Recently I posted about the new kinds of over-the-counter medications I’d discovered in Germany compared to South Africa (mostly herbal). At the time I was busy optimistically trying them all out since I had a bad cough. Sadly, none of them seemed to help, although the good strong ginger, lemon and honey tea that J kept making me definitely soothed the cough. The terrible, choking cough was just going away when I caught another bad cold just before the Easter weekend. We’d already booked tickets to Vienna, from which we would drive to Slovenia, and nothing was refundable so we went anyway.
It was quite a taxing weekend coughing my way around middle Europe, but I still don’t regret it as Slovenia is a beautiful country and the Easter markets in Vienna were well worth seeing. However – flying with a cold – BAD IDEA. The pain in the ears and the scary crackling in my head I could deal with, but what I didn’t realize was that the deafness that then set in would last for over two weeks. Only now that my head is clearing is my hearing finally normalizing.
So, to cut a long story short, it was quite a trial being sick for 5 weeks and what better way to recuperate than to spend the weekend in the lovely Czech countryside, on the farm where J’s family lives. It was sunny, we had a lazy Saturday afternoon nap, his mom spoilt us with great meals as usual, we wandered around in the orchards collecting the prunings of plum trees to put into water (if the branches have flower buds when cut, they still burst into blossom when put into water), we fixed a fence, visited the chickens and peacocks, took the dogs for a walk, and finally, went to visit the nearby castle: Kunětická Hora.
We’d attempted to visit Hrad Kunětická Hora once before, sometime in late autumn or early winter, but it was closed. This time we again arrived too late to go inside, but I still enjoyed the walk up the hill on a sunny afternoon, with views of the surrounding countryside and trees in blossom all around. From the top of the hill, 4km north of Pardubice, you can see both Pardubice and Hradec Králové, the nearest towns to J’s village.
“So tell me about the history of the castle,” I asked J.
“It was destroyed, then destroyed again, then destroyed ag-” he started.
“No but I mean, who built it?”
“Some random guy,” he said.
Insight from a local. Haha.
Anyway, I googled the history and he was pretty much right. Some random guy built it around the mid-14th century, when it seemed to belong to the Benedictine monastery, and since then there have been many reconstructions of the castle, the biggest one organized by the Pernštein family from 1491-1548, who favoured a Gothic style. The castle was then damaged by Swedish troops in the 30 years war (what were Swedes doing in Czech? I need to go back to the history books). Various people then made different alterations to the castle, with its current appearance apparently dating from changes made by Dušan Jurkovič from around 1923-1928. It is still being repaired and reconstructions are being done to try to restore it to its earlier appearance.
One thing I have learned from Europe is: always build your castle on the steepest hill around. By the time any invaders have hiked up it, they won’t have much energy left for their attack. And you have the advantage of height from which to fling your boiling oil and shoot your arrows. Plus, you can see them coming for miles. Now that the days of siege are over, there is actually a little train that runs up the hill to the castle, so that’s an option if you don’t feel like walking or have young kids. Also nice for kids are the farm animals in some fields at the bottom of the hill next to the restaurant (goats, sheep and a giant yak), and of course, the numerous ice cream stalls in the area. In the same area, you can also find the Gingerbread museum (http://www.pernikova-chaloupka.cz), where you can learn about, taste and buy the famous Pardubice gingerbread. And if you still long for the medieval times, near the entrance to the castle you can try shooting with a bow and arrow yourself.
Here are some more photos from the beautiful Czech countryside!