Those who know me, also know that I’m a bugger for castles and palaces. Nothing pleases me as much as walking along the thick walls, sucking in the history and imagining how life had been back then, in the days of knights, princesses, jewelled dresses and holy relics. So when I found out that Karlstejn Castle, the second largest castle in the Czech Republic, is only 40 minutes away from Prague, I knew I had to go there.
From Prague, the easiest way to get to the castle is to take a train. Luckily for everybody, Czech railways are ridiculously cheap, and a return ticket to Karlstejn will cost you CZK 103.00, which is less than EUR 4. Karlstejn is a tiny, tiny market town in Central Bohemia that wouldn’t be anything special if it wasn’t for the castle.
Karlstejn Castle was founded in the 14th century under the reign of Charles IV — the famous king of Bohemia and the Holy Roman Emperor whom we’re all owing the existence of the notorious Charles University and the gorgeous Charles Bridge in Prague. Initially, the castle was built to keep the crown jewels, holy relics and other royal treasures that the king was supposedly collecting with the passion of a maniac. According to Charles’ demands, the castle was built within an impressively short period of time — just under 10 years — to serve as the king’s summer residence. But ironically, Charles IV has been there only 10 times or so, and each of his visits lasted only for a few days.
The guards, of course, had to come with him — there was, in fact, a special room for the knights and the guards only whose only job would be the protection of the king. But as history shows, that job was a boring job. You can still see the medieval cards and other board games that the guards used to entertain themselves with during their sleepless nights.
What I found particularly interesting were, of course, the jewels. They’re pretty. I saw them — I’d wear them. There’s also this super huge gemstone that, supposedly, the famous Italian poet Petrarch presented to the third wife of Charles IV, Anna of Schweidnitz, appraising her beauty. She was Polish, by the way, and was supposedly the most beautiful woman at the time.
Her husband, though, was an interesting man as well. He was one of the tallest men for his century — 1.73 cm — and was also claimed to be the tidiest and the cleanest one, too. He used to wash his face and feet twice per month, and in the 14th century, that was a lot. Back then, people would shower just twice per year or so (if they’re lucky).
But hey, why should I reveal all the juicy details of the Imperial life? When you visit Karlstejn Castle, take a tour and hear, see (and touch) everything all for yourself. If you’re a castle lover (and even if you’re not), I promise you it’ll be worth it.
Over to you! Have you been to Karlstejn Castle in the Czech Republic?