Monday, February 24, 2014

The Bohemian Switzerland National Park

The Bohemian Switzerland National Park (Národní park České Švýcarsko), which was established on 1st January 2000 and covers an area of nearly 80km2, is the youngest national park in the Czech Republic. The park on its northern side borders and is linked to the Saxon Switzerland National Park in Germany, which was established in 1990 and covers an area of 93 km2. The mission of the National Park is to preserve the local territory in its full beauty and to enable natural processes to prevail in this area. Human interventions are only limited to activities which help restore the natural balance to the greatest extent. The focal point of the area protection is a unique sandstone rock town with the occurance of rare plant and animal species and islands of well-preserved woods. Natural values of the National Park have also been acknowledged within the European Union by including it in the prestigious list of European conservation areas called Natura 2000. With a click on the headline or the picture You find further information about tasks and aims of the national park, a broad section about the geology, fauna, flora and forests within the national park, an overview over the history and tourism and a detailed description of the different management fields of the national park Bohemian Switzerland.

Monday, January 13, 2014

The king of all Czech castles - Bezděz Castle

The king of all Czec castles - Bezděz Castle -

Bezděz is often called the “king of all castles” for its original early Gothic appearance, which has never been tampered with, unlike most other castles. For this reason it certainly belongs among the Czech Republic’s more intriguing places of interest. Bezděz is steeped in myths and legends; one of these claims that the local monks hid some treasure here. What is certain is that Kunhuta was imprisoned here with her son, the future king of Bohemia, Wenceslas II. So come along to Bezděz and learn about its history. After viewing the 13th-century chapel you will move on to the Royal and Burgrave’s Palace. From Bezděz’s tower you can see a quarter of the country when the weather is clear. The unforgettable atmosphere of the castle is enhanced by the frequent costumed parades, medieval celebrations and theatre performances that take place here. 

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Valtice Castle

Valtice Castle -

Valtice Chateau,originally a medieval castle, was  founded perhaps in the 12th century by the bishops of Passau or  by  the Austrian Seefelds (Valtice belonged to the Lower Austria until1920). From 1387 until 1945 it remained in the hands of the Liechtenstein family. The castle was rebuilt several times, alterations in the Renaissance stylewere made in the 2nd half of the 16th century. Damaged by the Swedes in the years 1645 - 1646, it had to undergo the long-term  Baroque reconstruction. The original Renaissance part of the former castle was converted into a two-storey entrance façade, in places of other buildings three wings of the chateau complex were constructed and a garden was established. At the same time the area between the castle and the town was turned into the court of honor (farm buildings,  a theater, a riding hall, etc.). Prestigious architects were involved with the construction of the chateau -  F. Carratti, G.G. Tencalla, A. and J.K. Ernas, D. Martinelli, A. Beduzzi, A.Ospel as well as a sculptor F. Biener and a plasterer Alberti. During the 18th century castle gardens and a park were remodelled, in the early 19th century extensive alterations  of surrounding landscape were made for John I  Lichtenstein. In 1945 the Czechoslovak state took over the care and maintenance of the property.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Špilberk Castle

