Friday, October 30, 2015

Sites : Cesky Krumlov Castle

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Český Krumlov Castle (Hrad a zámek Český Krumlov)

A Unesco Heritage Site
Český Krumlov, Czech Republic - September 2015
Český Krumlov was one of the most memorable places we visited during our tour of Europe. Exuding a slow medieval charm amidst the houses that hailed from medieval days, it has been recognised as an UNESCO Heritage site since 1992. The crowning glory of the town is the Český Krumlov Castle (called Hrad a zámek Český Krumlov in Czech).
Officially the caste is called the State Castle of Cesky Krumlov. Construction first began in 1240 AD when the first castle was built by the Witigonen family, a branch of the Rosenbergs. Subsequently, the castle was administered by several families including the Eggenbergs who renovated and expanded the castle and introduce Baroque style architecture. The last family to administer it were the Schwarzenbergs before it was taken over by the state in 1947.

3-D Map of Český Krumlov Castle
Map Key:
1. Red Gate  2. Stables  3. Salt House  4. Castle Lapidarium  5. Little Castle With Tower  6. Mint  7. Dairy  8. Upper Castle  9. Cloak Bridge  10. Castle Theatre  11. Horse Stables  12. Winter Riding School  13. Summer Riding School
(Beyond the riding schools are the gardens. the map of which can be seen later on).

Even as we approached historic centre of Český Krumlov, a pinkish tower sticking up from the rest of the buildings caught our eyes. That's a unique tower, we remarked to ourselves.

Český Krumlov with it's medieval charm and slow pace of life fascinated us, especially on our walk towards the castle. We approached through a bridge spanning across the Vltava. Here it is just a narrow river, not the wide giant it is in Prague.

From the river bridge we walked through a few streets of medieval houses and climbed some steps up to the entrance to the castle. A high wall protects the entrance, fortunately we are at a time of peace and the gates are opened. On each side wall were lions holding up the crests of the families associated with the castle. Ahead was an archway, above which were two more crests.

Close up view of one of the lions with a family crest.

Close up view of the two family crests over the arched doorway.

The gates led through a walled open corridor that is actually over a moat that surrounds the castle. Just pass this corridor we looked down into the moat; Hey! there's a  bear down there. It even has a name, Bruno. I thought back of times past and wondered whether back then bears were put into the moat as part of the defence.

The first courtyard is fairly large with the walls of the surrounding wings done in dark grey tones.

On the eaves of the buildings are murals done in black and white in line with the grey tone of the walls.

Looking down below, we saw the Vltava meander at the edge of Český Krumlov, dropping through a weir and it flowed down stream toward Prague. It would join up with the Elbe and drain out to the North Sea at Hamburg in Germany.

We entered the second courtyard. Above, the tower loomed in it's unique pastel pink colour topped by a few greenish domes.

It is possible to climb up the tower through a building know as the Little Castle.

A close up view of the tower showed that it's unique colour comes from red-pinkish marble that are used to decorate the arches and walls. The railings are decorated with carvings of different types of lions.

The Little Castle is distinguished by its yellowish walls with murals of knights.

The fountain in the second courtyard.

On another side were these canons, relics form the days of the Schwarzenberg Guards. The Guards were started by Adam Franz of the Schwarzenbergs during the 18th Century and were initially established in the Hluboka and Vltavou castles. In 1742 they were moved to Český Krumlov till their disbandment in March 1948.

We walked through a tunnel and exited at the 3rd Courtyard. It is a smaller one with yellow walls.

Close up details of the wall of the Third Courtyard, below is the corridor leading from the Second Courtyard.

Close-up details of the wall of the Third Courtyard, below is the corridor leading to the Fourth Courtyard.

The corridor leading to the Fourth Courtyard was quite a steep climb, fortunately it was only a short stretch.

The Fourth Courtyard.

Beyond this was an open-walled corridor of the Cloak Bridge that led to the gardens. People were crowding, squeezing tight against each other the low wall at the edges on both sides. We were wondering what they were looking at.

On one side, they were looking at one of the most beautiful views of Český Krumlov...

... on the other side, was a view of the lower portions of the castle; yes we had climbed a long way up, the tower looked so far away.

A favourite photo by most visitors, a peep view of the town from on of the arched openings.

Exiting the Upper Castle, we came to an open space. Ahead were some stairs and to the left was a steep road. These were the two access to the gardens, we opted to use the road to go up. Above the road was a covered bridge that connected the Upper Castle to the gardens; this was for the royalty, we the commoners had to use the road.

Map of the Royal Gardens of Castle Cesky Krumlov.
As can be seen on the bottom left, a red arrow point to the entrance to the garden via a series of steps. The road we used is the one on the bottom right.

We entered through the Riding School side, in front of which was a small court yard which was used for summer ride training.

This arched timber door leads into the school, inside are grounds for winter ride training.

Even here the garden starts with colourful flowers in beds at the centre of which trees grew.

The garden is in two levels. This is the lower tier; interestingly the hedges here are low also, just below knee height.

Separating the lower and gardens was this fountain. The steps on the side led to the upper garden.

Water spouts aiming for the sky!

Is this Poseidon?

The upper garden had taller hedges, about chest high, ringing smaller sectional gardens within.

These tall hedges enclosed sections of flowery gardens.

Beyond the upper garden is this font of Mary, step next to it led up to...

.. was this pinkish building which probably was a place for actors to change into their costumes as behind it was...

... this Rotating Amphitheatre. In the past, this was rotated by hand, these days it is mechanized. It rotates to view plays acted out in different section of the garden.

Beyond the amphitheatre, the garden extended on till the far end where the Castle Pond is located. Our time here was short and we did not go further, instead we turned around to the sides and walk back along a path lined by two tall hedges.

The path continued downwards to a shady and very green section, one that is calming. It was a tranquil end of an interesting visit to this lovely castle.

Cesky Krumlov Castle
Zamek 59, 381 01 Cesky Krumlov, Czech Republic.

Opening Hours:
9:00am to 5:00pm
From 1st June to 31st August : 9:00 am to 6:00pm

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