Blatná Chateau Diary

I had visited Blatná twice before, but not during the last five years. Those first two trips I had traveled to the south Bohemian town by bus, but now I had the luxury of going by car with a friend. Blatná is a chateau that makes an everlasting first impression as it is surrounded by water. By the summer of 2021, I knew very well that its romantic exterior was matched by an enthralling interior. Unfortunately, it was prohibited to take photos inside.

I already knew the history of the chateau, which harkened back to at least the  13th century, when the name first appeared in writing. Benedikt Reid, the acclaimed 15th century architect who helped designed Prague Castle, worked his magic on this chateau as well. The highlight for me was the Green Chamber with its exquisite Late Gothic art. The Sternbergs featured in the story of Blatná, as they had in the history of Český Šternberk Castle and Jemniště Chateau, which we had also visited during that summer of 2021. This family bought Blatná in 1541 and added a Renaissance palace.

Another clan played a major role in the chateau’s long and vibrant life. During 1798, Baron Karel Hildprandt purchased Blatná, and it remained his property until 1948. Even after the chateau was nationalized by the Communists that year, the Hildprandts were allowed to live there, albeit in two small rooms. When the Emperor of Ethiopia paid a visit to Czechoslovakia in 1959, he asked that the Hildprandt family be allowed to emigrate to his country. They got permission and resided in Ethiopia until the Soviets took charge in the 1970s. From there, the Hildprandts’ journey continued to Spain and West Germany. After the 1989 Velvet Revolution that triggered the end of Communist rule, the family got the chateau back. During 1992, the descendants returned to the chateau and later made their home there.

A legendary 19th century Czech scientist was connected with the chateau, too. Jan Evangelista Purkyně had lived and studied at Blatná. The library where he spent much of his time now holds 13,000 volumes. Acclaimed worldwide, he excelled as a physiologist, botanist, anatomist, poet and philosopher. He also contributed to the art of animated film. Purkyně translated poetry from German and Italian to Czech, especially the works of Friedrich Schiller. Other writings focused on slavistic studies and autobiography. He joined the Piarist Order when he was young, but he left and became a tutor to noble families. Later, he joined Prague’s medical faculty of Charles University as a professor. Holy Roman Emperor Franz Josef knighted him in 1868. I recalled that as a youth he had lived at Libochovice Chateau, where his father had worked. Libochovice was a marvelous chateau, one I had visited several times and had described in several articles.

Two spaces in Blatná made the chateau most notable. The Ethiopia Room was a delight with souvenirs from the Hildprandts’ tenure in that country. Unfortunately, during our 2021 tour, we did not see this room, although it was listed on our ticket.

The other remarkable space was the Green Chamber with Late Gothic frescoes. I saw plant motifs and coats-of-arms of well-known Czech noble families painted on the walls of this small space. There were many religious scenes as well. The birth of Christ and St. George fighting the dragon were the subjects of two frescoes that captured my undivided attention. I recalled the numerous Saint George relics housed at Konopiště Chateau, where my friend and I had been the previous summer. I had written articles about that chateau and the Saint George Museum as well. In the Green Chamber, Saints Wenceslas (Václav), Barbora and Markéta made appearances in religious scenes, too. One painting showed a landscape with Blatná in the background. I have always been mesmerized by this small space. It was so well-preserved, and the wall paintings were astounding. The Green Chamber was always the highlight of my visit.

The chapel was a thrill, too. It included Gothic vaulting and thin, high Gothic windows. The cheerful yellow color of the Baroque Salon reminded me of the yellow kitchen in my former parents’ home – a kitchen I would never see again because my parents had moved.  I loved the intarsia furniture in this space. An English clock’s decoration showed the four seasons. I also was captivated by an Oriental jewel chest with hidden drawers. I recalled my visit to the extensive ruins of Rabí Castle when I saw that structure rendered in an impressive artwork. The Painting Gallery included a portrayal of a vast landscape on one wall and a superb chandelier made of Czech glass. A map in a hallway amazed. It hailed from the 17th century and was one of only two copies in existence. I saw Prague’s Charles Bridge before the statues had been built on it. I imagined strolling along the Charles Bridge sans the Baroque statues it was known for.

In the Hunting Salon some furniture was made from deer antlers. Archduke Franz Ferdinand d’Este visited occasionally to go on hunting trips with the Hildprandt owner. I recalled that during a previous visit, a guide had told our group that a chandelier had fallen during one of Ferdinand d’Este’s visits, but I didn’t remember anything about anyone being hurt.

