svētdiena, 2016. gada 24. janvāris

Views of common Czech places

Hi everyone,

you have probably seen some pictures of famous places in the Czech Republic. Prague, Kutná Hora, Karlovy Vary, Český Krumlov...

But what tourism websites don't show you are random views. The common streets, the small town squares, the fields, the hills. The real face of the country.

So, some time ago, I decided to start taking pictures of common places and share them with you :-)

All of these towns and villages have much more beautiful and representative buildings, but this time, I focused on the less-known ones.

I'm including brief notes of where the pictures were taken.

Bohemia is basically the Western part of CzR where Prague is, Moravia the Eastern part where Brno is.
Bohemian-Moravian Highlands are in-between the two.
(There's also Silesia, the North-Eastern part of CzR, but unfortunately I don't have any pictures from there.)

And if you were wondering why there are almost no people in the pictures, it's not because there are no people in the Czech Republic :-)
It's because I waited for people to walk away, so that it wouldn't be awkward for them to appear in some stranger's pictures.

Suburban area of Brno (Jundrov):






University campus, offices and shopping centre in Brno:


Brno, a few streets away from the historical centre:




 Brno, the water reservoir (artificial lake):


Buchlovice, a village in South Moravia:




Uherské Hradiště, a town in South Moravia:


Kroměříž, a town in East Moravia:



Prague, suburban area (Horní Počernice):


Prague, suburban area (Klánovice):


Potštejn, East Bohemia:


Jihlava, Bohemian-Moravian Highlands:



Lysice, Central to South Moravia:



Moravský Krumlov, South Moravia:



Tišnov, Bohemian-Moravian Highlands - South Moravia:


Bučovice, South Moravia:


Český Brod, Central Bohemia (not far from Prague):


Dačice, South Bohemia meets South Moravia:




Vsetín, North-East Moravia:



Veltrusy, Central Bohemia:


Náměšť nad Oslavou, where the Bohemian-Moravian Highlands meet South Moravia:


 

Chotěboř, Bohemian-Moravian Highlands:


 Railway station in Chotěboř:


Railway station in Zbečno, Central Bohemia:


Railway station in Kyjov, South Moravia:



Old tree alley in Veltrusy, Central Bohemia:


First slopes of mountains called Jeseníky, North Moravia:


Where the hilly region near Buchlovice meets the lowlands of the river Dyje, South Moravia:


Central Bohemia meets Bohemian-Moravian Highlands, village of Čestín, not far from Kutná Hora:

Countryside surrounding the river Berounka, Central Bohemia:



North Bohemia:


The fields of Central Bohemia and Bohemian-Moravian Highlands usually look something like this:


A pond (old artificial lake) in South Bohemia:



svētdiena, 2015. gada 6. decembris

Good TV show and music videos

Hi everyone,

thanks for visiting my blog! :-)

I wrote this article in the autumn of 2015 but since then, I've discovered that it isn't 100% true. We DO produce good music, books and films :-) only I didn't know about them. And we stage theatre comedies well :-)

But otherwise, the article is good. So I decided not to delete it. Here goes:

I just wanted to share my joy because we (well, Czechs) have finally created something worth presenting abroad!
The last couple of years, it had looked like our taste and creativity is almost gone, and I was unhappy that I'm not a composer or a film director.
But this autumn, there was a brand new series on TV that I think is quite good - it's called Labyrint (no need to translate, I think :-)
It's directed by the brilliant Jiří Strach. His name translates as "George Fear" but he's said to be very kind-hearted, actors love working with him. The series is a mystery / thriller and takes place in the city I now live in - Brno!
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brno
 
I've watched quite a lot of mysteries and whodunnits - Czech, British, French, Austrian, German, American and Canadian - and still can say this one is interesting and unusual. And yesterday I found out that several other countries are buying the show. I was so proud!
If anyone who speaks Czech was interested, it's accessible online:

http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCme8fh8iREvK1W11A_MNqeQ/videos

And today, the band called Divokej Bill ("Wild Bill", from the town of Úvaly, not far from Prague) posted their new music video on Facebook. It's called Koně ("Horses").
I used to know two of the members personally - one of them sang in the same children's choir as me and another had the same violin teacher as me. So I'm always happy to see them alive and well and producing good music.
I'm guessing some scenes were filmed in Romania. I like their lyrics because their vocabulary is rich. They play with old sayings and proverbs and know how to combine them with expressions common people use today.

