Thursday, 5 February 2015

KARLŠTEJN: Bohemia's Fairytale Castle.

Within a short train ride from Prague lies the picture perfect village of Karlštejn and its fairy-tale castle which towers proudly above.  The castle is arguably the most beautiful in the ancient region of Bohemia, as well as the Czech Republic as a whole.  Perched on a rocky hill, there are lovely views over the village and surrounding countryside and it offers a great insight into the long and colourful history of Bohemia.

Karlstejn Castle

Bohemia (known in the Czech language as Čechy) is the largest of the three historic kingdoms which together make up the modern-day Czech Republic (the other two being Moravia, and the much smaller region of Czech Silesia).  The area has a very long history and has been inhabited since ancient times.  The use of the term ‘Bohemian’ in day-to-day English to depict quirky, arty characters stems from the historical stereotypes of Roma gypsies, many of which travelled from Bohemia to settle in Britain.

The impressive Karlštejn Castle (Czech: Karlštejn Hrad) was founded by the Bohemian king (and roman emperor) Charles IV in AD 1348, although restoration work took place in the 19th century giving it more of a renaissance feel.  The large gothic-style castle was built to house the Bohemian crown jewels.  Its history has been turbulent – the castle has lived through many battles including the Hussite wars around AD 1421 and the Thirty Years war around AD 1619, but lives on as an extremely well-preserved monument.  Entry to the castle is a reasonable price (like most things in the Czech Republic) - at the time of writing entry costs 170 Kč for adults and 110 Kč for children, students and seniors.  This price includes entry and a guided tour of the castle, which offers a great historical insight.  The tours are available in both Czech and English language.  Opening times seem to vary quite a bit though and some days the castle is closed to the public, so it is advisable to check online before making the trip!

Karlstejn village and castle

Beneath the castle is the pretty village of Karlštejn, which occupies a small wooded valley.  Anywhere you are in the village, there are impressive views of the castle above, which dominates the scenery.  A stroll through this village is lovely, taking in the small shops and restaurants on the way.  The area is very peaceful and the scenery is pretty – it really struck me how green and lush the area was.  I would certainly recommend Karlštejn as a day trip from Prague, as it shows off a much quieter side to the Czech Republic compared to the hustle and bustle of the fabulous capital nearby.

Thanks for reading!

Elis Griffiths. x