Dynamism, grandeur and emotion. That is how the Baroque could be described in a nutshell, being an artistic style that, in its opulent and ornate manner, quite remarkably changed the face of towns in the Czech Republic. You will find Baroque landmarks scattered all over Bohemia, Moravia, as well as Silesia. It is not just chateaux or churches. The gardens are also some of the pearls of Baroque architecture. Since they look spectacular in the colourful autumn time that is now underway in the Czech Republic, it is high time we introduced the most stunning ones.
The Baroque in Prague GardensThere were times when the aristocrats’ clothing, carriages, estates and gardens reflected their prestige. It was exactly in those times when the gardens below Prague Castle (Pražský hrad) and below Petřín were landscaped. Even though it could not have been easy or cheap to build and look after a garden on such a steep hill, the owners tried to make sure that visitors and passers-by alike found them breathtaking. It is hard to say whether they had any idea back then that their efforts would still work even in the 21st century, nevertheless, they do.
The Gardens beneath Prague Castle (Zahrady pod Pražským hradem) rank among the most popular tourist attractions. The varied terrain is adorned with terraces, loggias, stairways, water fountain basins, fountains and romantic nooks, thanks to which you will fail to notice that you have conquered the challenging gradient on your way to the gate of Prague Castle (Pražský hrad). For a moment, you may even forget that you are in the centre of a large vibrant city as the gardens’ backdrop will make you feel a little like you were in a fairy tale. The same goes for Petřín gardens.
The group of gardens below the Castle is composed of five gardens in total: Ledebur (Ledeburská), Small Pálffy (Malá Pálffyovská), Great Pálffy (Velká Pálffyovská), Kolowrat (Kolowratská) and Small Fürstenberk (Malá Fürstenberská) Gardens. The Petřín gardens include Vratislav (Vratislavská), Schönbrun (Schönbrunská), Lobkowicz (Lobkowická) and Vrtba (Vrtbovská) Gardens. They are all beautiful and they all have their own fans who come here to spend their free time in order to please their eye and soul. Talking of the Baroque we must mention the garden that is considered by many to be the most gorgeous garden of this type in Prague. Some even say that it is the most gorgeous garden of its kind to the north of the Alps. This title belongs to the Vrtba Garden (Vrtbovská zahrada).
In the autumn (on 31st October) , at the conclusion of the season, you can take the opportunity to enjoy not only the beautiful colours but also the ceremonial lighting of the garden, which only takes place twice a year. The Gardens beneath Prague Castle, on the other hand, entice visitors to the autumn atmosphere during Apple weekend (on 17th – 19th October) where, during the extended opening hours, visitors can try, anything made from apples – from apple pies to apple juice.
The Troja Chateau (Trojský zámek) is surrounded another charming Baroque garden. To admire its magic you would have to go further out of Prague city centre, which in itself is certainly worth it. What’s more, there is yet another Prague garden right next to the Chateau – the zoological garden, which ranks among the five best zoos in the world.
The Baroque on the UNESCO listThe Baroque garden forms an integral part of the Český Krumlov chateau and castle grounds, and it is, as such, inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list. Český Krumlov in South Bohemia ranks among the most visited towns in the whole of the Czech Republic. The reason for this is precisely the Renaissance-Baroque chateau towering over this picturesque historic town.
The other Baroque gardens that represent the Czech Republic on the UNESCO list are the ones in Kroměříž, Moravia. The Flower Garden was built in the second half of the 17th century outside the town walls on, what was up until then, a site of barren marshland. Apart from the rotunda in the middle of the grounds and geometrically laid out flower beds, the dominant feature today is the colonnade, which previously used to serve as the main entrance. From its top end the intricate patterns of the beds and hedges particularly stand out.
The Chateau Garden stretching between the Archbishop Palace (Arcibiskupský zámek) and the river Morava is, on the other hand, renowned for its exotic plants and animals that live there. It may thus happen that while strolling through this Kroměříž showpiece you will run into some curious botany students.
The Baroque in Moravia and BohemiaNot far from there (roughly a half an hour journey by car) lies the Buchlovice Chateau, which ranks among the most significant Baroque residences in the Czech Republicand it is significant mainly because of its beautyl. Of course, that can be applied to its garden as well. Buchlovice was a work of love. The noble Count Jan Dětřich of Petřvald (Jan Dětřich Petřvaldský) had the chateau built for his Italian wife. To dazzle his wife he paid for top Viennese architects, who were made to change their plans a number of times on the Count’s request. It was worth it, though, as the Buchlovice Chateau is a villa of the purest Italian Baroque style in central Europe.
If we travel from Moravia back to Bohemia, we certainly have to go through the distinctive Vysočina region, which harbours quite a few treasures. Talking of Baroque gardens, we must stop here and introduce Jaroměřice nad Rokytnou. Its local chateau was, in its heyday – the first half of the 18th century – one of the most massive buildings in Europe, and simultaneously a cultural hub, and was built by Count Jan Adam Questenberk (he even maintained his own music ensemble here whose kapellmeister František Václav Míča composed the very first Czech opera there). The chateau garden situated on a man-made 9-hectare isle is also sizeable.
If we wish to explore more Baroque garden masterpieces, we would have to head off to East Bohemia, where we would find the Kuks Hospital site. The unique Baroque complex was refurbished a few years ago, and is gaining in popularity. It is visited by cyclists who stop here while riding the Elbe Route (Labská stezka), or by tourists who appreciate the local scenery, as well as history, an important part of which was played by the local Baroque garden adorned with famous sculptures depicting virtues and vices made by Matthias Bernard Braun (Matyáš Bernard Braun). a The two-hundred year old herb garden is also part of the site where medicinal herbs, as well as fruit and vegetables for the hospital’s kitchen have been grown since the hospital was founded. The autumn is welcomed here when the season ends at the traditional St Hubert Festival (on 1st October).
The Baroque gardens tour then turns northwest, namely to the Duchcov Chateau. The Chateau is significant mainly thanks to its beautiful Baroque garden, which is open to public, but also dues to the fact that the famous lover Giacomo Casanova stayed there towards the end of his life. He spent 13 years in Duchcov. It turned out to be an unlucky thirteen as the philosopher and globetrotter did not make it to his 14th year there. He was laid to rest near the chateau’s chapel, where he is commemorated on a memorial plaque. Aside from the Baroque garden the chateau also attracts visitors to the new exhibition which connects the Ancient and Baroque worlds.