Unfortunately, YouTube doesn't allow me to insert the video, so here's just the link:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=th7BM84Z5HY&feature=youtu.be

Lyrics translation:

The horses shied
They're galloping like mad
We're only fall asleep at the dawn
I told you so
The horses shied
They're galloping like mad
So don't act like it's beneath you
Start getting used to it

In the motor of my machine
Goblins are dancing
In short, they shied
I told you so
As they're ranting
They're whispering in my ear
"Hold on to us, don't fall
Or you'll soon find out..."

Ref.:
There's mist crawling towards the village like a snake
Your eyes are slowly closing
They want to go to sleep

My black horses
Never get exhausted
When we ride together
Everyone wakes up and starts to have fun
Up and down
Go pistons in the rhythm of rock-n-roll
I grab the handlebars
And you, horses, giddy-up!

Ref.:
There's mist crawling towards the village like a snake
Your eyes are slowly closing
They want to go to sleep
The eleventh of January
Or November
We're not stopping, we're going on
Mr. Psychopath!

But nowhere it's written
That we're written off
If the road is full of potholes
We'll just use another trick
And get lost in the labyrinth
Don't give up!
(literally, "don't throw your rifle in the rye field" - that's one of the sayings I mentioned)

Note: January 11th and November 11th are no special dates in the Czech Republic. I'd say they chose them because they consist of numerals 1.

Speaking of Divokej Bill, I can't forget to mention their most famous song Znamení ("Signal", "Sign"). It's a symbolistic song meant to remind us of Jan Palach, the student that set himself on fire and died, as a protest against the arrival of Soviet tanks in 1968.
We never belonged to the Soviet Union, but in the 1960's, the Communist party in Czechoslovakia got quite free-spirited and introduced some reforms that made life much more bearable. The leadership of the USSR didn't like that so it sent tanks and soldiers as a "friendly" reminder from the USSR not to get too carried away with the reforms. They didn't shoot anyone, but were here "just in case".
The regime got much more oppressive after that. Also for the people in the USSR itself. The 1970's were a pretty depressing period of time. Everything was grey or dark brown. I wasn't born yet but you could still feel the remnants of that atmosphere in the 1980's.

Palach's protest took place in 1969 on Václavské náměstí, a huge square in the centre of Prague, that's now usually packed with tourists, as you can see in the video. Towards the end, if you look closely, you'll see that the young man has a can of petrol / gasoline.


The lyrics consist almost entirely of old sayings and phrases.
They play on the fact that there's a children's game where one child searches for something and the others direct him by saying samá voda ("all water", meaning "you're nowhere near the hiding place"), přihořívá ("starting to burn", meaning "you're getting close") and hoří! ("burning!")

Dávám ti znamení, ať zase víš, kam jít - I'm giving you a signal so that you know again where to go

A ty dáváš mi znamení, ať vím, kam jít - And you are giving me a signal so that I know where to go

...

Piju to tvoje zlý víno - Drinking that evil wine of yours
Samá voda, je to samá voda! - It's all water!
(trošku přihořívá) - (starting to burn a bit)


Ale kosa na kámen narazí - But the scythe will hit the stone (something will get stopped suddenly)
Kosa na kámen, to tě zamrazí - Scythe to the stone, that sends shivers down your spine
Kosa na kámen je tvý svědomí černý - Like scythe to the stone is your black conscience
...

Jako kosa na kámen je znamení - Like scythe to the stone is the signal
Ať víš, kam jít, že křídla máš poraněný - So that you know where to go, and that your wings are injured

...

Piju to tvoje zlý víno - Drinking that evil wine of yours

Samá voda, je to samá voda! - It's all water!

