Sunday
October
26th
2008
6:49 am

Playing Tourist: Sunday at Konopiste

Last Sunday was not quite as grand as Saturday had been: it was a little hazy, but still bright and crisp. So I took advantage of the fine weather to visit another of the local castles, Konopiště.

The inner courtyard:

Konopiště’s main claim to fame is that it was home to Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, the heir to the Austro-Hungarian empire whose assassination in Sarajevo set off World War I. Franz Ferdinand was an avid hunter and so the grounds attached to the castle are extensive and quite lovely:


Perhaps because it’s fairly late in the tourist season, only one of the three tours of the castle was available in English, which was a pity, as I would have liked to have seen the private flat. The castle brochure has this to say about the tour that was available in English:

Unforgettable hunting corridor with almost 900 trophies proves Ferdinand’s hunting passion. Throughout his life Francis Ferdinand killed almost 300,000 animals. As for representative salons situated on the 1st floor in the southern wing of the chateau, most significants guests such as the German emperor Wiliams II were accommodated there.

The hunting corridor in particular was really unnerving. Just getting up to it required climbing stairs panelled with hunting trophies before being confronted with hundreds more trophies, each with a little plaque detailing when and where the animal in question had been killed. The sight of all these trophies prompted me to observe that Franz Ferdinand had not been killed by Serb separatists, but rather by a PETA precursor!

The tour guide even pointed out the trophy for a kill attributed to Franz Ferdinand’s daughter Sophie when she was 2 years old! (Apparently, her daddy helped her.)

Franz Ferdinand was also an enthusiastic collector of guns, stamps, and St. George images. There is even a "Museum of Saint George" at the castle. Besides the expected figures, paintings, and tapestries featuring St. George, there are also belt buckles, medallions, beer steins and goblets, a bed, and several items whose function I couldn’t begin to guess. According to the castle brochure, 900 different pieces are on display.

Statue on the southern terrace:

There’s a bear named Kazimír in the moat:

Kazimír is 20 years old and is a long-eared bear (ursus thibetanus).

The park has some fine statuary, although I don’t know the significance of this piece:

An urn, for no real reason that I could tell:

The Neptune fountain:

This time of year, the Rose Garden is rather bleak:

It must be lovely in the summer:

The autumn colors helped to make up for it, though:


As at Wallenstein Palace, peafowl roam the gardens with no fear of or interest in the human visitors:

Konopiště was seized by the Czechoslovakian government in 1921 as a Hapsburg property. However, one of the conditions of Franz Ferdinand’s marriage to Sophie Chotek was that their children would not be allowed to inherit the throne. As a result, one of Franz Ferdinand’s descendants has recently filed suit to get it returned on the grounds that it wasn’t Hapsburg property.

Getting There

Supposedly, there is a bus that runs from the Florenc station directly to Konopiště, but I couldn’t turn it up on a search. Instead, I took the train to Benešov and then walked to Konopiště. I’ve noticed this before when using idnes.cz search, though, that direct routes that I later find out existed were not displayed. I speculated to one of my students that perhaps my problem is that I use the English-language version of the search and maybe if I were to stay with the Czech version, I’d get more complete results. Seriously, there must be some trick to getting better results; I just can’t figure out what it is.

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