Looking for something outside Prague? Loučeň Castle

Most stately homes and castles in Czechia close for the winter months. I suppose not many people enjoy traipsing around an unheated building when it’s -20 C outside. Loučeň castle is one of the exceptions.

I say ‘castle’ but like many of these places, it is a grand stately home.

Built on the site of a thirteenth century fortress, it changed hands a few times until the Wallenstein family bought it in the seventeenth century. [4] Like any fortified building in the region, it saw the brutal Thirty Years’ War first-hand. The current building dates back to the eighteenth century restoration. [4]

A photo of the Chateau - Nymburk, Czechia

The Chateau – Nymburk, Czechia

In the 18th century, landscape designers invented what we now call English gardens. [1] These were lavish gardens that included several “eye catchers” such as a lake, belvederes and tea houses. [1] The continent fell in love with the idea and many châteaux across Europe now boast these gardens.

The owners of Loučeň castle commissioned designers to design such a garden. They also added a feature that is unique in Europe – 11 labyrinths and mazes which are lovingly cared for and maintained. [2] The owners know people enjoy wandering around the parks, so they have picnic baskets you can buy. Spending a day lying on the grass and getting lost – literally – in nature is a beautiful thought.

A photo of the entrance to the grounds - Nymburk, Czechia

Entrance to the grounds – Nymburk, Czechia

Back to the 18th century.

During the Napoleonic wars, Russian soldiers were stationed close to this château. [3] Their activities damaged the neighbouring villages. The daughter of the owner, Princess Eleonora of Thurn-Taxis, felt she should support the community. She built churches, a nursing home and an orphanage. [3] Locals, to this day, feel protective of ‘their’ connection to this stately home.

The Thurn-Taxis family were an entrepreneurial lot. They set up one of the first proper international postal services, they invested in businesses and even made their own beer.

A photo of one of the first postal sledges - Nymburk, Czechia

One of the first postal sledges – Nymburk, Czechia

The people taking care of the castle have converted part of it into a hotel and this partially explains why it’s open all the time. It’s interesting that a private company puts the place to good use, while other state-run sites are in worse condition. There’s an argument for privatisation right there.
The tour of the château lasts about an hour and takes you through the family history. There’s plenty of information about the Thurn-Taxis family too.

Loučeň château is north-east of Prague in the Central Bohemian region. It is about an hour’s drive away. Unfortunately there are no good train connections so a car is a must.

 

Have you picnic-ed in a stately home recently? Leave a comment below and tell us about it!

 

References

[1] English landscape gardens; Wikipedia; 2017-08-27
[2] Castle Loučeň; Castle Loučeň; (Retrieved 2017-10-28)
[3] Loučeň; Wikipedia; 2017-10-10; (Article in Czech)
[4] Loučeň Zamek; Wikipedia; 2017-06-26 (Article in Czech)

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