After a one-hour ride from Olomouc, the bus left me off in the middle of nowhere. I knew that this bus would not take me to the main square, but I thought it must be near Bouzov Castle. The village of Bouzov, located in the highlands of Moravia, could not be so big, after all. Luckily, two women, a mother in her late forties or early fifties and her daughter, in her mid-twenties, got off with me. It turned off they were going to Bouzov Castle, too.
We climbed a short hill and walked along what could possibly be called a path, passing by some houses where big dogs barked ferociously in the front yards. The mother and daughter told me that they were from southern Bohemia and traveled for a week every year to a different part of the country to visit castles, chateaus and other sights. I began talking to the mother, as there was still no chateau in sight. She informed me that it was a two-kilometer trek.
While I was explaining to her the difference between a castle and a chateau, I thought I saw the daughter glare at me with a jealous look, as if I was intruding into her family by becoming friendly with the mother. She made me uncomfortable, and I felt like an intruder. I told the mother that while chateaus date from the 16th to 19th centuries, even sometimes into the beginning of the 20th century, castles were built between the 12th and 15th century. Also, the purpose of construction differs: castles were made as fortresses for defense whereas chateaus were designed for comfortable lifestyles and usually were accompanied by parks and gardens.
Finally, we came to the main square. I was stunned. Bouzov Castle had a fairy-tale appearance. I was so captivated that I was certain this would be one of my favorite chateaus even though I had yet to see the interior. While waiting for the tour to start, I read background material about the chateau in a brochure I had purchased at the souvenir shop.
Originally built in the early 13th century as a late Gothic stronghold, Bouzov was the property of the Order of the Teutonic Knights from the late 17th century until the end of World War I. (Founded at the end of the 12th century by a group of German merchants, the Teutonic Knights first came to Bohemia in 1203.) Now it is owned by the National Monument Institution in Olomouc. The castle looked as it did at the end of its reconstruction at the turn of the 20th century, when Teutonic Knights’ Grand Master Eugene Habsburg, inspired by late Gothic and early Renaissance architecture in Germany and the Netherlands, had what was at the time practically a ruin remade into a residence with a romantic flair.
Indeed, I did find symbols of the Teutonic Knights’ order figuring prominently in the chateau; even the order’s crest adorns the second castle gate. I saw six tombstones of Grand Masters from 1395 to 1515 in the chapel. In the Knights’ Hall the coat-of-arms of all the Grand Masters of Bouzov decorated the walls.
It didn’t take me long to find a figure of Saint George, one of the order’s symbols. For example, a marble Renaissance statue, hailing from Venice, depicted this saint at the chapel’s entrance. Also an exquisite wall painting of St. George fighting the dragon adorned the Knights’ Hall.
I marveled at the walls of the Hunting Hall. They depict the ancient tale of Prince Aktaion and Goddess Diana: When Aktaion spotted the goddess naked, Diana got revenge by changing him into a deer. The Knights’ Hall was another gem. By that time, my head was spinning. I was so enthralled by everything I was seeing. That hall featured a Neo-Gothic fireplace, a Renaissance ceiling, exquisite wall paintings and stained glass pictures in the windows. The ravishing Baroque Grand Master’s Bedroom incorporated exquisitely woodcut sculptural carvings on two closets and chairs and a tiled stove decorated with figures of men and women clothed in Renaissance attire.
I had to watch my step at the grating and hatch on the floor of Court Hall; it led to the dungeon. Convicts were dropped through the hatch into the prison. The Nuremberg chandeliers that combined antlers with wooden figures impressed me in Eugene Habsburg’s private apartments. The guide told us that the biggest one weighed more than 300 kilograms (660 pounds) and held 48 candles.
In the chapel I took special notice of the late Gothic altar from 15th century Germany. The armory featured painted shooting targets of life-size figures. Other intriguing displays included gargoyles showing dragons’ heads. An executioner’s sword dating from 1677 boasted ornate decoration on both sides. There was a helical staircase inside an octagonal tower and a sundial on the courtyard façade, Gothic lattice windows, arcaded loggia and the 1929 signature of Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk (the first president of democratic Czechoslovakia) in the visitors’ book. I was especially excited about seeing Masaryk’s signature. I was a big fan of the Czechoslovak president and wondered how it must have been to live in the country during the 1920s, when he was in charge and democracy flourished here. That era fascinated me. It must have been exciting time to have been alive.
A theatrical performance featuring medieval-dressed performers and sword-fighting also entertained our group. There were four tours to choose from, and I went on two of them: the classic short tour which lasted 60 minutes and the long tour which lasted 100 minutes. A bit later I hopped on a bus that left from the main square and went back to Olomouc, enthusiastic about seeing one of the Czech wonders that had a magical touch and romantic air.
Yes, Bouzov Castle was definitely one of my all-time favorites.