A to se může stát - And it can happen

To víš, že se to může stát - Of course it can happen

Že i ty se začneš kácet - That even you will start falling


Máš tisíc důvodů skočit - You have a thousand reasons to jump

A to se může stát - And it can happen

To víš, že se to může stát - Of course it can happen

Že i ty se začneš kácet - That even you will start falling


Dál piju to tvoje zlý víno - I keep drinking that evil wine of yours

Samá voda, je to samá voda! - It's all water!

A tu nezapálíš - And you can't set fire in water

A to se může stát - And it can happen

Že i ty se začneš kácet - That even you will start falling down


A protože máš tisíc důvodů skočit - And because you have a thousand reasons to jump

A to se může stát - And it can happen

...

A protože máš tisíc důvodů skočit - And because you have a thousand reasons to jump

A to se může stát - And it can happen

Ty vole, to se může stát - Dude, it can happen

Že i ty se začneš kácet - That even you will start falling down


A máš tisíc důvodů skočit - And you have a thousand reasons to jump

A všechno votočit - And turn everything around

Napořád - Forever

If you want an all-time favourite, both for many Czechs and also music enthusiasts abroad, I recommend this spine-chilling folkrock ballad by band Čechomor.
It's in a dialect similar to Slovak, because it comes from the eastern parts of the CzR. The music there has been influenced by Hungary. That means, it's emotional, wild and the plot ends tragically:


(Some of the mountains in the video aren't Czech)

Mezi horami   -   Among mountains
Lipka zelená   -   There's a little green linden-tree growing
Zabili Janka, Janíčka, Janka   -   John, our Johnny's been killed
Miesto jeleňa   -   By mistake, instead of a deer

Keď ho zabili   -   When they killed him
Zamordovali   -   When they murdered him
Na jeho hrobě, na jeho hrobě kříž postavili   -   They built a cross on his grave

Ej, křížu, křížu ukřižovaný   -   Oy, you cross, you crucified
Zde leží Janík, Janíček, Janík   -   Here's where John, Johnny's lying
Zamordovaný   -   Murdered

Tu šla Anička   -   Here's where Annie went
Plakat Janíčka   -   To weep for her Johnny
Hneď na hrob padla   -   She fell on his grave
A viac nevstala   -   And never got up
Dobrá Anička   -   Good girl

Optimistic, isn't it? :-)

If you were wondering what mountains have to do with Johnny and Annie - well, nothing. That's how Czech folk songs often begin: first, nature; then, people.

On another note: recently, a friend recommended a great soundtrack by Czech composer Jan Jirásek. If you like Yann Tiersen, you might enjoy it:


Me and my family, we are fans of the Hungarian band Misztrál. (pronounced as "Miss - trah - l")

The language is different but the music sounds like it might also be Czech. Partly, because it's composed for a language with the stress on the first syllable, just like Czech; partly, as I said, because Czech music has been influenced by Hungarian.

There's a Czech saying "Every Czech is a musician." That's no longer true but we still love music. People define themselves by what kind of music they listen to. I've heard Hungarians are very proud of their music, too. If you listen to Misztrál, you'll understand why :-)

These are some of Misztrál's songs. Don't be misled by the calm beginnings - the endings are pretty hot-blooded :-)




trešdiena, 2015. gada 17. jūnijs

Some issues I came across; some answers to questions I was asked

Migrants - I'm not pro- or anti-immigration, my view is basically... well, let's put it this way: that everyone has the right to have their needs understood. Everyone's a human being. Even those of us who think they're a beetle. (Franz Kafka lived in Prague :-D )

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Metamorphosis#Lost_in_translation

But I'd like to offer an explanation, sort of an insight as to what it's like for us Czechs, to be suddenly facing a wave of immigrants.

As the HBO video with John Oliver says, "millions of migrants seeking asylum in Europe are facing racism and red tape". That's totally true.
I'd just like to add that they're also facing compassion. It's not like all 10,5 millions Czechs are racists.