In the Dining Room, I was drawn to the red-and-black chairs and the daiquiri green tiled stove. The 19th century Neo-Gothic furniture was impressive.  Japanese plates decorate a wall of another space with a Neo-Renaissance tiled stove and chandelier in Empire style. I noticed some Egyptian features of the Empire furniture. In other spaces an exotic landscape graced a tapestry, and four paintings of the Italian seaside decorated a wall.

Drawings of Venice also captivated me. I remembered walking through Venice on an early Sunday morning some years ago when I practically had the city to myself. That was one of my favorite experiences in my travel adventures. A huge black Empire style tiled stove stood out in one space as did other Empire furniture, including the black-and-gold chandelier made in that 19th century style.  In the Study of Jaroslav Rožmitál, I saw paintings of Adam and Eve plus renditions of saints George, Wenceslas and Catherine. A 1720 map of Bohemia in another space caught my attention, too.

The tours were comprehensive. We had all worn masks, so I had felt protected from coronavirus, and there were not many cases in the country at the time. Afterwards, my friend and I went to a hotel for lunch, the same restaurant where I had eaten during my previous visits. We both had the fried chicken steak, a popular meal in the Czech Republic. We talked about where we would travel the following week. Life was good.

Tracy A. Burns is a writer, proofreader and editor in Prague.


City Museum of Prague Diary


I had wanted to visit the City Museum of Prague again for some time, but I had just not gotten around to it. I remembered how the intriguing museum took visitors through the joys and disappointments of Czech history. This time, I went to see a temporary exhibition about Prague during the 20-year existence of the democratic First Republic, but, of course, I explored the entire museum as well.


It was even more impressive than I had remembered. In the main hallway, I saw the calendar dial for Old Town’s Astronomical Clock, painted in 1865 by well-acclaimed Czech artist Josef Mánes. The dial was divided into circular rings. I took notice of the medieval syllable calendar. The folk costume-clad figures represented the 12 months, celebrating Slavic identity. I recognized Troský Castle in the background for September, and I knew that December symbolized the tradition of Czech pig-slaughtering, a custom the European Union did not approve of. A castle addict, I was excited to see Bezděz Castle in the background of the portrayal of March as a young farmer did his ploughing duties in the foreground. I remembered walking 4 kilometers from the train station to the ruins of Bezděz. It had entailed two kilometers of a steep, rocky incline that led to the remnants of what must have been at one time an impressive castle. I liked walking around the ruins, several pages that described each part in my hand, trying to imagine what it had looked like in its heyday. I wasn’t a big fan of ruins, but this one had charmed me.


Mánes had also painted figures as zodiac signs. I saw dolphins with a plump cherub for Pisces. Sagittarius featured an Old Bohemian warrior while the depiction of Capricorn did not include any human figures but rather a cherub guiding a goat.


I also noticed that Romanesque elements had greatly influenced the adornment on the dial. I recalled the Romanesque church in Regensburg, Germany, the façade an architectural delight. I had also seen many churches with Romanesque features in Czech villages. At the ruins of Vyšehrad Castle in Prague, St. Martin’s rotunda fit the Romanesque style.


I walked into the prehistory section, not knowing if I would find it interesting as prehistory was not my cup of tea. I discovered that the first archeological find in Prague was unearthed near St. Matthew’s Church in Prague’s sixth district, a nice walk from where I had lived for many years. The small church had an intimate flair, and if I had been religious, I would have gone there for services. I would also like to be buried there. It is a relatively small and beautiful cemetery in my favorite section of Prague, but I do not think that would be possible. The cemetery is home to some famous Czech artists – architect Pavel Janák and actor Jiří Kemr.


I also learned that the first farmers in Central Bohemia came in 6 BC. Another interesting fact was that the Celts, in the second half of 1 BC, were the first people to wear trousers in Central Europe.


The medieval displays were eye-catching. Frescoes and wall paintings from Prague houses were highlighted. I read that Prague’s boroughs were created in the 13th and 14th centuries when a medieval fortress had been built. I already knew the Old Town was founded by King Wenceslas I during the 1230s. I read about the origins of the various districts of Prague. A statue that got my attention showed Christ in agony, hailing from 1413 and made of linden wood. Ceramic stove tiles showed pictures of Hussite soldiers from the 15th century, when the Hussite wars ravaged the Czech lands.


