Monday, April 25, 2016

Grandmaster Bouzov and Kanye

Bouzov castle from the village
I’ve long held my beef with Czechs and their castles. As I’ve mentioned before, when I first came to Prague, I wasted an entire day looking around for Prague Castle. Why? Because it’s not a castle. At least, not in the sense that us Americans have come to think of castle, which is something that kind of looks like a fortress, has lots of stone, and with flags on top. Okay, Disneyland did a lot to create this image, but their castle really is more of a castle than Prague castle, and has even more of a castle history – think Neuschwanstein, never really a fortress, always really just something that looks cool and came out of Wagnerian fairy tales. Prague Castle is an administrative center, has many palaces inside of it, and has a wall. That might make for the biggest "castle" in the world, but it also makes for castle that looks more like a palatial complex than anything else. In Prague, there is a castle, but it’s not the castle, it’s Vysehrad, which means “high castle”, and it’s a bit of a ruin, but have fun. 

However, the Czech Republic is full of the real deal of castles. Everywhere from the decorative Disneyland type playgrounds for ye olde riche, like Hluboka, to the old ruins of castles, like Rabi, to the kept up fortresses of old that were also administrative centers and the houses of old knightly orders, like Bouzov, which is today’s subject. The castle sits on a wooded hill, maybe a twenty-minute drive from Olomouc. By public transit, a bus from Olomouc to Litovel and then to Bouzov will take you near an hour, along with a good hike up a hill and a dubious time schedule. Luckily for the un-carred, this part of the world isn’t intolerant of hitchhikers, and they even have a mild tradition of it. So if you’re really determined to make it to this castle, then that might be your best bet.

A bit of history

castle gates
Bouzov was founded back in the 1300s and were most famously owned by the Lords of Kunstat and later the Teutonic Knights. The famous Czech king, who is perhaps the third most famous Czech in Prague after Charles IV and Zizkov, Jiri z Podebrady was born here. Jiri (read: Yeezhee, where Kanye West must get his name) is often called by Czechs speaking to foreigners “George from Podiebrad”, which kind of confuses us, since we read his name on the metro station as JZP. He was a King of Bohemia back in the 15th century and leader of the Hussites. Jiri was both a Bohemian to the core and a modern day nationalist. He proposed to the Pope – who he was at war with – to sit down and have chats rather than wars (the Bohemian side). But he was also a bit of a nationalist, since the whole point of those sit downs was to plot against the “abominable Turk.” The Pope wouldn’t have any of that peacenik nonsense and thoroughly excommunicated Kanye's predecessor, who was soon to die during a war with the Pope-serving Hungarian king.

the inner courtyard of the castle
Bouzov remained a Hussite stronghold through the 30 Years War, during which it served as a prison for captured Swedes. The Swedes were rampant during that period and something had to be done with them. Unfortunately, this was not enough, as they would later lay siege to Prague, raping and pillaging everything outside of its so-called castle. It’s to be noted though that that was the time before it was redecorated into its current Baroque affair and actually did resemble something like a castle.

After the decline of the Hussites, Bouzov castle eventually burned down and the domain fell to the Grandmaster of the infamous Teutonic Knights. The Teutonic Knights were a German crusading bunch responsible for bringing in the Baltic pagans to the Catholic Church. Having succeeded in their campaign, they eventually got some land, went a bit nuts and started attacking everybody, from the Balts to the Russians to the Poles to the Germans. They built some of the best military castles in Europe though, and for that, many of the aforementioned countries owe them many a tourist dollar.

A bit of a tour

the fountain
The castle as you can see and tour it now is preserved in this later Teutonic period. The beginning of the regular tour starts in the Grandmaster’s office. It moves on through some bed chambers and along a wall, then down to the servant’s quarters. From there, the tour continues to the kitchen, where you can sort of imagine castle life centuries ago, and how the servants were able to get about the castle without ever being seen, and how there were even rudimentary ordering and calling systems for the servants, in the form of a dinging call box that would tell the servants what room needed aid. The tour rounds out with the central well that has a German inscription that translates as something like, “This was a really ugly well. You should thank me for having it replaced with this beautiful piece of art”, and then on to the chapel and the armory.

This was one of the best preserved and prettier castles in the Czech Republic (now known as Czechia) that I’ve visited and that says a lot.

1 comment:

  1. nice Shawn. Here is the castle: Oravsky hrad in our region in Slovakia.