Can you see it? "Millions of migrants... 10,5 millions of Czechs". There is a real possibility that the total number of refugees in Europe will become higher than the number of Czechs. They will be dispersed all over Europe, of course, but the knowledge still is a bit scary. Plus, the Czech Republic is quite heavily populated (134 inhabitants per square km), plus some regions are uninhabitable (too steep mountain slopes), and it's been like this for centuries. Since early childhood, we learn to embrace the subconscious notion that we can't afford to waste space. (See the About Central and Eastern Europe article.)

I think physically, there IS space and possibly even jobs for tens of thousands of immigrants, but because this notion has been with us for ages, it's difficult to get rid of it.

Before you judge us, please realize that Central Europe has no experience with massive immigration whatsoever.

Bureaucracy is the way we deal with everything, and it's worked for Czech and most European problems. (I'm not defending bureaucracy, I hate it myself, this is just the way it is.) But the problem is, it's slow. We have a love-hate relationship with slow, and I suspect we enjoy it, in a way, because slow means solid. We need time to get used to something. We rarely have crises; even the financial crisis in 2009 didn't hit us very hard. We don't have natural catastrophes; only the occassional flood, and we are used to them, like you get used to a family member.

Some Native American nations had two chiefs: a Times of Peace chief and a Wartime Chief. And the problem is, Europe's had lots of great Times of Peace chiefs, but no War Chiefs, for the last 60 years. The last true Wartime Chief was probably Winston Churchill. And he didn't do well in times of peace. It's the same, only the other way round, with Times of Peace chiefs: they are excellent administrators, but lousy troubleshooters. They take time to decide, and they don't like sudden crises. Those who did have left for the U.S. or Canada or Australia.

If you are American or Canadian or Australian, please realize that in a way, Europe's given its troubleshooters to you.

The solid administrative Times of Peace attitude doesn't work for problems that come from far away. We don't know what to think, what to do. We still don't understand why people would want to live in the Czech Republic. I mean just 30 years ago, nobody did. And most of the migrants really don't want to stay here; they'd never heard of the Czech Republic and want to go to Germany. (This information comes from a guy who talked to a lot of them.) I think anyone would feel a bit offended if they were forced to provide shelter for a person who doesn't even want to know their name.

Would the U.S. give the Green Card to someone who says "I've never heard of a country called the United States of America, I'm just on my way to Japan."?

My point is: before you judge us, try to understand us. I mean, you wouldn't judge a Saharan country for not knowing how to deal with snowstorms.

We're a peaceful nation. But if other nations keep presenting us as radical, we will become that. It's like with children: if you keep telling a child how bright it is, it will grow up to be a self-confident and intelligent person. And if you keep telling it how stupid it is, it really will grow more and more stupid.

I hope we can learn how to treat the refugees. In a calm, unbiased, practical yet friendly way. With time. Or better, fast.

Poverty - I heard that some people in Malta thought that the CzR is a poor country. I couldn't believe my ears. The society I live in definitely seems more like a consumer society than a poverty-stricken society.

Want an example? The title of the film "Slumdog Millionaire" had to be translated as something like "Millionaire from a Hut" because until recently, we'd had no word for "slum". Now we have, and guess what it is? Yep, you're right - "slum". There's no Czech word because there are no slums here.

Another example? University education is free here.

Also, we don't have the thinking of poor people. We have sense of cleanliness and order, and we always make the effort to repair our houses, wash the stairs, plant beautiful flowers.


Relationship with Slovakia - Some people in Latvia asked me about a supposed border dispute with Slovakia. That was Slovakia with Hungary, not us. I don't know what Slovaks would say, but I'd say our relationship with Slovakia is good.

The last time we had aggressive foreign policy was 700 years ago. Since then, it's been more like "live and let live", and our position is mostly "please leave us alone". We're not very pro-European because we hate the idea of people who've never been to the CzR telling us what to do, and we love our currency called "koruna" ("crown"), but we're not anti-European either.

A popular question with non-Czechs is "Are Czech and Slovak mutually intelligible?" You might get conflicting answers to this. The most truthful answer would probably be "Yep, totally. But it takes a bit of effort to get used to the other language, therefore if you have no experience with it, you might not understand the other language spoken." The inhabitants of eastern parts of the CzR understand Slovak without problems because local dialects are similar to Slovak, and there are many Slovaks living or studying in Brno.

