Czech castles and castles going through difficult times

The historical and architectural heritage of the country has always attracted tourists. Under normal circumstances, the castles, chateaux and ruins that dot the countryside are a hive of activity from early spring to late fall, showing off their magnificent interiors, authentic furnishings from when they housed the nobility. of the country and their vast English-style parks. with swans, deer and peacocks. Some would organize historic fences and fairs to increase their appeal to visitors.

The Covid pandemic brought it to an abrupt end. Foreign visitors have stopped coming and locals have been put off by the Covid restrictions. When the country’s state monuments were allowed to reopen to tourists under strict hygienic conditions last June, they saw a significant drop in the number of visitors. Foreign tourists were few in number and among Czechs – who like to organize weekend family outings to castles and castles – there was a significant decline in interest in guided tours. Those who planned trips chose to visit the castle ruins and the parks where they spent time outdoors.

Opočno Castle |  Photo: Pavla Horáková, Radio Prague International

Many castles have revised their strategy – holding art and other exhibitions on their premises to attract visitors and increasingly they have opened their doors to visitors during the winter period or have organized night tours when the Stories about the ghosts of former owners believed to haunt the premises have been reinforced by the castle’s spooky atmosphere at night.

Český Krumlov Castle, which once housed the Rožemberk clan, also welcomes visitors during the winter months – having brought out all of its 16th to 19th century treasures and furnishings for a special exhibition in which the guide explains the history of each piece and its initial purpose. Pavel Slávek, the man in charge of the “mansion” said putting it together was quite an achievement.

“More than 8000 objects were gradually taken from the depositories and given a special place in our museum exhibition. “

Despite his efforts visitors numbers to Český Krumlov Castle have fallen to around 30 percent from pre-pandemic years. It’s the same story with most of the other castles and chateaux in the country. In addition, maintenance costs have skyrocketed, driven by a 6 percent inflation and soaring electricity prices. As a result, entrance fees are up about 15 percent this year, which is ideal at a time when most of these venues are trying to attract returning visitors, but given the set-up costs, it is inevitable. As the head of Castle Opočno explains, cost reduction is not always possible. “We could turn off the arcade lights that are on all night to save money, but that would make the security camera system useless., he says. So at least they reduce the heating in areas inaccessible to visitors.

Like many others, Opočno Castle seeks to see the light at the end of the tunnel and hopes that 2022 will finally end the pandemic and return to normal life.

Berta D. Wells