Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Private guide in PRAGUE


I would like to invite you to a fairy tale town Český Krumlov (situated cca 180 km from Prague), which has been part of the UNESCO cultural and natural heritage since 1992. The town is situated in Southern Bohemia in a romantic area of ponds with beautiful countryside along the river Vltava. In the centre there are 300 historical houses and the second largest castle in the Czech Republic with magnificent baroque gardens. There you will see a unique theatre with a rotating auditorium. The castle used to be place of famous aristocratic families - Rosenbergs, Eggenbergs and Schwarzenbergs. The oldest baroque theatre in the world is part of the castle as well. The historical city centre has preserved its medieval atmosphere and picturesque narrow streets. You will find lovely little shops with hand made souvenirs there.

However, the highlight of the town is the Český Krumlov castle and chateau, the second largest castle complex in the country after Prague Castle, with its five courtyards and 11 hectares of gardens. On the UNESCO world heritage and natural heritage list, the complex offers two tours of the chateau and a third of the Baroque theatre.

History of the Castle
Built by the Lords of Krumlov, the Hrádek or “little castle” in Český Krumlov dates back to before 1250. The Rožmberks, with the five-petalled red rose on their coat-of-arms, came in 1302 and stayed until the clan died out in 1602. During their 300-year reign, the chateau got a Renaissance makeover. After the Rožmberks, the chateau came into the hands of Habsburg Emperor Rudolf II, and his mentally ill son, Don Julius d’Austria, c The Eggenberg were the next aristocratic family, living there from 1622 to 1719. Culture thrived here under the rule of Jan Kristián of Eggenberg. The Schwarzenberg family obtained the chateau in 1719 and held onto it until the complex was nationalized in 1947. It was Duke Josef Adam of Schwarzenberg who transformed the chateau into Rococo style.

At the end of the route I tour is the lively, brightly colored Masquerade Hall, painted in Rococo style during 1748. This former ballroom and theatre space features murals of 135 people at a carnival: there areChinese, Turks, Moors, and commedia dell’ arte personalities such as The Doctor and The Harlequin. Two painted life-size guards donning furry hats stand at attention at the entrance to the room. Even the artist and his assistant have added their self-portraits to niches. The figures have shadows as well. Look for the man falling over the theatre balcony or the half-man/ half-woman. One figure, dressed in red with a black hat, has a huge head and a diminutive body, as if looking through a distorting mirror at an amusement park. Numerous glass chandeliers adorn the space.

The Masquerade Hall

Another highlight of the tour is the Gold Carriage dominating the Eggenberg Hall, dedicated to the Eggenberg clan that owned the castle for almost 100 years in the 17th and 18th century. The carriage is decorated in gold and carved out of nut wood. Notice the female figure in a sea shell and the ornate wheels. The carriage was constructed in Rome during 1638 for the occasion when Johann Anton von Eggenberg was announcing to Pope Urban VIII that Ferdinand III had been chosen emperor. Presents for the Pope filled the carriage as it traveled a few kilometers from Rome to the Vatican.

The Gold Carriage 

The route II tour concentrates on the 19th century, when Schwarzenberg clan lived there. Portraits of Schwarzenberg family members from the 14th century to 1918 adorn one room. Notice the portraits of Joseph Adam, who renovated the chateau in Rococo style. A marble bust depicts Frederick, archbishop of Prague and later Cardinal. Felix von Schwarzenberg, who served as Prime Minister of Austria from 1848 to 1852, can be seen here, too. The Gentleman’s Room boasts 114 English etchings of romantic landscape while the Music Salon features a 19th century Viennese piano that still works.

The Portraits Gallery of Schwarzenberg family 

The Schwarzenbergs owned 87 Dutch and Flemish tapestries, some of which are sprinkled throughout the rooms. The family’s coat-of-arms, dominated by a Turk’s head to celebrate a victory over the Turks and also adorned with white and blue stripes, is also often visible. In one room a tapestry features the clans coat-of-arms. In the bedroom of the princess, Dutch tapestries dating from 1620 to 1630 tell the tale of Aeneas, a main player in the Trojan Wars. A portrait gallery shows off the art work by German, Italian, Dutch and Flemish masters, such as “The Adoration of the Magi” by Paolo Veronese and “The Holy Family” by Peter Paul Rubens. Yet another depicts the fire of Troy, but the painter has added a Gothic cathedral to his rendition. Baroque maps line the Cloak Passage.

Dutch and Flemish tapestries

The Baroque Theatre

That is not all the castle complex has to offer. The Baroque theatre is one of the oldest Baroque theatres in Central Europe and one of the best preserved Baroque theatres in the world. Theatre in Český Krumlov has a long, rich tradition, going back to the 15th century. This theatre was built in 1682 by Johann Kristián von Eggenberg and then restored during 1766 by Josef Adam von Schwarzenberg. In 1898 it was closed, only to occasionally be used for festivals in the 1950s and 1960s. In 1966 it was closed again and did not reopen until 1997. Nowadays, performances take place here several times a year, with actors wearing Baroque attire. There are 13 basic sets, such as those depicting a forest, military camp and prison. The set of the temple features flying putti, suspended blue clouds and spiraled columns reaching into the horizon. Fifty special effect machines have been preserved. Turning a lever of one machine produces the sound of wind. Pushing another machine makes the rumble of thunder. Under the stage the visitor sees how scenery changes were made within eight to 12 seconds, incorporating winches, pulleys and ropes that were attached to the side wings. The inventory also includes 573 original costumes and 2,400 props, stage and lighting equipment. Sixty percent of stage machinery functions today.

                    The Baroque Theatre

The Chateau Garden

The Baroque Garden with ornate statuary decorating its 18th century, four-tiered, cascade fountain, Neptune perched at the top. Twenty decorated vases also adorn the park. A revolving auditorium used for performances in the summer and the Bellarie summerhouse are also on the grounds. Straight out of a Claude Monet painting, a pond covered in water lilies is another attraction.

Other Places to Visit at the Castle
On the Castle grounds it is also possible to climb the tower with the brightly decorated Renaissance facade

Official web sites of The Český Krumlov Castle : http://www.zamek-ceskykrumlov.eu/en/

Visit Prague and Český Krumlov with private 

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