Tuesday, August 9, 2016

the museums of Orlik and Zvikov

Orlik Castle
It’s surprisingly cold in the newly re-branded country of Czechia. The climate has been on course for the change, though to something slightly more comfortable than all the warming mumbo jumbo. Last year, I remember sitting up in my attic apartment at night, soaking in sweat, unable to do much but drink water and breathe heavily. This year, I’m quite happily relaxed in blue jeans on my balcony, sipping coffee while I watch all the plebeians pass me by down below. But summer isn’t over yet, as there are still some things to be done and castles to be seen, and truly some borderline summer spirit to take you there.

The current cool cloudy clime is still the perfect time for a visit to Zvikov and Orlik. This would be my third time there and indeed, my second time to write about it (the first time was covered here). I won’t cover much information that I covered there on this blog, but rather something we managed to do that I’d never done before: the tours.


Our first stop was Orlik, or the “little eagle” in English, beginning with our customary langose. I’m not overly sure what a langose is, but it’s flat, fried, and topped with copious amounts of cheese and garlic. Frankly, I’m not even sure if it’s any good, but I keep ordering the stuff so it must have some merit. 

We then went on our merry way to the castle grounds. My first instinct is always to go down the stairs at Orlik and follow the moat to a small peninsula, where you pass by a door where there’s always a hundred or so people streaming out. What was that door? A secret entrance? I couldn’t tell, since as I said, there were a hundred or so people streaming out an egress that could barely fit a kitchen stool.

Back up the moat and to the tour. The tour costs 120 czk for the straight Czech and 200 total for that with a booklet that will let you decipher the tour guide’s speeches. The castle is well worth the tour and is now on my top three list of castle tours. 

Orlik castle was the main manor of the noble Schwarzenberg family, who still wields power in the Czech government today. The house tour shows you the living period of the most famous of the Schwarzenbergs, Karl Philipp, who led the victory over Napoleon at the Battle of Leipzig. However, the man also served as the Austrian Ambassador to the French Empire and had been an acquaintance of the Corsican Fiend, even receiving the best gift you could receive from a friend: their own bust. The bust of the Little Corporal is on display in the gigantic lounge room, which is situated next to the dining room, by far the chambre sans pareil of the chateau. The room is paneled entirely of hand-carved wood, taking the master craftsman from the locality over four years to complete. The ceiling, the walls, everything. It’s truly a masterpiece of woodcarving and shouldn’t be missed by any fan of the trade, and it certainly makes the entire tour worth the price.

The next most interesting thing are the Halls of Terror (name is mine). In one hall are rows and rows of hunting guns, and in another, an unparalleled assemblage of animal heads. It seems that the Schwarzenberg family tradition was to provide a fresh gun for each guest and store the gun for later use by that guest, and they’d go out hunting in the immediate lands. The guns were all notched with their score and on the plate of each beast’s head was served the name of the hunter and date of the conquest. 

Orlik from the front
From Orlik, we went on the ferry down the Vltava. The schedule is on this site and costs 240 czk for a round trip. On board you can find beers by the can, so no need to come prepared, and there’s also a beer garden on the Orlik side.


Zvikov I’ve already written about as well. It’s a mystical little place with the ruins of an old fortress. The boat lands in the back, but it’s best to hurry on and walk through the place and pretend to walk in from the front, which is certainly the best way to enter, where you walk over a bridge that’s easy to imagine having once been a drawbridge. There are ruined towers galore here and a museum that’s well worth a visit—again, before I’d never taken the visit, but this time decided on it, as it was just 70 czk. 

Zvikov from the front
The first floor of the museum has a couple of art galleries and for the castle and history buff is a bit of a disappointment. It’s the second floor that makes the place shine, with the old wooden rooms and the stairs up to the top of the tower. Moreover, I learned about why the castle stopped being occupied. It once served as the storage facility of the crown jewels of the Bohemian King, an honor that was later transferred to Karlstejn. Part of the palace had crumbled down off the cliff, and this part included the royal bedroom of the King. Figuring that this wasn’t a good precedent—especially for his crown jewels—the King abandoned it and it declined in its usefulness.

The walls near the dock

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