded by Renaissance burgher houses with a view of the Holy Hill you feel like somewhere in Italy. When I first visited Mikulov I was subconsciously searching for the sea. The reason for this feeling was that while the interventions for Lednice and Valtice landscape were mostly inspired by English ideas of naturally composed manorial parks from the 18th and 19th century, the formation of landscape near Mikulov was based on Italian patterns of the late Renaissance.
The unique atmosphere of the town is completed by the former Jewish Quarter. For three hundred years (16th – 19th) Mikulov was political, religious, and cultural centre of the Moravian Jews led by the regional rabbi. Although Jewish Quarter was several times affected by fire and during communism period many houses were demolished. The remaining houses surround pretty narrow streets which are nice to walk along.
We arrived in Brno around 7 PM absolutely exhausted but pretty much amazed of what we saw. To see all above mentioned places we did not even find time for lunch. From what I described this is not even half of attractions and activities what this region offers. For those who plan to visit the South Moravia I recommend to reserve more than 1 day and you won`t be disappointed.
We went to sleep very early because another day full of activities and visits was waiting for us.
On the third day we left Brno early morning and drove west leaving Jižní Morava region (South Moravia) behind us and heading for Vysočina region. The first stop on this day was the UNESCO listed town of Třebíč with the goal to visit the Romanesque Basilica of St Procopius.
What I like so much on this ecclesiastical monument is its interesting history. Its exceptionality survived even though it was abandoned and forgotten for many decades.The Basilica was founded by Benedictine order that came to the region in the early of the 12th century. The construction of the church together with monastery is dating back to 1250s. The greatest flourishing period of the order was followed with declining caused by Hussit wars and occupation by troops and eventuated to its dissolving by the end of the 15th century. The Basilica was secularised and for almost three centuries suffered by misusing. It was in the 18th century when it started to be renovated and re-consecrated. This is the reason why almost whole construction has kept its original appearance from the 13th century. To find an original Romanesque building is not usual because during the centuries churches, palaces and burgher houses were rebuilt according to current fashion or they just burnt down.
When you approach the Basilica you may be surprised with its external appearance. It depends on which way you arrive. If it is from the western direction first you will see the Baroque main entrance with the adjacent Renaissance castle. Nothing which would resemble you the Romanesque Basilica with the cloister. While northern and southern exteriors are of Romanesque appearance created with the northern semi-circular portal known as the Gate of Eden and the southern five-sided end of the presbytery with a circular rosette window in the centre, resembling French Gothic cathedrals.
The western part of the basilica has not survived and the new one of the Baroque appearance was built according to the plans of architect Kaňka in the 18th century. Now it serves as the main entrance. The remaining southern wall created the fourth wing to the adjacent 3-winged building of the cloister. Nothing has remained from the former cloister which was rebuilt to the castle and now houses the regional museum.
If you have time we recommend the visit of the Basilica interiors. The most impressive parts of the interiors are the Romanesque crypt with the massive five-section cross-rib vaulting supported by fourteen pillars and the second oldest Gothic murals in Moravia depicting the life of St John.
Because of our tight schedule we could not afford a walk in Jewish Quarter and visit the Jewish cemetery which were together with Basilica involved on the list of the UNESCO cultural world heritage sites in 2003.
On our way to Telč town, we made 2 short stops in the towns of Dačice and Slavonice. Both are administratively located in Jihočeský kraj (South Bohemia region), but historically they belong to Moravia. Dačice is a place where cube sugar was invented in 1841 and 2 castles are located. After taking pictures of exteriors of the New Castle of Napoleonic architecture style we continued to Slavonice I was so much looking forward to see.
When I was learning about Telč I read about Slavonice in connection of building activities in both towns. Slavonice is considered to be a hidden small version of Telč, the Renaissance gem. We did not know what to expect from our visit and so our impressions were much greater as we had supposed. Slavonice has kept itsRenaissance spirit created with sgraffito covered buildings dating from the 14th – 16th centuries. The oldest sgraffito is dating to 1545 and it is the second oldest one in the Czech Republic after Sgrafitto building found in Prague. We could not stop making photos of the town centre. I learned that Slavonice was in process to be listed on UNESCO heritage but they withdraw their application for some reason. Maybe it is good because the town is not so touristic and you are not disturbed when sitting on a terrace of a café or restaurant and admiring its authentic beauty.
We arrived in Telč late afternoon. Telč is one of the most beautiful Renaissance town I have ever seen, rightfully inscribed on the UNESCO heritage list. The town centre, the square of Zachariáš of Hradec gained its appearance in the 16th century. It is surrounded by 60 burgher houses with ornate gables and connected with arcades with slender stone columns of a uniform appearance. A great part of the opulent facades of the burgess houses changed their appearances during the 18th century. Some of them received Classicist or Baroque modifications. Among all stand 3 houses with original sgrafitto decoration from the 16th century.