Špilberk Castle is an old castle on the hilltop in Brno, Southern Moravia. It began to be built as early as the first half of the 13th century by the Přemyslid kings and complete by King Ottokar II of Bohemia. From a major royal castle established around the mid-13th century, and the seat of the Moravian margraves in the mid-14th century, it was gradually turned into a huge baroque fortress considered the heaviest prison in the Austro-Hungarian empire, and then into barracks. This prison had always been part of the Špilberk fortress. In 1620, after losing The Battle of White Mountain on November 8, the leading Moravian members of the anti-Habsburg insurrection were imprisoned in Špilberk for several years. The town of Brno bought the castle in 1560 and made it into a municipal fortress. The bastion fortifications of Špilberk helped Brno to defend itself against Swedish raids during the Thirty Years' War, and then successful defence led to further fortification and the strengthening of the military function of the fortress. At the same time Špilberk was used as a prison. Protestants were the first prisoners forced to serve time here, followed later by participants in the revolutions of 1848-49, although hardened criminals, thieves and petty criminals were also kept here. Franz Freiherr von der Trenck, Austrian soldier and one of the most controversial persons of the period was also jailed and died here on October 4, 1749. Later, apart from several significant French revolutionaries captured during the coalition wars with France, Jean-Baptiste Drouet, famous as the former postmaster of Saint-Menehould who had arrested King Louis XVI, was the most known of them all. A group of fifteen Hungarian Jacobins led by the writer Ferenc Kazinczy was also especially noteworthy. More than a quarter of a century later, from 1822 on, specially constructed cells for "state prisoners" in the northern wing of the former fortress were filled with Italian patriots known as Carbonari, who had fought for the unification, freedom and independence of their country. The poet Silvio Pellico, who served a full eight years here, made the Špilberk prison famous all over Europe with his book Le mie prigioni - My prisons. The last large "national" group of political prisoners at Špilberk consisted of nearly 200 Polish revolutionaries, mostly participants in the Kraków Uprising of 1846. After that, the Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph dissolved the Špilberk prison in 1855, and after departure of the last prisoners three years later, its premises were converted into barracks which remained as such for the next hundred years.
Špilberk entered public consciousness as a centre of tribulation and oppression on two more occasions; firstly, during the First World War when, together with military prisoners, civilian objectors to the Austro-Hungarian regime were imprisoned here, and secondly in the first year of the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia. Several thousand Czech patriots suffered in Špilberk at that time, some of whom were put to death. For the majority of them however, Špilberk was only a station on their way to other German prisons and concentration camps. In 1939-41, the German army and Gestapo carried out an extensive reconstruction at Špilberk in order to turn it into model barracks in the spirit of the so beloved romantic historicism of the German Third Reich ideology. The Czechoslovak army left Špilberk in 1959, putting to a definite end its military era. The following year, Špilberk became the seat of the Brno City Museum.

