Picture the situation: It’s the French revolution and you are a member of the French nobility. What’s the best way of making sure your head doesn’t end up on the chopping block too? Why, escape to another country and buy a château there of course!
This is Sychrov château’s most important claim to fame. The small town in Czechia’s northernmost region – Liberec – had a fortification of sorts from the fifteenth century.  It took the French revolution to force one of France’s noble families eastwards looking for a place to stay.
I wondered about this as I drove up from Prague, the car droning on asphalt below me. Sychrov is just under an hour’s drive from Prague. making it an easy trip to make. I chose this place as it is one of the few châteaux in this country open in the winter season. Around me, I could see Mother Nature had been awake all night laying carpets of white on the countryside. Above, a bright weak sun punctured the blue as far as the eye could see.
The de Rohan family were originally from Brittany.  They feature heavily in French history; The Rohans were heavily involved in whatever the French were doing throughout the ages. The one place I had heard of the name was through the multi-national Knights of Malta. One grandmaster who ruled over the Maltese Islands in the eighteenth century was Emmanuel de Rohan.  (His name lives on because he authorised one local town to be called a “city” which was quite a prestigious title in those days. To this day, the central locality of Zebbug is called “Citta Rohan”)
We arrived with about 30 minutes to spare before the next guided tour was to start. Snow crunching underfoot, we took advantage of the time to wander the show-shovelled paths in the gardens. The orangery, at the foot of the gardens, stood watch over a frozen pond that was almost buried in the ankle-deep snowfall.
When the de Rohans took ownership of Sychrov Castle, they set about improving it to their tastes.  They also brought their own styles with them, which certainly added to contemporary Bohemian tastes. The castle at Konopiste, used by the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, modelled part of its gardens on Sychrov’s.  
Feeling the cold, we shivered our way back to the château and the guided tour. Unfortunately the tour was in Czech but an English language pamphlet provides you with all the information you need. We gingerly stepped on wooden floorboards that had been in place for centuries, under the watchful eyes of the Rohan family.
The curators present the nobility’s residential and living quarters as precisely as can be. They also maintain the whole château impeccably. In some ways, the presentation reminded me of other stately homes I’ve visited but the decor was clearly French. This is perhaps one of the best-maintained stately homes I’ve seen in this country.
Visitors to the castle today get more than merely the tour around the castle. The building boasts one of the largest collections of portraits of French nobility in Central Europe.  Interestingly, our guide pointed out, some of the portraits are “imaginative portraits”. When the Rohans commissioned an artist to draw the family, they cheerfully told him the people he was supposed to paint had died many years before. He had no clear idea what they looked like so made some of the portraits up!
Have you seen any French châteaux close to where you live? Tell us about them in the comments below!