After check-in in our pension we took our cameras and walked in the town and made photos until the sundown.
In the morning we took the first tour of the Chateau of Telč, considered to be a gem of the Moravian Renaissance architecture. From outside it looks like an ordinary chateau but its interior will astonish you. Much of the interior of the chateau has been preserved in its original Renaissance form from 1550s. The basic tour of the chateau starts in the so called Old Palace and includes such remarkable premises as the treasury with illusive Renaissance sgraffito decoration, the former armoury with lierne vault where wedding ceremonies take place nowadays and St George chapel with inscriptions in Czech language.
You may ask yourselves why I noticed that inscription is in Czech language. Well, in that period it was very unusual if someone from high class could speak or understand Czech. Zachariáš of Hradec, lord of Telč responsible for the development of the town and chateau, had mastery in Latin, but not of German. For writing purposes, he used the Czech language only. He is mostly characterized as “a friend of good Old Czech manners”.
The tour continued to most luxury rooms – the so-called Theatre Hall, Golden Hall and Blue Lounge all with panel-engraved ceiling. Another remarkable room is Knight´s Lounge situated above the sepulchral chapel, again with a panel-engrave ceiling which has not been restored yet and it still in very good condition.
I mentioned the sepulchral chapel, which is found on the ground in front of ticket office at entrance gate. It is the Chapel of All Saints and it is manifestation of the love of Zachariáš to his first wife Kateřina of Valdštejn. Although you cannot enter the chapel, standing outside watching its interiors through the gate you can see how much Zachariáš had to love his first wife. The decoration of the chapel is a real masterpiece.
Our schedule for this day included another 3 castles. Driving to Jindřichuv Hradec we left Moravia behind us. The Jindřichův Hradec castle is found in the old town and surrounded by two ponds called the Vajgar and the Malý Vajgar (Small Vajgar).
When visiting castles in Telč, Jindřichuv Hradec, and in Třeboň we listened to the same legend about how these demesnes together with the main residences were established. The legend says that Vitek of Prčice, a head of powerful wealthy noble family of Witigonen, divided his entire property among his 5 sons before his death in the 12th century. Each son received a coat-of-arms with a five-petalled rose, the colour of which symbolized each particular dominion.
It was Jindřich, the oldest Vitek´s son who established Jindřichuv Hradec and named after him. The coat of arms of Lords of Hradec bears golden rose on the blue background. And it was Lords of Hradec who gained Telč in 1339.
The castle offers its visitors three different tours of its premises. I visited the castle twice and for both times I took the route A. The route takes you to the so called Adam`s House where original renaissance rooms remained from the period of transformation of the medieval castle into a luxurious residence in the 2nd half of the 16th century. One room is called Room of senses named after scenes painted in carved coffer fields on the ceiling, depicting an allegory of human senses. The route ends in the Rondel music pavilion considered to be one of the most beautiful Renaissance buildings in Bohemia. Rondel was used for concerts and it is interesting to mention that musicians were concealed under the floor and sound of their instruments came into the room through a vase, hiding a hole in the middle of the room.
Třeboň, the spa town in South Bohemia located 22 km from České Budejovice, spreads out between two fish ponds Rožmberk (Rosenberg) and Svet (World). The town was founded by Vitek the third son of Vitek of Prčice who inherited coat of arm with silver rose on a red background. Later when the house died out in the male line the owner of the demesne became their relatives from the House of Rosenberg recognized with coat of arms of red rose on a silver background.
The town is seat of the biggest European fish farm and brewery Regent is considered to be the oldest brewery in the world. The main symbol of the town is a carp fish. Třeboň is greatest producer of this fish. Fried carp with potato salad is one of the typical Christmas meals in Czech Republic and in Slovakia either. In local restaurants you may order regional specialities made of carp such us carp fries.
There are 2 main tours of the Třeboň castle. The tour A takes you to premises inhabited by Rosenberg family especially by his last male head Peter Vok von Rosenber after whose death the male line of Rosenberg family died out in 1611. These premises are of Renaissance origin. The tour B informs visitors about last owners of Třeboň castle Schwarzenberg family who acquired extensive land holdings in Bohemia in 1661 through a marriage alliance with the House of Eggenberg. They came to Bohemia from Germany in the 15th century. In the 1670s, the Schwarzenbergs established their primary seat in Bohemia and, until 1918, their main residence was in Český Krumlov. The current head of the family is Karel Schwarzenberg, the 12th Prince of Schwarzenberg, a Czech politician who served as Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic.
About 2 km far from the town centre is located the Schwarzenberg sepulchre founded by Joseph Adam II on the instigation of his wife Eleonora nee Liechtenstein. The construction started in 1874 and was finished in 1877. 26 members of Schwarzeberg house are buried here. It was Adam II together his wife who decided to rebuilt the castle of Hluboká nad Vltavou into its current appearance of Neo-Thudor gothic, our last stop for this day.