Brno City

Brno City -

Brno by population and area is the second largest city in the Czech Republic, the largest Moravian city, and the historical capital city of the Margraviate of Moravia. Brno is the administrative center of the South Moravian Region where it forms a separate district Brno-City District. The city lies at the confluence of the Svitava and Svratka rivers and has about 400,000 residents, its greater metropolitan area[6] is regularly home to more than 800,000 people while its larger urban zone had population of about 730,000 in 2004. Brno is the capital of judicial authority of the Czech Republic – it is the seat of the Constitutional Court, the Supreme Court, the Supreme Administrative Court, and the Supreme Public Prosecutor's Office. Beside that, the city is a significant administrative centre. It is the seat of a number of state authorities like Ombudsman, Office for the Protection of Competition[9] and the Czech Agriculture and Food Inspection Authority. Brno is also an important centre of higher education, with 33 faculties belonging to 13 institutes of higher learning and about 89,000 students. There is also a studio of Czech Television and the Czech Radio, in both cases by law. Brno Exhibition Centre ranks among the largest exhibition centres in Europe (23rd in the world). The complex opened in 1928 and established the tradition of large exhibitions and trade fairs held in Brno. Brno is also known for hosting motorbike and other races on the Masaryk Circuit, a tradition established in 1930 in which the Road Racing World Championship Grand Prix is one of the most prestigious races. Another notable cultural tradition is an international fireworks competition, Ignis Brunensis, that usually attracts one or two hundred thousand daily visitors. The most visited sights of the city include the castle and fortress Špilberk and the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul on Petrov hill, two formerly medieval buildings that form the characteristic cityscape and are often depicted as its traditional symbols. The other large preserved castle near the city is Veveří Castle by the Brno Dam Lake. This castle is the site of a number of legends, as are many other places of Brno. Another important monument of Brno is the functionalist Villa Tugendhat which has been included in the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites. One of the natural sights nearby is the Moravian Karst.
History of Brno
Brno was recognised as a town in 1243 by Wenceslaus I, King of Bohemia, but the area had been settled since the 2nd century. It is mentioned in Ptolemy's atlas of Magna Germania as Eburodunum. From the 11th century, a castle of the governing Přemyslid dynasty stood here, and was the seat of the non-ruling prince. During the 14th century, Brno became one of the centres for the Moravian regional assemblies, whose meetings alternated between Brno and Olomouc. These assemblies made political, legal, and financial decisions. They were also responsible for maintaining regional records. During the Hussite Wars, the city remained faithful to Sigismund, Holy Roman Emperor. The Hussites twice laid siege to the city, once in 1428 and again in 1430, both times in vain. During the Thirty Years' War, in 1643 and 1645, Brno was the only city to succeed in defending itself against Swedish sieges, thereby allowing the Austrian Empire to reform its armies and to repel the Swedes. In recognition of its services, the city was rewarded with a renewal of its city privileges. In the years following the Thirty Years' War, the city became an impregnable Baroque fortress. In 1742, the Prussians vainly attempted to conquer the city, and the position of Brno was confirmed with the establishment of a bishopric in 1777. In 1805, The Battle of Austerlitz took place about 10 kilometers (6 miles) southeast of Brno. In the 18th century, development of industry and trade began, and continued into the next century. Soon after the industrial revolution, the town became one of the industrial centres of Moravia and the Austro-Hungarian Empire – sometimes referred to as the "Moravian Manchester". In 1839, the first train arrived in Brno. Together with the development of industry came the growth of the suburbs, and the city lost its fortifications, as did the Spielberg fortress, which became a notorious prison to which were sent not only criminals, but also political opponents of the Austrian Empire. Gas lighting was introduced to the city in 1847 and trams in 1869. Mahen Theatre in Brno was the first theatre building in Europe to use Edison's electric lamps, Thomas Edison then visited Brno in 1911 to see the theatre. During the "First Republic" (1918–1938), Brno continued to grow in importance – Masaryk University was established (1919), the state armoury and automotive factory Československá státní zbrojovka Brno was established (1919), and the Brno Fairgrounds were opened in 1928 with an exhibition of contemporary culture. The city was not only a centre of industry and commerce, but also of education and culture (see the section on notable people from Brno). In 1939, Brno was annexed by Nazi Germany along with the rest of Moravia and Bohemia. All Czech higher education institutions were closed down on 17 November including four universities in Brno. 173 students were sent to Sachsenhausen concentration camp and Kounic's students residence was transformed into Gestapo headquarters and prison. Brno was liberated on 26 April 1945 by Red Army after more than two weeks of heavy fighting. After the war, and the reestablishment of the Czechoslovak state, the majority of the ethnic German population (except antifascists, members of the resistance, mixed marriages, etc.) was expelled to Germany or Austria. The expulsion of some 20,000 Germans is referred to as Brno death march. 

