A Castle Tour of the Czech Republic
If you’re an architecture enthusiast with a high tolerance for fortified buildings and high walls, it’s safe to say you’ll love the world capital of castles, the Czech Republic. The country is positively teeming with them—with over 2,000 castles in the country, it has the highest density of castles in the world.
But why so many darn castles, Lewis? you may be asking. I’m no historian, but, here’s a totally plausible explanation: with a prime location in the heart of Europe, it goes without saying that, with political turbulence and surrounding conflicts, a strong defense was necessary.
Furthermore, the land that is now the present-day Czech Republic has had its territories and maps drawn and redrawn as part of the former—oh, take your pick—Czechoslovakia, the Kingdom of Bohemia, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the stomping grounds of the Habsburg monarchy, and the battleground of the Thirty Years’ War, among others. With a lot of potential conflict brewing within and without its fluctuating borders, naturally, defenses had to be built. And with the ever-changing procession of rulers and religions, the region was teeming with all sorts of highfalutin titles: Holy Roman Emperors, kings, archdukes and more. It goes without saying that a castle befitting one’s family title was de rigueur.
Prague Castle: Bohemian Behemoth
There are castles, and then there’s Prague Castle. The largest ancient castle in the world, it dates back to the 9thC. This sprawling complex occupies 70,000 square metres (750,000 square feet), and is the official home of the President and First Lady of the country.
It’s long been a seat of power, having housed the kings of Bohemia (that long-gone state), Holy Roman emperors, and presidents; you’ll also find the riches of the Bohemian Crown Jewels located in a hidden room here. It’s a stunning view at night; also, from anywhere in the castle grounds, you can always see the cathedral of St. Vitus from most vantage points. A bit of historical trivia: Adolf Hitler stayed here for an overnight in March 1939, shortly after Nazi Germany forced then-Czech President Emil Hacha to hand the nation over.
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