The Hluboká nad Vltavou fairy tale castle. Every time when I visit this castle it takes me back to my childhood when I watched the fairy tale movie Proud Princess. The movie took place here on this castle and in several others.
The castle was founded by king Wenceslas in the 13th century. The present appearance of the castle dates to Romanticism era of the 19th century. Adam II and his wife Eleonora took journey to England and were impressed by their old castles namely by the Windsor castle. It was Eleonora who came with the idea to rebuild the castle inspired by the Windsor castle.
Today it is one of tourist must-see stops. Immediately after you enter the castle your impression will be even stronger. Walls and ceilings are panelled by high-quality wood with unique decoration. From these premises you will visit the bedroom of princess Eleonora decorated with spectacular lustres, vitrages and delphian decorations. The real jewel of Hluboká is the Morning lounge, where the most precious pieces of furniture in the castle can be seen. The pride of the castle is a collection of precious tapestries made in Belgium in the first half of the 17th century.
We finished our day in České Budejovice, the largest city in South Bohemian region as well as its political and commercial capital. It is home of well-known Budweiser Brewery. The town was founded by King Ottokar II of Bohemia. Allegedly when king was searching for the new place to establish his new royal town in South Bohemia he received the news about his first born son and he exclaimed – Bude jich vice (There will be more of them). This is how the town gained its name, legend says.
After a night spent in České Budejovice we hit the road back to Brno with two planned stops. Yes, this day only 2 stops. The first one I was excited to see was the Červená Lhota castle standing in the middle of a lake on an island. It is another fairy tale four-winged two-storey chateau, with a small courtyard in the centre. To get to the castle you need to pass through a stone bridge built in 1622. While Bogdan and Adina were touring castle premises I walked around and took pictures of exterior. It is possible to rent a small boat and paddle on the lake.
The last stop before arriving in Brno was in Náměšť nad Oslavou town located in the district of Třebíč in Vysočina region. The castle is really huge. It towers above the river Oslava. It was a medieval stronghold converted into Renaissance chateau in the 16th century but its appearance is mostly of Baroque modifications. The castle is surrounded by French garden and English park.
The last day of the tour took us to another UNESCO site of Moravia to Kroměříž town. On our way to Kroměříž we did a quick stop in Slavkov u Brna town historically known as Austerlitz. You could hear this name when you learned about Napoleonic wars when the battle of 3 Emperors took place in the vicinity of Austerlitz, today Slavkov u Brna. The beautiful chateau situated in the town centre hosted all three Emperors. This historical event is commemorated every year on the occasion of the anniversary of the battle.
Kroměříž is a Moravian town located in Zlín region about 1 hr driving from Brno. In 1998, the Floral Garden together with the Chateau were inscribed in the UNESCO list of world natural and cultural heritage.
The development of the town was linked to the Archbishopric of Olomouc from the beginning of the 12th century. Due to convenient location the town became the main bishop`s domain and they gradually converted it to their summer residence and place where they welcomed their friends and spent time with leisure activities. Bishops and after 1777 Archbishops were passionate collectors of arts and they were interested in architecture. This is reflecting in building activities. After 30 years` war when the town was plundered the new bishop Karel II of Lichtenstein-Castelcorn rebuilt damaged chateau to Baroque palace, laid foundations of Floral Garden and he was one of the founders of chateau great gallery and library. For this purposes he invited 2 famous Italian architects Filibeto Luchese and Giovanni Tencalla.
Another great construction works came with Archbishop Ferdinand Chotek in the 19th century. He had let rebuilt the chateau garden with parterre to open landscape of the area of 64 ha. It is one of the most significant European parks because of the liberal use of the water system with streams and ponds, botanical compositions of meadows and groups of trees with romantic buildings (Pompeian Colonnade, Peacock Courtyard, Fisherman Pavilion, Colloredo Colonnade) and sculpture decorations (a bust of archbishop Rudolf Jan, a bust of Archbishop Somerau-Beckh).
While the chateau garden is in the immediate proximity of the chateau, the Floral Garden designed according to current Italian fashion is detached garden built out of town walls. The garden represents turning point between Italian Renaissance gardens and French gardens in Baroque-Classicist style such as Versailles in France. The central part of the Flower Garden consists of two parts: a flower garden and an orchard. In the centre of the garden stands Rotunda, the central hall with four grottos and four lounges was topped with monumental dome with a lantern.
Our last stop of the day and of the tour too was in the Moravian Karst where we visited Punkva caves, the most visiting cave system in Moravia. In season of July and August I recommend to book tickets in very advance. It is almost impossible to visit cave without previous booking. This popularity is because of romantic water cruise on the underground river Punkva and also possibility to be on the bottom of the Macocha Abyss.
After 6-day tour of Moravia and part of South Bohemia we arrived in Brno satisfied and sad at the same time. We spent together amazing time and promised to be in contact. Our last words and farewell symbolically took place in front of Janáček theatre in the newly reconstructed park with the light fountain.