The bus from Brno to Buchlovice left me off on the highway. For a moment I panicked. Where was the underpass? I found it quickly, though, and soon came upon the magical chateau that immediately captured my heart. I loved chateaus most of all. Massive, Gothic castles were impressive but also cold and intimidating while chateaus had an intimate quality and a fragility that spoke to me.
Buchlovice Chateau was composed of separate lower and upper sections shaped as semicircles. The chateau flaunted the Baroque style, resembling an Italian villa from that period. Crowned by a cupola, the lower part incorporated the main building with representative rooms. The upper building hosted temporary exhibitions and was home to offices. I also was eager to explore the beauty of the garden with its stunning statues and flower species I had read about.
After I bought my ticket, I took a few snapshots of the lower chateau and the fountain with an obelisk in the middle, situated in the courtyard. Then I joined the group of about 15 people on this sunny day in early July.
Buchlovice was built in the first half of the 18th century by Jan Dětřich of Petřvald for his wife Anežka Eleanora of Colonna-Fels. The Petřvalds owned nearby Buchlov Castle, too. Even in those days the lower chateau had been the most important structure, and back then the upper chateau had served as a farmstead.
After the Petřvalds, the Bertcholds gained the property, along with Buchlov Castle. The chateau was renovated in the 1920s. The Bertcholds held on to it until 1945, when the estate was nationalized under the so-called Beneš decrees that made it state property. The decrees stated that Germans, Nazi collaborators, traitors and others living in Czechoslovakia had to relinquish their Czechoslovak citizenship and property without compensation. The guide did not specify the reason why the Berchtolds had to give up Buchlovice, but I assumed it was because they had had German citizenship.
Buchlovice was the seat of a significant meeting in European history at the beginning of the 20th century when the Czech lands belonged to the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Alois Lexa of Aehrenthal, the Austrian-Hungarian Minister of Foreign Affairs, met with Alexander Petrovich Izvolskii, the Minister of Foreign Affairs for Russia. Leopold II Berchtold, as Austrian-Hungarian envoy in St. Petersburg, persuaded them to hold the talk there.
The two discussed the political turmoil in the Balkans, especially the push for independence of non-Turkish nationalities under Turkish rule. Neither politician wanted war. The Austro-Hungarian Empire aimed to annex Bosnia and Herzegovina while the Russians wanted their ships to be able to travel freely through the Dardanelles. However, Aehrenthal did not confer with the Council of the Empire in Vienna on the annexation issue of Bosnia and Herzegovina along with the Russian considerations. Emperor Franz Joseph I announced the annexation of Bosnia and Herzegovina during October of 1908.
As I entered the first room on the tour, I was dazzled by the delicate color scheme, exquisite furnishings and sense of intimacy. I felt as if I were stepping into the distant past, into someone’s home. I almost expected a member of the Petřvalds or Bertcholds to enter the space. The canopy bed captured my attention. The canopy was decorated in a pleasing pink, brown and white floral design. The wallpaper was stunning and cheerful, too, featuring pink flowers. A 17th century jewelry box from Spain had a special compartment for love letters. I wondered who had written to whom, and what exactly had been discussed in that correspondence. Did the recipient wind up marrying the writer? Or were the letters full of passionate goodbyes or passionate dreams that would never be realized?
Left with those thoughts, I continued to the Small Dining Room which featured Rococo furnishings. Even though it was lavish, I liked the flamboyancy and playfulness of the Rococo style. Yet I also appreciated Gothic and Renaissance styles, so strikingly different from Rococo. There was one unique object in the room. It was a small car that looked like a wheelchair with a steering wheel and headlights. I wondered if children played in it or if adults used it to get from room to room.
In one bedroom a painting of Madonna and Child proved a copy of a work by Raphael. The furniture was Baroque. I loved the pink and white theme in the children’s bedroom. The wallpaper featuring pink ribbons on a white background was exquisite. The Silver Salon featured silver on the wood paneling. Bright yellow furnishings brought cheer to the room. In a side room the motif of a peacock decorated the furniture.
The oval Music Hall was stunning with its frescoes. The room had two storeys divided by a gallery with gold-plated metal railings. The walls and cupola featured stucco decoration. The elliptical ceiling fresco showed the genius of the arts presenting the completed castle to Anežka, Jan Dětřich’s wife. Fortune showers her with flowers. At the top of the cupola were allegories of the personality characteristics of Anežka – justice, innocence, fortitude and love of the arts. The frescoes of the four seasons were breathtaking, too. Then there were the four allegories of the elements. I was drawn to the angry, tall waves in the fresco depicting the allegory of water. I also noticed polychrome coats-of-arms and Corinthian columns in the majestic space.
In the library that housed Frantisek Palacký’s The History of the Czech Nation in Bohemia and Moravia as well as English, German and French books, I noticed a painting of Buchlov Castle above elaborate gold frames of portraits. I would visit Gothic Buchlov after wandering through the garden here. I knew it would be a totally different experience than the tour of this Baroque chateau.
The Big Dining Room featured red chairs with Hungarian porcelain. Two large, colorful Asian vases caught my eye. The chapel housed the oldest paintings in the chateau, dating from around 1600, and white stucco on the walls and ceiling. On the second floor I was enthralled by the bedroom of Leopold II Berchtold as the space was decorated in Napoleon style with the bed covered by what looked like a military tent.
The guide mentioned that Buchlovice was also home to an impressive collection of graphic art of the 16th to 19th centuries with 6,378 artworks. These renditions were situated in the depository, which was not part of the tour.
Now it was time to explore the English style garden, created at the beginning of the 18th century. Sloping from west to east, the garden was divided into terraces. A bridge over a stream led to a large stairway with a vase-bearing balustrade. On the lower terrace I saw four statues of musicians and vases with masks of satyrs. Four statues featuring allegories of the continents also called the garden home. More than 800 species and varieties of fuchsias and numerous rhododendrons were also grown in the garden that contained exotic and rare woody species.
After a walk through the impressive garden terraces, I was eager to make my way to Buchlov. Peering at my watch, I wondered if I had enough time to walk through the forest paths to the Gothic gem and make the tour in time to return to Buchlovice for the bus back to Brno.
I would soon find out.
Tracy A. Burns is a writer, editor and proofreader in Prague.