Rudolf II’s Prague was also featured in the museum section that documented Prague from 1434 to 1620. Artists had flocked to Prague, which had made a name for itself as a center of European Mannerism. Rudolf II’s collection of art and curiosities was certainly impressive. An art gallery at Prague Castle displayed much art that had been attained during his reign. I had also seen many of Rudolf II’s curiosities in the Kunsthammer in Vienna.




Of course, the Thirty Years’ War was given much attention, as the Catholic victory over the Protestants would greatly influence Prague and Czech history for hundreds of years. Before the war, there were many Ultraquists in Prague society. The defining battle for the Czech lands was at White Mountain in Prague during 1620. The townspeople of Prague were not happy with the then current legal, economic and political roles of towns and took part in this battle. During the war, the Saxons occupied Prague, and the Swedes pillaged and bombed the New Town in Prague.



I remembered living near the Vltava embankment in the pleasant New Town. I tried to imagine the damage and destruction that those bombs had brought to the quarter. It must have been a devastating sight. Prague became part of a province after the war, and Baroque art and architecture became the fashion. In 1624 Catholicism became the only religion allowed in the Czech lands. During the Baroque period, Czech artists including the Dientzenhofer family of architects, sculptor Matthias Bernard Braun as well as painters Karel Škréta, Petr Brandl and Norbert Grund made their way to Prague in 1710 and had a great influence on the art in the city.




The reign of the Habsburgs brought with it a long period of Germanization and a centralized monarchy that dominated the 18th century. Some of the exhibits on display from this century were intriguing, to say the least. A table clock took on a macabre character, featuring a skeleton wielding a scythe. There was also a wooden throne from St. Vitus Cathedral, made in the second half of the 17th century. A glass garden with musicians and nobles was another impressive creation.



Then Prague experienced peace for 100 years. The exhibition ended with the Baroque section, but there was more to the museum, specifically Antonín Langweil’s model of Prague, constructed from 1826 to 1837. He had worked in the University Library at the Clementinum when he was not creating this amazing three-dimensional model of the city. The precision and detail left me in awe. He did not finish the project, but what he did create is astoundingly beautiful and innovative. I saw many sights I had first become acquainted with when I was a tourist in the city during the summer of 1991 – Prague Castle, the Charles Bridge and the Lesser Quarter’s main square as well as the Old Town, St. Vitus Cathedral and the Old Jewish Cemetery.




I recalled walking to Prague Castle across the Charles Bridge early each morning when I first moved to Prague and lived in the Old Town. I would never forget standing below the balcony of Prague Castle on a frigid February evening in 1994 while Václav Havel gave a speech as the first President of the newly created Czech Republic, his wife Olga by his side. I recalled the moment I had set my eyes on Old Town Square for the first time, back in 1991, feeling at once that I had found my true home.




What I found just as impressive as the exhibits were the richly adorned coffered ceilings in the museum. The painting is incredible. One used to be in a house in Prague and hails from the 17th century. On walls of the upper floor is a magnificent painting of the city.



While I already had a solid foundation in Czech and Prague history before this visit, I realized how important this museum would be as a learning experience for tourists who really wanted to become acquainted with the historical events that had shaped the city’s identity through the Baroque era.




It was such a shame that the displays ended with the Baroque era, but there was no more space in the museum. I thought that a museum of more recent history should be created with a special room celebrating Václav Havel as a dissident, playwright and president of Czechoslovakia and the Czech Republic.



Walking through this museum, I was moved by the lands’ often tumultuous history and reminded how the history of the city seeps into my soul every day, no matter where I am. Just looking around me, I feel the history, which is one of the traits I like most about Prague. It is one reason I feel at home here and don’t want to leave.

Tracy Burns is a writer, proofreader and editor in Prague.






Kladruby Monastery Diary

Kladruby facade

I had visited Kladruby Monastery about 20 years before I participated in the arsviva tour of architect Jan Blažej Santini-Aichel’s creations in west Bohemia. I had wanted to pay the Benedictine Monastery another visit for a long time.

I already knew a bit about the fascinating history of the place. Kladruby Monastery was founded by Prince Vladislav I during 1115. It was established on the Nuremberg-Prague trade route. The monastery made quite a name for itself at the end of the 12th century and during the 13th century. The Church of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, Saint Wolfgang and Saint Benedict was consecrated in 1233 with King Wenceslas I on hand for the ceremony. (King Wenceslas I was not the only royal to visit the monastery; King Přemysl Otakar I held negotiations there during the 13th century, too.)