When we were one country, there was a lot of Slovak spoken on the Czech TV and vice versa, so everybody understood the other language almost without realizing it's the other language. Slovak books were translated to Czech and vice versa, but sometimes they were also available in the original language and people would buy them, too. If a Slovak actor was hired to act in a Czech-language film, they might or might not be asked to speak Czech.

Here's a nice example of a 1978 Czech-language film where one of the actresses speaks Slovak. I read the script - the character was supposed to be Czech but because they found a perfect Slovak actress for the part, they let her speak Slovak and nobody seems to notice, let alone mind that she speaks a different langauge. (see 1:20)

svētdiena, 2015. gada 14. jūnijs

Ploskovice - a white jewel full of contrasts


Description: Beautiful, fairy-tale-like chateau with unusual history and interiors.
 
Themes: Chateau, chateau garden, colonnade, Baroque, artificial caves "grottas", films, fairy-tales, peacocks.
 
Distance from a city: 100 km to the North from Prague.

It's close to Děčín, Liberec and Ústí nad Labem, and a manageable distance from Plzeň. But if you live in Ostrava, Brno or České Budějovice, it's virtually inaccessible unless you're prepared to spend a night in Prague or 6-8 hours travelling there and back.
 
Transport, level of difficulty, orientation: There is a parking lot right next to the entrance gate to the chateau area. You can find a train or a coach at www.idos.cz, the journey from Prague takes about 1,5 hours. If you go by coach, it's very easy - it stops right in front of the entrance gate.

If you go by train, you'll need to change trains in Lovosice. Fortunately, that is very easy - the local train waits for the express from Prague. It's usually painted yellow-orange-green and leaves from the 3rd platform. Follow the time when on the train, and about a minute before getting off in Ploskovice, have a look at the displays and if a sign saying "zastavíme" doesn't appear, find a red button "zastávka na znamení" (="request stop"), which is usually situated at all the inner doors, and press it. After getting off, stand facing the railway station in Ploskovice and take the road to the left. Be careful and keep really close to the left side of it, one after another, don't form groups. The road is quite busy. After some 400 metres, you'll reach a right turn, with an alley.

 Take it and it will lead you straight to the village. Follow the signs saying "zámek" (unfortunately, they look totally different every time and sometimes they're a bit hidden behind bushes)

until you see a pub. The entrance gate is further on, across the street from the pub.
Unfortunately, it looks like the regional administration is thinking about cancelling the Ploskovice train stop. There are protests against it, but who knows how it will end. Be sure to consult www.idos.cz before you set out.

If you use a coach or go by car, the trip is extremely easy. If you go by train, be prepared for some 4 or 5 km of walking (including the chateau and its park).

Time required: If you go from Prague, about 7 hours.
The guided tour of the chateau takes about 70 minutes, if you buy a ticket to the grottas - artificial caves below the chateau. Which I recommend you do. Then about 3 hours of walking, taking pictures, having a lunch...
The journey by coach or train takes 1,5 hour there + 1,5 hour back. You can leave at about 9 a.m. and return at 5-6 p.m.

Price: Journey from Prague + entrance fee + souvenirs = 300-400 CZK
Suitability for handicapped people: Very low. Except for those on wheelchairs, if they don't mind missing the second floor, because there's still a lot to see in the chateau garden, the artificial caves and the first floor that are accessible.
Suitability for children: Except the fact that there isn't much walking, low. Unless your kids are interested in history or art. But if they've seen the chateau in a film, they might enjoy it - plus, the guided tours try to make the hour as interesting for kids as possible - for example, they ask them to play a clock-counting game (the emperor who lived here collected clocks). And there are various special events for kids regularly - see the chateau's website.

