On our way back home, we decided to stop at what would be the last UNESCO world heritage site for our trip. This wasn’t on our plan originally, but it was recommended by our guide in Brno. The Lednice-Valtice cultural landscape was the perfect end to our UNESCO road-trip. The Liechtensteins (yes, the one and the same who rule the principality of Liechtenstein) came into possession of a castle in Lednice in the 13th century. Over the course of 3 centuries, between the 17th and 20th, the Liechtensteins transformed this area into its current state.
We decided not to do a guided tour, but to simply walk around the huge park. However, if you’d like to know a bit more about the park, I would recommend you take a look here. We lucked out with the weather and as we made our way through the meandering paths, we came across a minaret. When I first laid eyes on it, I was absolutely confused but, at the same time awestruck. When we reached the minaret, we learned that in keeping with the aristocratic fashions of the time, the Liechtensteins built the minaret in their garden as a testament to international romanticism. For a much more detailed history of the minaret I would recommend that you go here. The article has pictures of one of the rooms as well, which was closed when we visited Lednice. However, we did climb up the 302 steps for a better view of the park, all the way to the chateau.
After getting down the minaret, we noticed that there was a boat-ride available on the river Dyje, which took us through the Lednice landscape. It was just what we needed to wind-down after our cultural mini-tour. Don’t get me wrong. I love learning about new cultures and taking in as much information as I can, but if I am honest, after a few days of sight-seeing and guided tours, I need some down time which allows me to recap everything I learned and experienced, as well as reflect on it.
The cool, refreshing breeze during the boat-ride, instilled in me a sense of renewal. Even as I write this in the year of Corona, I can remember the feeling of contentment and the renewal of hope, that describes what I felt during the boat-ride.
Litomyšl at a glance
Birthplace of : Bedřich Smetana (composer of "The Moldau")
Population: approx. 10,429 (as of 2019)
To note: About the same latitude as Winnipeg
We arrived in Litomyšl as the sun set which made the entire, already picturesque main square, even more enchanting. Our hotel was at one end of the main square, which gave us a wonderful view of the sun-set. We took a leisurely stroll under the arcade before getting dinner.
After a good night’s rest, we woke up to greet a beautiful sunny day, ready to take in the beautiful world heritage sites and the Czech country roads. The birth-place of the composer Bedřich Smetana, Litomyšl, at the time of this writing in 2020, is home to one world heritage site. The Renaissance castle which sits atop Castle Hill, is a short walk from the main square. The moment we turned on to Jiráskova, the white sgraffito bricks nearly took my breath away. There was little doubt that we had indeed arrived at our destination.
It would be remiss of me, if I didn’t mention that the design on each of the sgraffito bricks is different. Of course, I didn’t check to see if this fact is accurate, but I will just believe the experts on that one. The motives on the courtyard walls depicted scenes from antiquity, which should come as no surprise really, since it is a Rennaisance castle. They were absolutely spectacular. I think one of them depicts the kidnapping of Helen of Troy, but I am not sure.
We opted to do a tour, which was in Czech, but they gave us a booklet in English so we could follow along. The tour took us through all of the rooms inside, which were decorated lavishly.The highlight of the tour though was the wooden theater, which opened in 1798. Located on the ground floor, the auditorium is two stories high, with the Duke’s box at the top. The theater reminded me a lot of the paper mâché queen’s theater at Versailles.
After our tour ended, we made a quick stop at the cathedral next to the castle, before making our way to Olomouc. I love visiting cathedrals, churches, or any other places of worship in other countries. I found the organ here to be really ornate. We lit a candle at the altar and made our way to the next world heritage site.
Olomouc at a glance
Oldest settlement: Paleolithic
Population: approx. 100,663 (as of 2020)
To note: In 1767 Mozart composed Symphony No. 6 in F major in Olomouc
We arrived in Olomouc a little after 1 o’clock in the afternoon. We had already booked an English tour beforehand, which started at 3, so we decided to get some coffee and a small bite to eat. Olomouc is home to one UNESCO world heritage site, but it is famous for one of the stinkiest cheeses of the Czech Republic. However, our tour guide told us that it actually originated in the neighboring town and was falsely attributed to Olomouc. You can only imagine the rivalry and bitterness that ensued. If you are interested in knowing about the Olomouc cheese, I would recommend going here.
After coffee, we walked towards the main square where we waited for our guide to arrive. There was to be an event in the evening, and so we were treated to the Olomouc Symphony which was practicing for the event. Their rehearsal made me wish we had tickets! Our guide arrived on time and we began our tour at the Holy Trinity column, which is the world heritage site we traveled to Olomouc to see.
The 35 meter tall Holy Trinity column was built between 1716 and 1754, to commemorate the Catholic Church and to show gratitude for the end of the plague. The column is adorned with statues of 18 saints and 15 biblical reliefs. The details on the reliefs are simply spectacular. The column is also home to an inner chapel, which is very mesmerizing. Four years after the column was finished, Olomouc was attacked by the Prussian army in 1758 and the column was hit by canon shots. The residents of Olomouc at the time begged the Prussian general to spare the monument, which he did. At the end of the war, the column was rebuilt and a stone replica of a cannon ball embedded in it as a reminder.
After the Holy Trinity column, we made our way to the northern wall of the town-hall. There stood one of the two astronomical clocks in Czech Republic (the other one is in Prague). Originally built in the 15th century, it was completely destroyed shortly before the end of WWII by retreating German soldiers, and rebuilt in the Socialist realism style. If I may be honest, although the Holy Trinity column is beautiful, I was more drawn to the astronomical clock. Even if it is not as ornate as the one in Prague, I found it nonetheless very impressive.
We made our way through the inner-city of Olomouc, visiting the 6 Baroque fountains (Hercules, Caesar, Jupiter, Mercury, Neptune and Triton) as well as the park along the old city wall. During our walk through the city we were also treated to the street art. There was an Alien sculpture which especially caught my eye. Olomouc is a university town and the vibe this city has reflects this.
We ended our tour at the St. Wenceslas Cathedral. The cathedral has very beautiful stain-glass windows and the atmosphere inside was very peaceful. Of course, I had to light a candle and just take a minute to soak in the peace and harmony.
After the tour, we walked back to the main square and decided to get some dinner. We braved it and got the fried Olomouc cheese as an appetizer. The smell is quite strong, but I kinda liked the taste. The meal was the perfect end to our perfect day of sight-seeing. With our bellies full, we made our way to Brno for a good night’s sleep.