There was much looting later that century, but around 1370, a new abbot was appointed, and the situation improved. The Chapel of All Saints was added during that period. Then Hussite Wars brought devastation to Kladruby. The Hussites and then the army of the Emperor Sigismund took control of the monastery in the 15th century. The Benedictines returned in 1435, though it took about 70 years for things to shape up. The monastery flourished during the early 16th century, and more monks called Kladruby home. This was a glorious time of expansion. A school was set up; both Catholics and Protestants attended.


Things took a turn for the worst with the onset of the Thirty Years’ War. The monastery was looted and pillaged. Because the Catholics won, Kladruby was once again in favor after the wartime turmoil. Expansion and reconstruction took place in the Catholized land.

Jan Blažej Santini-Aichel, a Czech architect of Italian origin, became associated with the monastery in the early 18th century, when he was in charge of doing a makeover of the church in Baroque Gothic style, which emphasized Gothic features in a distinctly Baroque style. Thanks to his efforts, the church interior is bewitchingly beautiful.


In 1785 Emperor Joseph II dissolved the monastery. The Benedictines packed their bags, and the Windisch-Graetz clan moved in. During their tenure, they divided the monastery into apartments. One part of the complex was made into a brewery. The Windisch-Graetzes, however, did build a library that is rather impressive.

Kladruby was nationalized after World War II, and terrible times were to come. Sick cattle grazed on the monastery’s property while other parts were transformed into offices. Reconstruction did not begin until the middle of the 1960s.


I was especially intrigued by the Dining Room, which showed off an 18th century pewter service. What I found most intriguing, however, was the portrait of Cardinal Schwarzenberg. No matter where I stood, his eyes were always staring at me. I gazed at the portrait of the red-drapery clad cardinal with a stern expression from several angles.




In the ambulatory we saw many sandstone statues by Late Baroque sculptor Matthias Bernard Braun, one of my favorites. His works are so dynamic and powerful. It was evident that Braun’s sojourn in Italy had influenced his creations. Most of these statues were inspired by Greek and Roman historical themes while some stood for allegories of character traits. They were all original except for the statue of Count František Antonín Špork, who had been a prominent cultural figure and patron of the arts in the early 18th century. He had founded Kuks, a former hospital that had once been located across from a popular spa, and he commissioned Braun to make statues of vices and virtues for the Baroque exterior of Kuks.




I had visited Kuks for the third time the previous year, and Braun’s statues were certainly a highlight. The newly restored Dance of Death paintings lining a hallway and the Baroque pharmacy there were also impressive. I had also examined the statuary carved from sandstone rocks in Braun’s Bethlehem, situated near Kuks. Those accomplishments are by no means the only ones on Braun’s résumé. He authored several statuaries on Prague’s Charles Bridge, such as The Vision of St. Luthgard, which was his first work. It brought him much acclaim. At Kladruby we also saw 12 woodcuts depicting scenes from Christ’s childhood. It astounded me how it had been possible to portray so much detail in the 16th century carvings.



At the monastery there are about 500 sculptures, paintings and portraits of John of Nepomuk, the Czech patron saint of Bohemia who was drowned in the Vltava River on the orders of King Wenceslas IV during the latter part of the 14th century. The king and archbishop were at odds over who should be the abbot of the prosperous and influential monastery. John of Nepomuk showed his support for the Pope by confirming the archbishop’s candidate, which infuriated the king. John of Nepomuk became a saint in 1729.


Then came the Santini-designed Church of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, Saint Benedict and Saint Wolfgang. Santini had been inspired by the Italian radical Baroque use of geometry and symbolism. I see Santini’s structures as rational yet radical. Santini elevates Gothic art to a new form, offering fresh perspectives and giving new insights. I fondly recalled last year’s arsviva tour of Santini’s structures in east Bohemia and Moravia. I had learned so much about Santini’s creations, and my appreciation of the architect had grown.