Facilities: Toilets for free are in a detached building, close to the entrance gate to the area. For such a famous chateau, they aren't exactly fancy, but they're clean. And it looks like they're being renovated, so who knows, perhaps they'll be extremely fancy when you get there :-)
 
There is no café or restaurant in the chateau and the ticket office only opens twice an hour for 5 minutes.  Be sure to take something to eat and drink with you. There is a restaurant across the street from the entrance gate, with good Czech meals for reasonable prices. The menu's just in Czech, though.
The ticket office staff are nice and helpful and you can buy various souvenirs.
Languages: You'll always get by with simple English. If you don't want to spend too much money, go on a Czech-language tour and borrow the same text printed in a foreign language for 10 CZK. They also offer foreign language tours for twice the price.
 
Pronunciation, meaning: "Ploskovitseh", and the name comes from the word "ploský"="flat".
Website: www.zamek-ploskovice.cz


My Latvian friend and me went to the chateau of Ploskovice yesterday. She'd wanted to go there for 5 years! So I was really scared that it won't be as perfect as she'd expected. But it was!

Ploskovice isn't an easy topic because sooo much about this chateau is beautiful, unusual or interesting. So it's hard to choose what to focus on.
Well... what about telling you about the ONE thing that ISN'T unusual about it :-) It's the chateau garden. It's nice, but - yeah, that's it.

Now for the unusual stuff:

Let's take the peacocks first.Why peacocks, you ask? Because many Czech chateaus keep peacocks in their gardens - as a reminder that local aristocrats kept them - and Ploskovice is no exception. But it IS an exception as to the high number of the peacocks. And that day, also as to the way they behaved.
There was a wedding taking place, and the wedding guests were asked to shout out several times. I don't know why - perhaps for some photos. And every time they shouted, the peacocks started to screech, too!

Also, they had obviously decided to show themselves to us in all various positions and situations:

And that isn't where the unusual stuff ends. If you notice the layout of the area, you realize it's a Christian cross. I don't think that was the intention, but it somehow came out that the chateau is the short horizontal line, and crossing it is a long vertical line that is a water-pipe system. You can't see all of it, as it's under the ground, and some of the fountains or ponds have been converted into something else. Like this one - into a flower-bed:
But there really is a water-pipe system, starting with this fountain:
then going below the chateau through the artificial caves in the cellar, making for its damp air. The Italian countess that had the chateau built wanted such caves, because she intended to use Ploskovice as a summer residence. She liked the "grottas" she knew from her home coutry. They seem a bit out of place here, though, because the CzR isn't as warm as Italy. But the day we visited Ploskovice was extremely hot, so we were grateful to the countess :-)

The iron gate below the chateau is the entrance to the grottas.

Then there is another fountain:

and the whole system ends with a pond.

Remember the contrasts I mentioned in the name of this article? Oh, there's lots of them. Here we go:

First, the countryside Ploskovice is situated in. It's a geographic region called "České středohoří" (which means "Bohemian Central-Mountainous-Area"). It takes up a big part of the region north of Prague. It looks like lowlands with fields, with the occassional mountain sticking out of them. They used to be volcanoes (inactive now) and some of them still have the "caps" on top reminding us that these mountains came to be when something decided to come out from the middle of the Earth.
You can see one of these mountains with "caps" in the background here:


I'm used to lowlands, highlands and mountains, so this countryside still seems very unusual to me. But imagine - to live in a lowland where you can climb a mountain and have a wonderful view of the country below, whenever you feel like it - isn't that grand?

Also, the fact that an Austrian emperor lived there and a Hollywood film was filmed there - but when you arrive by train, it looks like you arrived in the Land of Nobody. The railway station looks exactly what I remember railway stations looked like in the 1980's, and there's almost nothing to be seen far and wide.

Then, the chateau itself and its architecture. But perhaps it's better if I just show you the pictures. Suffice it to say that no other chateau in the CzR looks similar to Ploskovice. And that it was built in 1680's. The Baroque style. The shape of the chateau is a simple cube,

but the details are full of curves and emotions.





Another contrast is the interior. Judging by the exterior - with its statues with dramatic expressions - you'd guess that the interior would be dramatic, too. Well, it's not. Much of the furniture is the exact opposite - simple, white, cozy, geometric Classicism.