Monastery of Kladruby

Monastery of Kladruby -

Established by Prince Vladislav I in 1115, the Benedictine monastery at Kladruby was set into a sparsely settled landscape inhabited by Slavonic population. It was provided with vast estates; in particular, in a triangle formed by the Mže River, the Úhlavka River and the frontier forest. The first Czech monks were soon joined by missionaries from the nearby town of Zwiefalten. Close relation with Zwiefalten were being kept even later, when the Czechs recovered their numerical superiority in the monastery. Several times, the monastery became a venue of discreet diplomatic negotiations. For example, against the background of the culminating conflict between the Czech church and the temporal lords, Přemysl I met here representatives of the curia. After having been Gothicized, the original Romanesque church was consecrated in King Wenceslas I’s presence in 1233. Sometime around 1233, under Abbot Reiner, the village of (Old) Kladruby was established in the vicinity of the monastery; namely, next to the current churchyard. By virtue of the astute Abbot Reiner’s purposive acquisition activities, the monastery considerably expanded its estates around Kladruby. During the second half of the 14th century, the power and significance of the monastery constantly grew thanks to new privileges and progressive economic method. Another important feature was the development of the nearby locality of Kladruby, which was elevated to the township at that time. The monastery then possessed 128 villages administered by three provosts based at Kladruby, Touškov and Přeštice. Kladruby Monastery several times feasted Emperor Charles IV. Soon afterwards, however, Kladruby became a point of intersection where interests of the country’s top dignitaries incessantly clashed, thereby endangering the position of the monastery per se. Wenceslas IV decided to undermine the position of one of his most adamant adversaries, The Prague Archbishop John of Jenštejn, by establishing a new bishopric conceived to take over the estates owned by the monastery at Kladruby. Upon the death of Kladruby monastery’s Abbot Racek in 1393, however, the opponents managed to thwart the King’s intentions by promptly electing a new abbot, with the election immediately approved by the Archbishop’s Vicar, John of Pomuk. The resulting fierce conflict brought the archbishop into exile. After having been tortured, the half-dead John of Pomuk was thrown by the King’s adherents from the Prague Charles’ Bridge down to the Vltava River. Originally, the Hussite revolutionary movement only meant material damage to Kladruby, since the monastery had to provide financial aid to Emperor Sigismund. In 1421, however, the partially fortified monastery was conquered by John Žižka of Trocnov, with the monks having fled in time to Regensburg with their most precious possessions. Afterwards, the Benedictines intermittently returned and fled, but they eventually failed to prevent the neighbouring Utraquist and Catholic aristocrats from annexing the monastic lands. In 1467, the monastery was devastated due to the fights of the baronial league and the Crusaders against King George of Poděbrady. Until the late 15th century, consequently, the monastery frequently had to pawn and sell its property. The economic situation improved only slowly, with new mining and fish-pond-cultivating activities modestly contributing to the rehabilitation of the monastic domain. Simultaneously, the nearby townships of Touškov and Kladruby started to flourish again. Featured by the demanding reconstruction of Our Lady’s church (re-consecrated in 1504) and increasing diplomatic activities, the resurgence of the monastery did not last for long. With the position of the monastery perpetually unstable, even the fairly competent abbots failed to successfully face a host of unfavourable events at that time. Several misfortunes, including the extensive fire, which devastated the monastic buildings in 1590, along with prematurely abdicating abbots and incessant internal quarrels, only testify that the development of the monastery during the 16th century was not favourable. The Thirty Year’s War resulted in conquering and plundering the monastery and the nearby township by both the warring parties. Nevertheless, the monastery managed to take advantage of the Catholic Church’s post-war boom to retrieve the worst losses in a short time (as late as the mid-17th  century, Kladruby Monastery possessed two townships and 28 villages). For that reason, the monastery could afford to carry out a challenging repair of Our Lady’s church as early as 1653. At that time, the grave of the monastery’s founder, Prince Vladislav I was uncovered, with the princely remains transferred to the altar situated in the nave. Within the framework of the 1728 remodelling, the remains were transferred to the high altar. The comprehensive reconstruction of the convent was completed in 1670, with the prelate’s old residence erected between 1664 and 1670. Notably, the monastery became a place of pilgrimage in 1658. the late 17th century and the first half of the 18th century witnessed the genuine heyday of Kladruby, with the monastery irreversibly securing its position in the surrounding landscape and going down in the history of Czech architecture. At that time, the monastery entered its final stage, marked by the activities of the so-called great abbots and builders; namely, Maurus Fintzgut, Josef Sieber and Amandus Streer. By regaining its farmstead at Přeštice in 1705 and buying some minor estates, the monastery virtually completed the rehabilitation of its property, thereby creating a material base for its subsequent activities. Consequently, in 1712 the monastery commenced the far-reaching remodelling of its dome. Supervised by the distinguished Baroque master-builder, Johann Blasius Santini – Aichel, the remodelling was completed in 1726, bringing about the culmination of the Czech Baroque Gothic style, primarily represented by Santini. One of the largest ecclesiastical structures throughout Bohemia, Our Lady’s church at Kladruby was completed and consecrated in 1726. After that, the works continued by erecting the new convent and the prelate’s new residence. The design was allegedly made by Kilian Ignaz Dientzenhofer. By 1739, north and south wings had been completed, with the monks being ushered into the new convent. The construction works, as a whole, were completed before 1770. The above mentioned abbots managed to stabilise the monastic estates, accelerate their economic development, strengthen the order and discipline within the monastery, and considerably enhance the monastic library. Moreover, they bolstered the monastery’s prestige by buying sacred remains and various works of art, as well as by gaining new privileges. Orientated towards the enlightened system of government, the state authorities, however, tended to increasingly interfere with the monastic jurisdiction, with the threat of dissolving the Benedictine order and closing the monastery still looming. Like many other monasteries, the Benedictine convent at Kladruby was eventually dissolved by Emperor Joseph II in 1785, two years after the death of Amand Streer who had no successor. The monastery’s movables were sold up by auction and the monks dispersed. Consisting of 38 villages, 15 farmsteads and 9 mills, the domain was then administered by a religious fund. In 1798, the monastic structures were utilised as a military hospital, temporarily housing Trappist monks from France before they left for Russia. Between 1800 and 1818, the monastery served as barracks, hospital and disabled soldiers’ home. In 1825, Kladruby Monastery (along with the surrounding lands and 23 villages) was bought by Field Marshal Prince Alfred Windischgrätz at 275 500 guldens. Nevertheless, he only paid one half of that amount, with the rest remitted thanks to his loyal support of the Austrian monarchy. Windischgrätz principally proved his loyalty by uncompromisingly intervening against insurgents in Prague, Vienna and Hungary in 1848. Having their ancestral residence nearby at Tachov, the lords of Windischgrätz paid little attention to Kladruby. In 1864 they established a brewery inside the original convent, with Our Lady’s church left to its fate. The situation did not change until 1918, when the Windischgrätz family lost its Tachov domain due to the land reform. Moreover, the main family line died out and the estates had to be divided. The new owner, Aladar Windischgrätz moved to Kladruby along with his great library and family archives. The Windischgrätz family possessed the Kladruby domain until the 1945 confiscation executed in compliance with the presidential decree. Administered by the Czech Ministry of Agriculture and the National Land Office, the lands were cultivated by Czechoslovak State Farms and Czechoslovak State Forests. Negotiations on allocating the monastic property to the Benedictine Order were held in 1946, with a pertaining allocation decree already issued, but the Benedictines did not take over the property. Accordingly, the property was conveyed to the Prague-based National Cultural Commission. After 1960 the condition of the monastery deteriorated due to housing headquarters of a state farm. After having been taken over by the Pilsen-based Regional Conservation Office in 1967, the monastery at Kladruby was opened to the public. Comprehensive reconstruction works have been conducted here since early 1970s, with the most substantial progress achieved after 1989 thanks to crucial financial contributions by the state authorities or other sources, including the Phare Programme of the European Union. 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Milotice Castle

