Sunday, 1 June 2008

Want to spend the night in a castle?

You do, but you don’t know where? And wouldn’t it be expensive?

Nope. Neither of those things need stop you. Svojanov castle, south of Svitavy and Polička in the Bohemo-Moravian borderlands, accommodates individuals or small groups at very reasonable rates.

The first stones of Svojanov castle were laid around the year 1265 on the orders of the King Přemysl Otakar II. The purpose of the original castle was to guard the trade route from Litomyšl to Brno. After the king’s death his widow Kunhuta sold the castle to the noble Vitkovice family and it was traded many times before eventually being bought in 1910 by the current owner, the city of Polička.

The castle was damaged extensively during the Thirty Years War and again by fire in the 16th C. After the war the stone fortress was complemented by a new renaissance palace and this is where the guest rooms are. The old stone part of the castle still lies partly in ruins. It has no roof and the windows are gaping holes. Fortunately for guests, the renaissance wing has been preserved in relatively good condition.

In contrast to the older part of the castle, there’s hot and cold running water, glass in the windows, electricity and a modern heating system, which turns itself off if a window or door is opened in the room. But the best thing is the price. Accommodation is 180Kč per person, including tax. That’s right - One hundred and eighty crowns per person. That’s about 10 American dollars, 7 Euros or half the price of a dorm bed in a Prague hostel.

There are campgrounds here that will charge you more than that to set up your tent. So even though the rooms in the castle could do with a little fixing up, it’s difficult to complain about them. In fact I think they’re possibly the best value budget rooms I’ve come across in the Czech Republic. Even back when I first came here, the going rate for hostel dorm beds was 180Kč. But sleeping on a mattress on the floor in a room with 15 other people (who else stayed at Hostel Sokol in the mid-90’s?) was not nearly as cool as this.

I must stress though, that the rooms at Svojanov castle are not luxury accommodation. There’s nothing outstanding about the facilities; the furniture is dated, the beds are squeaky, some of the painting looks like it was done by a monkey, and there are no cooking facilities, televisions or internet access. But it’s a five hundred year old castle building on a hillside above a picturebook village, and even expensive hotels with stars next to their names rarely offer that.

There’s also a restaurant in the castle grounds. For classic Czech pub food, the meals are quite decent. The menu is only in Czech, but it shouldn’t be too hard to work out. The first page is chicken (90-120Kč), the second is pork (90-125Kč), then come the salads, three types of fried cheese and the side dishes. You might want to stock up on fruit and breakfast goods down at the grocery store in the village. The beer on tap is from the nearby Policka brewery and the 11º Otakar goes for 20Kč/half-litre.

I arrived in Svojanov from Moravská Třebová via Brněnec following cycle trail #104. By car you’d probably approach the same way, turning off highway 43 at Brněnec. From the west you’d approach on the 364 via Bystré. By public transport, you’ll probably arrive in Svojanov by bus via Svitavy and the best stop for the castle is "Svojanov, městečko". There’s a green-marked walking trail that leads up the hillside from just behind Pension Palla. It’s about ten minutes’ walk and the path is reasonably steep and rocky, so if you’re travelling with one of those wheelie suitcases, it’s not going to be easy.

Come to think of it, it wasn’t terribly easy on the bike. Anyway, that’s Svojanov. A castle to live in and experience, rather than rush through on a 60 minute tour.


arminvey said...

sounds good, how does one book, and how does one get to this place from Prague?

Captain Oddsocks said...

Just follow the Hrad Svojanov link in the text and down at the bottom of that page is a form to fill in with your arrival and departure dates.

Or you could just call them on 461 744124 or 461 744105. is always the best place to find out about transport; probably your trip will involve making your way to Svitavy and taking a bus from there.

Have a good stay...!