Santini was supposed to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a stonemason, but palsy prevented him from doing so. As a student he was mentored by Prague-based architect Jan Baptiste Mathey. During a four-year sojourn in Italy, Santini became enamored with works by Italian architects Francesco Borromini and Guarino Guarnini and their radical Baroque style. Santini was commissioned to reconstruct many religious sites. Baroque art became the fashion during the era when the Catholic army triumphed in the Thirty Years’ War and remained so afterwards, when the Catholicism flourished in the Czech lands. During a mere 46 years, Santini cast his magic spell on about 80 buildings.


It amazed me how the church at Kladruby – the third biggest church in the Czech lands – retained its Gothic charm while also celebrating the Baroque style. I loved the details, such as the slots for candles in the benches of the choir. The pulpit was shaped like a boat rocking on a stormy sea. The Baroque organ – which still worked – boasted 1,270 pedals. Santini designed the impressive organ case. At the bottom of the main altar, there was a small statue of Christ on the cross, and I noticed that the Christ figure was crooked. I wondered what that symbolized. Two devils appeared in paintings in the church as well. Directly below the gushingly Late Baroque dome decorated with a scene of the Assumption was a large eight-pointed star of many layers. It was just one of many eight-pointed stars symbolizing the Virgin Mary that appeared in the church. I also liked the Romanesque elements that Santini had retained. I loved the many frescoes on the walls as well as the church’s stucco ribs and helical vaults. The play of light was also dynamic. Light played such a major role in Santini’s designs.


The high altar, one of Braun’s masterpieces, was perhaps the most intriguing as it featured both Gothic and Baroque elements. It showed scenes from the life and torment of Jesus Christ and scenes from the history of the Benedictine Order. The Assam brothers, who had been Late Baroque gurus, had also decorated sections of the church.  I recalled the church in Munich that they had decorated. The Late Baroque adornment there was so overwhelming that it had made me dizzy.



We also visited the Windisch-Graetz Empire style library, which held 33,000 volumes and included a gallery. On display were weapons of various sorts and objects obtained during travels abroad.



I was more than satisfied with my visit to Kladruby and would recommend it to everyone who has time to see sights in west Bohemia. What impressed me most about Kladruby’s history was that it reflected the history of the Czech lands going through eras of prosperity, destruction and rebirth. Visiting the monastery was like reading a 900-year old illustrated text. Santini’s geometric symbolism, his use of Gothic and Baroque elements and the play of light greatly impressed me. Braun’s statues were so lively. Each facial expression told a story – some of delight, some of anguish. It was as if it was possible to see into the soul of each character represented in the statues.

Tracy A. Burns is a writer, editor and proofreader in Prague.







Dobříš diary



I loved the cheerful red and yellow façade of this charming chateau only a half hour from Prague. The captivating exterior always put me in a good mood. The short bus ride had taken me into a different and exciting world.

Because it was my third visit to Dobříš, I was well aware of its history. Unlike many other chateaus, Dobříš did not emerge as a Gothic castle or medieval fortress. It was built as a Renaissance chateau at the end of the 16th century when travelers stopped in the town on their way from Prague to Italy. The chateau was purchased by royal hunter Bruno Mannsfeld in 1630, beginning its long ties to that clan. It got a Baroque makeover at the end of the 17th century, when its lush French and English gardens came into being. Although a fire devastated the chateau in 1720, the Baroque jewel was reconstructed by 1765.

ImageThe Colloredo family came into the picture when Marie Isabella, the daughter of Jindřich Pavel Mannsfeld, married František Gundakar Colloredo in 1771, and the new name of the owners became Colloredo-Mannsfeld. World War II brought dark days to the chateau. In 1942 Dobříš was confiscated by the Nazis and served as the seat of acting Protector of the Reich Kurt Daluage, who succeeded the assassinated Reinhard Heydrich that same year. Vikard Colloredo-Mannsfeld, the owner of the chateau during this turbulent time, refused to become a German citizen, taking a stance against the Nazis and targeted as an enemy of the Reich.

In 1945 the chateau was taken over by the state and became the property of the Writers’ Syndicate. As the Writers’ Home from the 1950s to 1990s, the chateau housed scribblers for stays that lasted a week or months. Writers’ conferences were held here, too. A stormy legal battle began in 1992 when Jerome Colloredo-Mannsfeld wanted the chateau and both parks returned. Six years later he got his wish, but he died that same year. Now his descendent, also Jerome Colloredo-Mannsfeld, owns the chateau.