But there still are some very unusual objects inside. I made notes of them:

- a chandelier that weighs 30 kg
- a 1810 wastebasket
- portraits of the 18th century Europe's ugliest married couple
- a fake aquarium
- a fine china teapot that's made to look like it's made of wood, and a wooden chandelier that's made to look like it's made of fine china
- perfume bottles that held perfume made of cinnamon. I can't imagine smelling like cinnamon - I'd be afraid somebody would eat me!
- a toilet made to look like two large books
- a picture of the coronation ceremony of an Austrian emperor, where they ate huge cakes made into shapes of various specific castles
- a clock on the ceiling that goes anti-clock-wise. You can see it in a mirror on the floor (where it apparently goes clock-wise)

But I personally think the most extreme and unusual thing about Ploskovice is its history. Listen:

In 12th centrury, there was a fortress that belonged to an order of knights in Prague. It being 100 kilometres from Prague (which was a 3-day journey then), the order took no interest in it. They would mortgage it every time they needed money - and then they lost it when they couldn't pay the mortgage, so the place changed hands frequently.

One of its infamous owners was Adam Ploskovský, who was notorious for his cruelty towards the village folk. There was an uprising against him in 1496 and the villagers nearly killed him. They chose another aristocrat to work for. His name was Dalibor of Kozojedy ("village where they eat goats"), but he was executed for stealing from his brother. Funny thing is, the stuff he was supposed to have stolen was cattle... a cattle eater indeed! If you're familiar with Prague, there's a tower where he was imprisoned before execution, and it's named after him. It's right behind the Prague Castle and it's called "Daliborka". By the way, he became famous and was idealized the 19th century, and Bedřich Smetana, a Czech composer, wrote an opera about him.

In the 17th century, Ploskovice got lucky and started its journey to fame. An Italian countess and her German husband bought it. He lived in Germany mostly, while she thought Ploskovice might be a nice place for a summer residence. So she built it in a style that would remind her of Italy - and then burned all the invoices and bills and documents and everything, so that her husband wouldn't know exactly what it cost her! There were no bank accounts then for him to know how much exactly she took from it.
Unfortunately, this means that we don't know who built the chateau, or where the materials came from, etc. etc. Historians can only guess. They like that sort of work.

Then Ploskovice changed hands frequently again, and the owners were more and more high-up in the society. Finally, the emperor himself used it... to die.

His name was Ferdinand, it was in the 1848 and he abdicated due to poor health and retired to Ploskovice. He gave his throne to Franz Joseph I. (uncle of Franz Ferdinand d'Este who I told you about in Konopiště), saying: "The most important thing is: be nice!"

You can see many details in Ploskovice that will remind you that it was sort of an emperor's hospital. It has no thresholds, for example, so that the bed with the emperor (which has cylinders attached to it) could be rolled through any door to the top of the arcades, where the emperor would enjoy the fresh air and view of the countryside.

Guess what the chateau was when Czechoslovakia became an independent republic in 1918?
A summer residence for diplomats.

And guess what it was during the Second World War?
A school for young Nazis and a shooting range. They painted all walls white (their favourite colour, obviously).

Later, it became popular in the film industry, because... let's face it, it's extremely photogenic. Some people wait 20 years to be discovered as actors, Mrs. Ploskovice waited 300... but she made it!
She acted in the Oscar-winning Amadeus, the Three Musketeers series by BBC, and numerous video clips and Czech fairy-tales.
Princ a Večernice (1978), starring Libuše Šafránková, Juraj Ďurdiak and Ploskovice

So you see: Prague knights, angry villagers, Italian countess, a dying emperor, diplomats, young Nazis, a Czech opera, a BBC series and a Hollywood film... Ploskovice certainly is a lady with a colourful past!

But now she's simply a history lesson and a wedding host. I think that's for the best. Lots of children and young people visit her, and she can have some fun, as well as peace and quiet. No extremes and contrasts anymore.

But for us, the contrasts didn't end with this... The weather was nice and windless all the time. But when I got home, my father who follows a special railway website told me that about 30 minutes after we left, a storm came there and a tree fell on the tracks! Thank God we left in time!