Dragging my brother and his family hither and yon for a total of ten days, we saw a lot. We saw palaces and cathedrals and castles on hills.
But, there was a castle I had been pining to see. A proper Proper Castle. The sort of craggy, deliciously medieval castle that is exactly what one imagines when one thinks "CASTLE."
Hrad Pernštejn was about a 40 minute drive from Brno and the photos of it made my heart pound. I was leaving Europe and I had to see this castle before I left. Dragging my brother and his family along gave me a legitimate reason to go. Despite having spent a day at Schonbrunn Palace and having toured Špilberk Castle in Brno, I assured them that they had not yet seen a Proper Castle. And to leave Europe without having seen a Proper Castle, especially one so very close by would be a dreadful shame. I really do talk like this. Sometimes, people make fun of me.
As for my houseguests, family or not, they were at my mercy. We piled into the car and began the drive. When you are shifting seven people in a car that fits seven people exactly, with not a spare centimeter for anything except the people, and you are planning to arrive for an 11:00am tour (a tour that requires you be on time or you will not actually get to see the interior of the splendid beast you have come to see), scheduling departure is critical. Luckily, at this juncture in my brother's trip, we had all pretty much worked out how long it took to move all of us: imagine as much time as it could possibly take under the worst circumstances and then double it. I figured an hour and a half to get us 40 minutes up the road would be about right.
And we made it, just in time.
What happened was this:
That sign means "Road Closed, No Exit, Go Another Way."
But, as there were no detour signs that we could see or understand, as we were way off in the countryside where there are only a few roads to begin with, as we had a specific appointment at the Proper Castle, as out of seven people in the car, six would have been really happy to turn around and go back to Brno, Proper Castle Be Damned, but the one person who really wanted to see the Proper Castle was actually driving the car, we bravely forged ahead.
As in, we headed down the road that pretty clearly said "Road Closed, No Exit, Go Another Way."
In defense of the driver who really wanted to see the Proper Castle, we were following other cars that for all intents and purposes appeared to be ignoring the "Road Closed, No Exit, Go Another Way" signs.
Turns out, the road really was closed. However, as people lived all along the road, there was a route that squirreled its way around the Bobcats and the front end loaders and the road graders and the dump trucks that populated the roadway-under-construction that people who lived on the road were allowed to take. With, as it turns out, the caveat that the Bobcats and the front end loaders and the road graders and the dump trucks have the right of way, and if they need to stop in the middle of the thoroughfare for a cigarette break, the cars behind have to wait.
So, despite not actually knowing the language, and realizing that we could be in a bucket truck load of trouble if anyone stopped us and asked us what the heck we thought we were doing, we pretended that we lived along the road and drove directly through the construction site.
"Directly" in that what should have been a five minute drive through town took about thirty minutes. Thirty minutes in which all the people in the car who would have been happy enough to turn back to Brno and miss out on the Proper Castle were able to mention in some way or another that they would be happy to turn around and go back to Brno. At least twice. While the driver just clenched the steering wheel tighter and ignored them.
So, we just made it.
But, we did make it. And the castle more than lived up to expectation. My expecation at least. The rest of them? Have you gotten the feeling so far that I really cared very much? One imagines not.
Hrad Pernštejn was founded by the Lords of Medlov between 1270–1285. The name, Pernštejn, probably derived from the then fashionable German name, Bärenstein, or the "Bear Rock". "It has kept its intact appearance in the Gothic and Renaissance form as it was finished in the first half of the 16th century by the Pernštejns, then the richest and most powerful lordly family of the Czech kingdom. Pernštejn is one of the best preserved castles in Czech Republic." Wiki
I am going to disappoint you horribly now, because I was not allowed to take any photos of the interior of the castle. It is beautiful. Here is a link to the photogallery on their web-page. It's in Czech, but Google Translate will happily turn it into mangled English for you, and the interior photos are really lovely: Interior Castle Pernštejn.
While originally built in the 13th century, this castle has had the fortune of never being attacked, and so it remains pretty much as originally built, plus extentions.
The last folks to live in the Proper Castle Properly were the Mitrovský family. They purchased it in 1818 they are given credit by Wiki for not succumbing to the Romantic styles of the 19th century, leaving the exterior of the castle pretty much as it had been for centuries.
You can see why they built it where they built it: the peak is pretty easily defended.
he interior of the castle, with its twists and turns and stairs and nooks and crannies still has several rooms decorated as they would have been during the 1800s; there are massive ceilings, beautiful old portraits, and rooms with space for family dining, family playing and family sleeping.
The library is stuffed to the gills with taxidermied animals and birds from the area and floor to ceiling books from the 18th century. As Proper Castles go, this one delivered.
And the Sporty Czechs, whom I miss very much, don't mind how high up the castle is. Of course there is a biking path up to the castle, complete with bike locking station near the entrance.
The biking path takes you from the foothills to this gate through the wooded area that surrounds the castle. Oh, but had we more time!
The tour was greatly satisfying, and while most in the party agreed that ultimately the drive was a problem, the castle was worth the fuss.
The plan for the afternoon was to visit Villa Tugendhat in Brno, a magnificent 20th century mansion built by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, famed German American architect. We were going to be going from 13th/18th century living to the most modern style of house you can imagine.
Now, all we had to do was get through the Construction Zone so we could make our 3 o'clock tour.
Next: Villa Tugendhat