Sunday 24 February 2008

Two days in Telč

Round-topped arches, sgraffito and elaborately decorated wooden ceilings are telltale signs that a building is from the renaissance period. Telč in Southern Moravia is such a good example of a renaissance town that it has been granted UNESCO world heritage protection.

The story of Telč is largely the story of Lord Zachariáš of Hradec, one of the powerful Jindřichův Hradec branch of the aristocratic Vitkovice family. When his father passed away in 1550 and elder brother Jáchym inherited the family chateau, Zachariáš chose the old stone fortress at Telč as his residence. The following year, he visited flourishing renaissance Italy. Inspired by what he saw and perhaps fired by a dash of sibling rivalry, Zachariáš set about transforming Telč as soon as he returned.

The ideals of the renaissance were based on a rediscovery of the proportion and symmetry of ancient Roman architecture. In Zachariáš’ Telč, scores of Italian craftsmen created sumptuous interiors, plastered the chateau’s exposed stone and built promenades vaulted by arches on slender columns. On the main square covered promenades and new facades were added to all the houses and they were decorated with the pilasters, pediments and symmetrical patterns of the renaissance.

A favourite form of decorating buildings was sgraffito. Craftsmen would plaster buildings in several thin layers and scratch designs into the final coat to reveal the contrasting colour underneath. The designs could be anything from basic mock stone work to intricate portraits or depictions of bible stories and Roman legends.

For a number of reasons, the historic centre of Telč has been extremely well preserved and with the exception of a couple of extra church towers the Telč that a proud Zachariáš and his craftsmen completed in the sixteenth century is essentially the same Telč that you see today.

One of the factors that helped save Telč from modern redevelopment is the ring of small lakes that surround it. The lakes are manmade and were originally dug for defensive reasons and fish-farming. If you visit in summer and have time, rowing boats can be hired just around the corner from the chateau entrance.

As one of the jewels of Czech architecture Telč is on the itineraries of many visitors, but most of them just seem to pass through for an afternoon, one night at most. While places like Litomyšl, Český Krumlov and Mikulov undoubtedly have more to offer the overnight visitor there’s also plenty to keep you busy in Telč for a few days.

There are two separate tours through the interior of the chateau taking ninety minutes each, and when you’re done you can climb the belltower of nearby St James’ church for an angel’s eye view of town. The gently curving main square is a remarkable collection of buildings that is impossible to appreciate by walking through only once.

A coffee or a drop of Moravian wine at one of the outdoor cafes is a nice way to wait for the sinking sun to provide the right light for your photographs. For beer drinkers, Ježek from Jihlava and Hostan from Znojmo are good local brews to look out for.

Walking along the shore of Staroměstský lake will bring you to the church of Our lady Mary and a little further is a half-forgotten old Jewish cemetery. And if the weather’s good you can hire not only rowboats but cycles.

Roštejn castle is north of Telč and there’s said to be a barrel full of gold Ducats and silver Tolars hidden somewhere deep within the cellars. The catch is that the barrel is guarded by the spirit of the evil robber Knight who hid it there. Roštejn is 14km away and the pretty town Slavonice is 28km. The train back to Telč will carry your bike if you can manage 28km (18miles) but not 56.

If you’d like to know about Telč in more detail, or get some suggestions for guesthouses or restaurants take a peek at any of these articles over on

The first written mention of the chateau in Telč is from the year 1339, when it was still a gothic fortress and was traded by King Jan Lucemberský to the aristocratic Vitkovice family in exchange for Bánov castle…Read more

The colourful main square is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the Czech lands. It’s one of those squares that’s actually more like a long, slender, slightly-curved triangle, something like a Christmas tree blowing in the wind….Read more

U Marušky (At Maruška’s) is the best place in Telč for an affordable but hearty pub meal. There are two restaurants on your left as you leave the non-chateau end of Telč’s long narrow main square and U Marušky is the one you will come to first...Read more

One thing you’ll never want for in Telč is good cheap accommodation. The dozens of small family-owned guesthouses, some even with rooms looking over the famous main square, make sure of that…Read more

Hostel Pantof is a small, homely hostel offering dorms and private rooms with views over the romantic and historic main square. The hostel building is typical for the main square of Telč, long and narrow on an old gothic plot of land...Read more

Getting to Telč: Telč is in the south-central part of the Czech Republic, about 30km from the Austrian border, and lies on the main road between České Budějovice and Brno. Telč is a particularly good place to break the long trip between Český Krumlov and Olomouc…Read more


Michael said...

This has been on my to do list for years, ever since the square made it to the front page of the Rough Guide.
Maybe next year, eh?

Captain Oddsocks said...

Yeah the square's really a standout. Possibly the prettiest one I've seen.

Unfortunately a lot of people seem to enjoy rubbishing Telc. There's a thread over on the Lonely Planet Thorn Tree where a guy has made a good itinerary to travel around and see five or six towns in the Czech Republic, two or more nights in each place, and people are replying and saying
'Oh you don't need to do that, you can see Telc in 30 minutes, Kutna Hora is not worth two nights and one day of your time..."
That sort of pop-travel, "my trip was the perfect trip, do exactly as I did" sort of garbage.