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Loučeň Chateau: A Well-Kept Secret in Bohemia

Open to the public in 2007, Loučeň Chateau is a well-kept secret in Bohemia. It offers not only an hour-long tour of the historical interiors but also various tours for children. The park is unique, consisting of 10 mazes and 11 labyrinths. The Thurn und Taxis family, significant players in Czech culture and politics, has greatly influenced the chateau’s history.

Though visitors have only been able to experience the chateau’s magic for less than 10 years, the town has a rich history that goes back to 1223. During the Middle Ages various owners took care of a castle there. In 1623 Adam von Wallenstein got possession of the castle and had the structure changed into a chateau in Baroque style from 1704 to 1713. He was the uncle of the much acclaimed military leader Albrecht von Wallenstein, who served as supreme commander of the Habsburg armies and fought admirably in the Thirty Years’ War. When the Wallenstein family tree died out in 1752, several other owners came and went.

Then, in 1809, a key development in the chateau’s history took place when Maxmilián Thurn und Taxis bought the chateau. The Thurn und Taxis dynasty could trace its ancestry back to the Tasso clan of the 13th century. During the 15th century Francesco Tasso created the first postal system, delivering mail from Innsbruck to Brussels. The family is known for having provided postal services in Italy as well as in Central and Western Europe. The operation thrived during the 18th century, especially.

During 1875 another landmark event occurred. Alexander Thurn und Taxis married Marie von Hohenlohe, a painter and friend of Rainer Marie Rilke. Today’s exposition focuses on life during their tenure at the chateau, a sort of golden age. Many prominent cultural and political figures visited Loučeň during this period. Rilke paid two visits, and composer Bedřich Smetana often came over when he lived nearby during the last nine years of his life. Smetana even dedicated his piece Z domoviny to Alexander. Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk, the first president of Czechoslovakia, visited as did his daughter, Alice Masaryková. American writer Mark Twain was welcomed at Loučeň, too.

The family held onto the property until the end of World War II, when the chateau was nationalized. During 1945 the Soviet army and locals plundered Loučeň. Then, in the Communist era, the chateau served as a recreation center for government employees. Later it became a railway trade school, among other uses. A turning point came when the company Loučeň a.s. began to manage the chateau in 2000. Seven years later the public was able to get a good look at the superb interiors and soak up the historical atmosphere. Some of the original furnishings are even on display.

During the classic tour visitors will be awed by the furnishings, pianos and various objects on display. In Staircase Hall there is a large picture of the Thurn und Taxis-owned Duino Chateau, a romantic structure perched on a cliff in Italy. It was where Rilke wrote his Duino Elegies. Notice that, in the first room, the sleigh for hauling the mail through snow is painted black and yellow, the same shade of yellow of traditional taxis, which got their name from the Thurn und Taxis dynasty.

The Dining Room features exquisite porcelain service and elaborate gold candlesticks. The white wallpaper of the Chinese Salon is lovely; it is adorned with depictions of pink flowers and green leaves. The Prince’s Study shows off his souvenirs from excursions to Africa, including a crocodile. The space also acquaints visitors with Alexander’s love of horses.

In the Prince’s Bedroom there is a photo of the prince with his four cats, three of whom slept on the bed with him. In the servant’s bedroom visitors may wonder why old banknotes and an iron are on display. It is because the servant ironed the prince’s money so that it would not be crumpled. The servant ironed the prince’s newspaper, too, to keep the color from fading.

The Music Salon gives visitors a sense of the family’s passion for music. It features a piano on which Smetana performed. The Princess’ Salon boasts books by Rilke and an upright piano from the 18th century. Don’t forget to look out the windows. The view of the park is romantic. In the Princess’ Bedroom visitors see her pink and cream wedding dress, which she wore at age 40, although she appears so young in photos. Another piano is in the room, too. Notice the richly carved designs on the front and back of the bed. Personal items belonging to the princess are not to be overlooked, such as fans, a crocodile handbag and exquisite necklaces. A photo of the Loučeň soccer team that played in the first official soccer game to take place in Bohemia adorns a wall in a hallway. Alexander had helped found the first soccer team in Bohemia, among his many other accomplishments.

The classroom for their children includes a small bench for two students with little blackboards. On the desk is a book in French about the French Revolution. The chateau’s Church of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, seen from above, is another sight to behold. The painting over the main altar was created by legendary Czech Baroque painter Petr Brandl. One of the books prominently displayed in the library is an English version of a fairy tale by Princess Marie – The Tea Party of Miss Moon. The most valuable book in the library is the enormous chronicle of the Thurn und Taxis family. Another large book dominating a table focuses on the romantic Šumava region of the Czech lands.

Loučeň has something for everyone, for adults and children alike. Horse lovers, cat lovers and those passionate about music or hunting will be enthralled. From Prague it is a short train ride to Nymburk, a town not far from Loučeň, but public transportation to Loučeň itself may be problematic. Nymburk is a historical town also worth visiting. It is best to go by car and combine a visit to Loučeň Chateau with a look at Nymburk.



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A resident of Prague since 1991, Tracy A. Burns has published articles and stories in English, Czech and Slovak. Her work in English has appeared in The Washington Post, for instance. Her travel blog is at taburns25.wordpress.com. She also writes book reviews and essays for the Czech and Slovak academic journal Kosmas. Her writings in Czech have been published in Reflex and Listy, among others. Her articles in Slovak have been printed in SME, for example. She has edited an art catalogue for Prague's National Gallery and is a contributing author to the book The Arena Adventure, about Arena Stage theatre. Her passions are writing, reading and traveling.



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