Litomyšl, in East Bohemia, is another Czech town that deserves to be much better known. A UNESCO World Heritage castle and a charming town centre with lots of notable buildings are part of the attraction. As is the annual opera festival in honour of the composer Bedřich Smetana, who was born here in 1824.
Litomyšl Castle, A World Heritage Site
Litomyšl Castle was built in 1568. The owner was influenced by Italian design, and had the castle built in the Renaissance fashion, with an open courtyard surrounded by arcades. This style is almost unique in northern Europe, and it is the main reason why Litomyšl became a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The exterior of the castle is quite spectacular. It is painted with around 8,000 small “envelopes”, all different from one another. There are also pictures from the Bible and from classical mythology.
The interior dates from the 18th century and is in the classical style. As we walked around I noted the attention that had been paid to detail in arranging the exhibits. A table was laid with an 18th century meal; another was set for afternoon tea. A shawl was draped over a couch and there were fresh flowers everywhere, as if the owners were due to return at any time. Apparently the exhibits change regularly: at the time of my visit there were several period costumes on loan to the castle.
(Visits to the castle are by guided tour. They are conducted in Czech but an English transcript is provided. Groups of 15 or more can book an English language tour.)
Castle Cellars And Gardens
Don’t miss the Castle Cellars, where the Chateau Litomyšl wine is stored. The Cellars are also home to a collection of sculptures by the artist Olbram Zoubek. Strolling among the sculptures in their atmospheric setting is a slightly spooky experience!
When you leave the buildings you come to the Castle Gardens. This is a pleasant area of parkland with trees and streams. Part of the garden is designed as an outdoor concert area and performances take place during the year.
Litomyšl Castle Apartments And Smetana’s Birthplace
The former castle brewery has now been turned into tourist accommodation, with individual rooms or more spacious apartments. Many of these rooms have splendid views overlooking the castle.
On the ground floor of the Brewery is the birthplace of Bedřich Smetana, whose father was the castle’s brewer. This is now a small museum dedicated to the composer, furnished in the style of a typical family home of the early 19th century. Since 1949 an annual opera festival – the Smetana Litomyšl – has taken place in the town.
The Town of Litomyšl
The architecture of Litomyšl is typical of an East Bohemian town. The centre is dominated by Smetana Square, which is surrounded by arcades and baroque and classical buildings. A short distance away is Josef Váchal Street, covered with wall paintings by local art students.
One of the most notable buildings in Litomyšl is the Church of Discovery of the Holy Cross. Built in the 18th century, the church fell into disuse in the Soviet era, when it was used as a warehouse. Vehicles were driven inside the building and, not surprisingly, it started to crumble and deteriorate. However it was restored and reopened as a church in 2014. New artworks were installed, and today it is a dazzling mixture of old and new.
Then there are the museums and the modern architecture… I didn’t have time to see everything that Litomyšl has to offer. I need to go back and explore more fully.
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