Monday, 19 October 2009

Biking around Břeclav

For most travellers, Břeclav is one of those places like Kolín or Přerov that you pass through dozens of times without ever getting off the train. Simultaneously one of the oldest and youngest settlements in the Czech lands, there's plenty in and around Břeclav to reward any traveller who makes the effort to visit.

Just outside town near the Pohansko hunting lodge are the preserved foundations of buildings from the time of the Great Moravian empire, but most of Břeclav's current architecture is less than 100 years old, thanks mostly to the Allied bombs of 1944 that effectively destroyed the historic centre of town.

There are however a handful of historic buildings, the most impressive of which is the chateau. From the 14th Century Břeclav belonged to the noble Liechtenstein dynasty, but passed to the Žerotíns in the early 1500's. They had time to transform the old fortified castle into a renaissance palace before joining the losing side in the estates uprising and forfeiting their South Moravian lands back to the Liechtensteins. The Liechtensteins added three romantically pre-ruined towers to the castle which they owned until they had to leave the Czech lands in 1945. The chateau's communist era sufferings are slowly being repaired and a wine cellar, restaurant and guesthouse operate on the site.

The baroque church of St Wenceslas that was destroyed in 1944 was replaced in the early 1990's by a reinforced concrete church whose modern origami angles look like they belong somewhere in the new world. Just around the corner opposite the very friendly and helpful tourist information office is a former synagogue and in the outskirts of town is an old Jewish cemetery with gravestones from the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries.

Across the river in the suburb of Poštorna is the church of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary. The high octagonal roof of the red brick neo-Gothic church is visible for miles across the flat countryside and is as recognisable a Břeclav landmark as either the chateau or the spires of the new St Wenceslas' church.

Probably the best reason to visit Břeclav though is its proximity to the Lednice-Valtice area, which was added to the UNESCO world heritage list in 1996, because of the way it “succeeds in bringing together in harmony cultural monuments from successive periods and both indigenous and exotic natural elements to create an outstanding work of human creativity.”

The towns of Lednice and Valtice are each around ten kilometres (seven miles) from Břeclav and from each other and the triangular area in between is the core of the world heritage area. Covered in flood plain forest, vineyards, a 200 hectare landscaped park, and crisscrossed by smooth trails and quiet roads, it's the perfect place for a day or weekend of cycling and exploring. Břeclav tourist information has bicycles for hire from 300Kč per day for a single or 450Kč for a tandem.

I've cycled the area twice recently, once alone and once with friends and the only trouble we had was that there was too much to see and do in the time we'd allowed, which I guess is a good problem to have.

Find train connections to Břeclav
Contact Břeclav tourist information

1 comment:

Francie said...

Dobry! Interesting to find out about the bombing in Breclav. It explains a lot about the town. I've often wondered how it could be so, so ugly and yet be so close to such a attractive and historical area of Czech. I thought it was a purpose-built border town.

That church is pretty ugly. Does look like a paper crane.