Czech Republic has so many castles and we wanted to explore as many of them as possible during our short visit. We focused on the castles around Prague so that we wouldn't need to drive for a half of day to get to our destination. Many of them were closed for the winter period but we were lucky to find a few interesting ones that we could enter.
One of them is Křivoklát castle (Hrad Křivoklát) ..
You can get to the castle from different starting points and we chose the easiest one as it was quite cold and raining. What does that mean? It means that we had to walk around 200 meters from the parking space to the castle 😊
Křivoklát is located in central Bohemia, about 1 hour drive from Prague. You're supposed to get nice views from the road but we only saw the road as it was foggy all the way to the castle. However, we didn't let the weather ruin our day.
After we arrived to the castle we purchased our tickets. The entrance fee is CZK 400 (around 18 USD)
Unfortunately we didn't know that the guided excursions are only every few hours, and we had more than an hour before it was supposed to start. There is not much to do when it's raining outside so we went for lunch to a nearby restaurant. They didn't have any vegan meals but were creative and made us some grilled vegetables with baked potatoes. It wasn't that bad at all..
After lunch we returned to the castle right on time. We were greeted by our guide and our excursion could start..
Křivoklát is one of the oldest and most important castles in Czech Republic. Its origins date back to the beginning of the 12th century.
The roots of the Czech name " Křivoklát" have a connection to the old word for pine scrub.
It was originally built as a wooden hunting castle by the aristocracy as it's located deep in the forest with wild animals. Přemysl Otakar II called 'iron and golden' rebuilt the castle between 1230 and 1240 and created a monumental residence for Czech kings and princes. There were a few additional reconstructions and enlargements to emphasize royal presence at that time.
Before the Czechoslovak state bought the castle in 1920's, it had belonged to the aristocratic Fürstenberg kin. During that time the Křivoklát region had flourished.
Our excursion started behind the gates of the main building. From there we could see the entire castle. We spent there a few minutes listening to the stories of our guide.
The castle was damaged by fire several times. The fire caused severe damages and as there were no funds available to restore the castle, it was turned into a notorious state prison.
If you look at the picture on the right, you will see a tower in the back. The door that you can see was made in the 19th century. There is an opening in the middle of the tower. This was the entrance before the great fire in 1826. Between these two entrances there is a space that was only accessible through a hole in the floor. This space was used as prison for those sentenced to death.
Prisoners would have to enter this closed space through that hole. They were left there without food or water until they passed away. It was not known how many people died there until the door was made through 2 meters thick wall. The remains of 6 people were found there...
After the great fire, Fürstenberg built the castle from the ruins and returned it to its former glory. During the excursion we will visit the Great Hall and the Knight's Hall as well. We will enter this part of the castle through a long staircase and the corridor that you can see here.
Here are some views of the castle from the corridor...
Let's enter the castle now
There is a small replica of the castle showing how it looked like before the great fire in 1826. Many wooden details and small towers were destroyed and never rebuilt.
The Great Hall is the second-largest late Gothic Hall in central Europe.
One side of the hall is dominated by a large table. It was used by visitors when they were waiting for a king to accept their visit..
Because this is the royal hall there has to be a throne, although this is just a replica.
Many consequential political talks and fateful diplomatic negotiations were held in this room. During the audience the throne was placed in the corner and the king sat there with his back to the light. The visitors couldn't see his face because he was something more than them and he ruled over them so why would they have to see his face?.
The royal part of the castle also contains a large library built by Fürstenberg. It has more than 50000 precious illuminated manuscripts, ornamented prints and rare dissertations. This is the true heart of Křivoklát for me.
Some of the books written in German, Italian, French, Latin and other languages have golden spines. Fürstenberg spoke many languages and they enjoyed reading books. There are just a few of them written in Czech.
A part of the exhibition is dedicated to a collection of original Baroque and Rococo royal wooden sleighs with rich ornaments. This was probably my favorite part as I haven't seen such sleighs before.
Křivoklát is the second most visited castle in Czech Republic and it also hosts various celebrations and events such as concerts or performances.
If you are interested in history and you happen to be in Czech Republic, you should definitely find some time and visit Křivoklát. It is worth it!
Thank you for reading,