ImageBoth representative rooms and former guest rooms make up the 11 spaces on the tour that lasted an hour and depicted the chateau during the Rococo and Classicist eras. This time I had my own guide, which is the way I preferred to see the interiors. We began in the Salla Terrena where the glazed doors once served as an entrance to the stunning French garden I loved so much. Both the captivating statues in the room and those in the park were the work of legendary 18th century Czech sculptor František Ignác Platzer, who also designed the statue of Saint Norbert on the Charles Bridge and the ornamentation of Saint Nicholas Church in Prague’s Lesser Quarter. The walls of this space were decorated with hunting scenes.

The Hunting Lounge featured 18th century wallpaper with hunting motifs. Admiring the hand-painted décor, I spotted three hunters relaxing in lush scenery, accompanied by a dog.  I took note of the mixture of Classicist, Rococo and Louis XVI styles evident in the pieces of furniture. I found it intriguing that the legs of a chair fit into the Rococo style while the top part exuded Classicism. The exquisite chandelier hailed from Murano. Photos of the chateau from 1910 appeared throughout the rooms.

ImageThe Master Bedrooms were next. Although the furniture flaunted Classicist style, the desk in the space was Baroque. I was particularly drawn to the 18th century armchair upholstered with Gobelin tapestry that showed Venus coming out the sea as she was born. I also adored the gilt Japanese vase that depicted scenes from the life of Buddha. The oldest picture in the chateau, dating from the 16th century, showed Saint Jerome with a skull. The guide explained that St. Jerome was the patron saint of the Colloredo-Mannsfelds. Weird pictures on the drawer of an 18th century ebony bureau depicted angels with instruments of torture.

DobrisChateauThe picture on an easel in the Italian Lounge was called Canal Grande an original rendition by 18th century Venetian painter and printmaker Canaletto. I thought back to my short trip to Venice five years ago and recalled how I was bursting with energy each day. I wish I had that much energy now.  How I had loved meandering down the deserted streets on a Sunday at 7 am! That was when I became hooked on cappuccino.

There were other paintings of Venice in the room, too, as I spotted a gondola and a carnival in full swing. Views of Naples and Messina also adorned the space. A Classicist screen held a compartment for letters. The 50-kilogram chandelier hailing from Murano was light blue and white with floral ornamentation. I loved Italian chandeliers. The tan furniture with black stripes fell into the Classicist category.

ImageI tried to imagine an afternoon tea party in the Ladies’ Rocco Lounge with women relaxing on the maroon Rococo seats and sipping tea from Meissen porcelain cups while recounting anecdotes, telling jokes and complaining about their husbands. A display case with Dresden porcelain had a unique shape – it looked like a carriage. I imagined all the conversations that must have taken place under the Bohemian crystal chandelier hailing from the days of Holy Roman Empress Maria Theresa. Paintings of pastoral scenes rounded out the attractive room.

The first thing I noticed in the Ladies’ Bedroom was that the white bed with shell ornamentation looked too short, but I knew from other tours that people used to sleep sitting up or half-sitting. They were afraid they would die if they lay down, or women did not want to mess up their elaborate hairstyles. I was surprised to hear that the bed is actually two meters long. Ludwig XVI style furniture, harkening back to the 18th century, was featured in this opulent décor. A copy of Raphael’s Madonna hung in the room. The guide told me a legend about the Venetian mirror:  People who look into it will have their wishes fulfilled as long as they do not gaze into another mirror for a year.

ImageThe next room was totally different, seemingly from another world. This Writer’s Room was decorated the way the room would have looked when the chateau belonged to the Writers’ Union, from the 1950s to the 1990s. The space featured a modern bed, a typewriter, a record player and a modern bathroom with two tubs. The corridor in the chateau was home to intriguing, 18th century pictures of Prague and Vienna. I spotted graphics of Schönbrunn Palace and its surroundings plus a forest with a church and a pond. In the section focusing on Prague I recognized Old Town Square with a plague column in the center and Týn Church’s spires in the background.

Dobrischateau15Measuring 220 square meters, the Hall of Mirrors was the largest room on the tour. It was also the most astounding. It was often used for weddings and concerts, and I recalled attending a concert here in the early 1990s when the chateau’s rooms were not open to the public. Certainly this fresco-filled hall was suitable for weddings with its stucco ceiling décor and other ornamentation dating back to the 18th century. Craning my neck to see the ceiling fresco, I peered at a blue sky with angels fluttering to and fro. Allegories of the four seasons were painted above the door. The frescoes above the balcony represented the five senses.  Eight Venetian chandeliers captured my attention. Two marble fireplaces on opposite sides of the room and two Czech crystal chandeliers added to the room’s opulence. Above one fireplace, Josefína Czernínová held a small dog in one hand. Opposite her, Jindřich Pavel Mannsfeld gripped construction plans in his right hand.

