I read this is one of the most visited castles in the Czech Republic. I don't think I had to wonder why, as this Castle sits on a promontory above the Vltava River and exudes beauty!
Originally a royal castle, Hluboka was founded in the 13th century by the Czech King Premysl Otakar II. The castle has seen four re-constructions over a period of time, until 1871, when obtained its present Neo-Gothic appearance thanks to the Schwarzenberg family, who owned the Castle from 1661. Schwarzenberg and his wife Eleonora, decided to design the Castle, like the Royal Castle of Windsor.
Their Castle has 140 lavishly furnished rooms, with 11 towers and bastions.
OPENING HOURS......ALWAYS CLOSED FOR HALF HOUR LUNCH BREAK
Jan-March & Nov, Dec....10 -12 & 12.30 - 4pm...Closed Mondays
April, Sept. & Oct..........10 - 12 & 12.30 - 4.30pm...Closed Mondays
May & June..................10 - 12 & 12.30 - 5 pm.....Closed Mondays
July & August...............10 - 12 & 12.30 - 5pm
Please check this web page for costs of tours.....
NO PHOTOS ALLOWED INSIDE THE CASTLE
The interior of the palace can only be visited with guided tours. There are two routes available. The first one leads through the representative rooms, the second one includes the private appartements and the huge kitchen. There are excellent detailed descriptions available on the official website so I won't go into too many details here.
Please consult the website http://www.zamek-hluboka.eu for all information concerning opening times, entrance fees and tour bookings. The website is available in Czech, English, German and Russian.
We did the first tour in German with a local guide, probably a university student (such a cute young man, if you allow an old biddy like me to say that;-)) so we got to see the representation rooms. These are very 19th century with loits of dark wood, decorated with the finest craftwork and filled with everything money could buy. The details are amazingly beautiful, the sheer mass is overwhelming.
Photography is strictly forbidden. The reasons are obvious: The rooms are rather dark, too many tourists would not hesitate to use flash although it is (should be) common knowledge that the strong light of hundreds or thouands of flashes per day harms the sensitive materials, most of all fabric and paper. They have no choice but ban cameras altogether if they want to protect their valuable objects.
The walls of both inner courtyards are decorated all over with stag heads. The heads are stucco but the antlers are real. Hunting was a popular pastime among nobility and Hluboka is surrounded by vast forests. The Schwarzenbergs also joined hunting parties in other places in Bohemia. The hunting trophies were then put up on the walls - the larger the antlers and the more 'points' they have, the better.
Each of them has an inscription underneath which states where this particular stag was hunted. The names of the places are in German, so you will find, for example, "Krumau" for Cesky Krumlow and "Frauenberg" for Hluboká.
Through the main gate you enter the first, smaller courtyard which has the shape of an oblong rectangle. The passage then leads through a second arched passage into the trapezoid main courtyard.
The architect did not place the entrance, courtyards and passage in one central axis but shifted the masses and created an asymmetry. You enter the main courtyard not in the middle but in one corner beside the main tower. This trick created the "picturesque" look of the main facade towards the gardens, which has regularity and symmetry except for the large tower which is shifted to the right.
The courtyards can be entered for free. The cash desk for guided tours is located underneath the second arch, get tickets there. Tours then start at the far end of the second courtyard.
The side building which the greenhouse connects with the palace used to be the riding hall. It was built from rough grey stone with white framings that create a decorative effect.
Nowadays the building contains an art gallery (which we did not visit, so I cannot tell you more about it).
Note the door on the front facade with its elaborate stonemasonry (photo 3).
While the castle pretends to be medieval, the adjacent greenhouse was built in the most modern technique that was just coming up in the mid 19th century: cast iron and glass. There are gothic elements in the ornaments, but the material tells of the era of industrialization. The result is a fine structure that looks almost like lace.
The interior of this beautiful building, a wide hall in full daylight, contains a couple of plants and some souvenir stalls and postcard stands, otherwise nothing. They could have found a better use...
The greenhouse is free to enter from the garden. At the end of the guided tours in the palace you parade down the stairway at the far end and end up here again.
Hluboka Palace is a rather early example of the neogothic style in central Europe. In Britain the gothic revival had already started in the second half of the 18th century but on the continent this was a rather new fashion in those times, the earliest larger designs in neogothic style date from the 1820s and 1830s but it became widespread and popular from the 1850s onwards.
In 1838 Prince Johann Adolf II. of Schwarzenberg and his wife Eleonora (photo 3) were invited to the coronation of Queen Victoria and attended the festivities in Windsor Castle. They decided they wanted a similar stately home - those of you who have visited Windsor will notice the resemblance, for example in the octogonal side towers. The architect Franz Beer from Vienna designed the new palace, using the English Tudor gothic, and Windsor Castle in particular, as model. The existing older palace was demolished and substituted by this fairytale castle. Construction works were finished in 1871.