Milotice castle is one amazing medieval manor house, which in the 16th century was converted into a magnificent baroque palace. Milotice is another beautiful monument in the Republic of Czech. It is located in the Czech region of Hodonin. Milotice has the status, Chateau. Until today the original architecture of the castle has not been preserved, hence having acquired the 18th century style. The original Milotice was built on the local uneven land in the 14th century. Total reconstruction in the 16th century made it a model in the spirit of the Renaissance tradition. Milotice castle was restored during the 17th century, but the last significant change in the 18th century made it what visitors see today. Today Milotice is open for public visits and you can learn a lot about the last family that lived in the castle - Seilern-Aspang. Ladislav Seilern was the last owner of the mansion, but since 1941 it held German citizenship, the castle Milotice was withdrawn in favor of the state and his family was forced to leave the palace. The earliest baroque ornaments of Milotice appeared in 1680, but the original plan of Renaissance palace with four floors, two wings and towers of the four corners of the structure was preserved. Between 1720 and 1750 the most significant improvements to the castle took place. The then owner, Karl Anton Sérenyi wished the castle to become more opulent and ornamented to appear beautiful facade pediments, additional sculptural ornaments and mythological deities on the architecture of the entrance. He also built stables, spas, and also organized a riding school in the castle of Milotice. Ceremonial entrance to Milotice can be reached by a beautiful stone bridge decorated with stone sculptures that were made by Jacob K. Schletterer in 1740. In interior terms Milotice has not much to boast off. The beautiful decorations and mortars at the premises were made between the 1723-1725 years by the Italian, Giovanni M.Fontana. As in the Vranov Castle, Milotice central hall is the hall of ancestors, where you can see a huge mural depicting the House of Sérenyi. Milotice castle is surrounded by a beautiful baroque garden. Today it regularly holds various cultural events including concerts and folklore. Quite often the castle Milotice is the host of weddings.