Dobrispark1The Gobelin tapestry room charmed me with its tapestry upholstery on the furniture. I noted the armrests portraying scenes from Italian commedia dell’ arte performances. I especially admired the semi-precious stones in the 18th century jewel chest made of black ebony. In a portrait Marie Isabella Mannsfeld wore an attractive pink dress and had her hair up in a bob. Vases with Oriental motifs were also enticing.

DobrisgardensThe Rococo Room or Music Room featured Rococo stucco wall décor. Vases dotted the room – some Japanese and others made of Viennese porcelain and sporting floral designs. I took special note of the four Venetian mirrors with gold frames. I loved Venetian mirrors despite their opulence!  Above a dominating marble fireplace, a portrait of Joseph II showed the distinguished Holy Roman Emperor with one hand on his hip. Two Czech crystal chandeliers added to the noble atmosphere. An aquarium was unique. The big bowl showed off designs of orange fish and flowers.

Dobrispark6The oldest book in the library was open on the table – a German Bible from the 16th century. I admired its bewitching Gothic script. The 3,600 books on the dark wooden shelves were written in German, English and French with a few in Czech, and most hailed from the 18th and 19th centuries. The collection included the volumes of the History of the Czech Nation in Bohemia and Moravia by legendary Czech 19th century historian, František Palacký. Other valuable items were many books by Alexandre Dumas as well as the Encyclopedia Brittanica. Portraits of the Mannsfelds and Colloredos also adorned the room. I recognized one painting as a copy of the original I had seen in the Prado – Diego Velázquez’s “Portrait of the Spanish Infanta Margarita Teresa.”  Dolls had been placed throughout the rooms as part of a special exhibition, and in this space there were 50 doll figures from novels. Madame Bovary made a memorable appearance.

Dobrispark11The Dining Room boasted of 20th century Neo-Renaissance traits. The 12 chairs made of leather had armrests sporting the eagle on the coat-of-arms of the Colloredo family. Portraits of the Colloredo-Mannsfelds also decorated the walls. In one portrait Josef Colloredo-Mannsfeld was seated on a red chair, with books on a nearby table, perhaps symbolizing his vast knowledge obtained while he had traveled around the world.  The vases from Delft added ambience as did the stucco décor on the ceiling.

After touring the 11 rooms, I paid a visit to the JCM family Gallery. Family portraits and Baroque 17th and 18th century works by Italian painters dotted the walls of the small, intimate spaces. I noticed many biblical and mythological scenes as well as historical themes and landscapes. Salvatore Rosa executed “Saint Peter Fishing” in the 17th century while a portrait of Holy Roman Emperor Leopold II hailed from the end of the 18th century. Other works addressed topics such as the judgment of Paris and the murder of Saint Wenceslas. Leonardo Bassano’s depiction of the Last Supper from 1605 graced a wall, too.

Dobrispark13A temporary exhibition in the gallery featured the work of Belorussian painter Alexandr Iljuščenko. I admired one modern landscape with many greens and browns and his depiction of a tram over a bridge. I could almost hear it clattering over the tracks. An alley flanked by trees during the fall also caught my attention. In another work I saw a green pasture and hills. The people rendered in the paintings appeared too modern for me and took something away from the magical atmosphere of the scenery.

Next I walked into the bewitching French park of nearly two hectares. It was one of my favorites. Founded during the 1770s when the chateau got a Baroque makeover, the French park now boasts of Rococo style. Five terraces, an orangery and a fountain with a Baroque sculptural grouping of horses created by Platzer around 1760 were just a few of the pluses.  I also viewed allegorical statues of the seasons. I spotted Poseidon with a crown and Nares with an oar and ocean wreath, too. In the orangery I took note of the four statues of figures from mythology, including Apollo and Aphrodite.  The English park was much larger, spanning 30 hectares with a pond and stream. Three artificial caves were located here as well.

I had an appetizing lunch of chicken on a skewer in the quaint and busy chateau restaurant and then made my way to the nearby bus stop for the half hour ride back to Prague.

Tracy A. Burns is a writer, proofreader and editor in Prague.