The architecture of the palace is best enjoyed from the surrounding gardens. The formal garden in front of the main entrance offers truly postcard-like views.
I wish you more time than we had (the usual problem when you are with a tour) so you can explore more of the gardens than I did. The formal gardens extend all around the palace. The whole hill is covered in a huge park with many old trees, as shown on the map in photo 2 (taken from an information board by the entrance), which would have been worth a longer walk.
From the parking lot down in the village, you have to walk to the castle. It is not far, maybe 15 minutes, but constantly uphill. The way is well signposted. You walk through the centre of the village first, past some shops and restaurants and the church (photo 1), and further uphill along a small steep road with a view over the village (photo 2). Then you'll think, oh great we are almost there (photo 3) , but the building you see is not yet the palace but the hotel below. The walk continues a bit further (photo 4) until you pass through this wall and enter the gardens (photo 5).
Alternatives if you don't walk: either take the vlácek (choo-choo train), the fare is CZK 50 per person, or if you want it more romantic, a horse-drawn carriage which seats four at the price of CZK 200, hence for four people the fare is the same.
Hluboka palace is located on top of the hill behind the village of Hluboká nad Vltavou (Hluboká on the Moldau). The white building sits on the hilltop like a "castle in the clouds". You will spot the tower and pinnacled rooftops when approaching the village. My photos here are snapshots taken through the windscreen of our coach; I luckily had the seat in the front row.
Mentally prepare for the walk up because you have to park the car or be dropped off by the bus down in the village at the foot of the hill.
Another beautiful building at Hluboka Castle is the Conservatory or decorative glasshouse, built as a connecting hall between the castle and the riding school building. It was built during the industrial revolution, so no expense was spared with the building, making sure there was enough cast and wrought iron to hold the glass of this winter garden [as it is known] together.
The exterior of this lovely building, matches the architecture of the castle, while the interior is nothing fancy!
The use of cast-iron to create the ornamentation of the glasshouse was used on the front of the castle as well. This cast-iron technique allowed for small, precise, and finely made shapes that would not have been possible in stone.
The winter garden at Hluboka nad Vltavou is a perfect example of feudal prestige that the nobility of the 1800s used to demonstrate their wealth. The middle class was beginning to accumulate wealth through manufacturing, therefore they felt the need to go to great lengths, and expense, to make sure their estates showed off their wealth in extravagant ways.
Luckily, this Conservatory has been well maintained and preserved, and now houses the gift shop. Here I could by some postcards, and a dvd to the Castle seeing no photos were allowed!
After passing through the interesting Entrance door to the Castle, we have now entered the Inner Courtyard of the Castle.
This is a lovely area, with plenty of seating around the edges. On the walls, are mounted Stag heads and some interesting Gargoyles. Lovely architecture on the Castle, this was a very pleasant area!
When visiting the Castle, make sure you just don't walk inside, but stop and look at the Door Handle.
The owners of the Castle, the Schwarzenbergs, were originally called the Lords of Seinsheim.
Their proper emblem was a shield with silver and blue stripes. In 1599, after a conquest against the Turks, Adolf zu Schwarzenberg had the head of a Turk, with his eyes being pecked out by a raven added to the sheild!
Now look at the door handle, and to your surprise, it combines the head of a Turk, and the Raven is picking his eyes out!
This can also be seen in the form of a sculpture in Trebon.
Located at the southern end of the Castle, or what I call the back of the Castle, is another garden with a round pool, this is said to be where princess Krasomila in a fairy-tale film fell into.
What is beautiful here, is the wrought iron work, and the spiral staircase and porch which used to house an orangery (nowadays the ceremonial hall).
There is a Terrace, with panoramic views, I hope they lop some of the Trees before they spoil the view!
The Castle park covers 58 hectares, so I only looked at the area nearest the Castle.
The present shape of the garden was done along with the neo-Gothic remodelling of the chateau, in the years 1840-1871 under Prince Jan Adolf II of Schwarzenberg and his spouse Eleonore.
The Schwarzenbergs had been to England many times, and loved the English gardens and architecture.
The garden is terraced, has many huge Beech trees, Fountains, Parterre gardens, arches, Pools, with a regular parterre in front of the entrance to the castle.
The Pink Roses were blooming in amongst the Parterre garden, this made a stunning view when standing on a garden path in this garden and looking at the Castle entrance.
Nearer the Castle, the garden made way to Lavender and other plants in a less formal garden.
Some garden beds of well maintained Red Begonias added a nice touch to the front garden.