Just off the Beaten Track
Note: It’s time for a guest post. I’ll put you in the capable hands of my girlfriend, Jana, for this article. Enjoy:
If you are a tourist staying in Brno and thinking about possible day trips, you are probably considering going to the south and that’s a great idea. There are many tempting options such as Lednice, Valtice or Mikulov; but I would recommend you consider going in a different direction. About 30 km north of Brno, there is a hidden jewel – Lysice chateau – that is definitely worth visiting even though it is not one of the most popular or most famous chateaus in the Czech Republic. However, that is exactly what gives you the advantages of enjoying your visit without huge crowds of tourists and taking your time to discover the place and all it has to offer.
The chateau is a picturesque building with lovely interiors; but before you go on a tour, you will probably admire it from the main courtyard. What may strike you at first will be a moat usually inhabited by a couple of swans. I know what you are asking now: a moat in front of a chateau? Well, I guess to get an explanation, we will have to look at the history of the building.
In 1476, a stronghold owned by the lords of Kunštát is mentioned to exist in Lysice. However, we are not completely sure that it was at the same place as today’s chateu. In the mid 16th century, a renaissance water stronghold was built by Diviš Černčický of Kácov (? – 1563) whose father got Lysice in exchange for Nové Město nad Metují from the House of Pernštejn.
This stronghold certainly was at the same place as the chateau today, so here is where the moat becomes part of the story as a moat was nothing untypical for this type of building. It was the Březnický family of Náchod who bought Lysice from the Černčický family and who rebuilt the stronghold into a renaissance chateau in the first half of the 17th century. Then in 1686, Jan Karel Serényi (? -1691) bought Lysice for his orphaned underage nephews. One of them, Antonín Amatus Serényi (1670 – 1738) renovated the chateau in the baroque style in the 30th of the 18th century. The last changes of appearance were made by the House of Dubský, whose members lived in the chateau till 1945.
The Dubský Era
As with many other chateaus, there have been quite many owners of the place, but Dubský is the name that you will certainly hear repeated if you go for a guided tour of this chateau. It is the House of Dubský who were the last noble owners of the chateau before it became state property. František Dubský of Třebomyslice (1749 – 1812), whose wife Antonie Piati (1773 – 1843) inherited the chateau when the last male heir of the Piati family died, was the first Dubský in Lysice. The marriage helped František, who was from an old but poor noble family, to raise his line again.
František’s son, Emanuel Dubský (1806 – 1881), a prominent personality of Brno aristocratic society and chairman of the Moravian Land Assembly, was the last owner to change the appearance of the chateau and to renovate the interiors. The renovations were done mainly by František Vašíček (1812 -1870) and his son, Kajetán, from an old line of master bricklayers and masons. It was them who designed, for example, the colonade with the covered pergola as well as most of the interiors in the 19th century.
The noble part of the chateau’s history ended with Albrecht Dubský (1882 – 1962), Emauel Dubský’s grandson, and his wife Juliana, in 1945. Even though they both spoke Czech very well and it is said they never agreed with ideals of Nazism and even helped a few people in Lysice during the Second World War, they both declared themselves to be of German nationality. Based on this, the chateau was confiscated in accordance to the decrees put in place by Edvard Beneš, the president of Czechoslovakia, after the war. They fled from Czechoslovakia and were never allowed to even visit their former home. They spent the rest of their lives in Austria and unfortunately returned to Lysice in 2000 only when their nephew Christian Kinský (1924 – 2011) put their remains into the newly restored family tomb.
Taking a Look Inside
There are two options to choose from when it comes to touring the chateau: The first tour shows representative rooms on the first floor, including a few private rooms such as the chapel or countess‘ bedroom. The second tour leads you to the second floor and to the count´s private rooms and guest rooms on the second floor. The way the rooms are furnished, and the fresh flowers in almost all of them, really help to keep a feeling of intimacy and a real home. So, in many rooms you will feel as if the noble family has just left and they allowed you to explore their household.
While both tours are worth seeing, my recommendation – in case you have time only for one tour – would be to see the representative rooms. You will see a wonderful library decorated in the style of Venetian palaces, the main hall of the chateau where the family gathered, welcomed their guests and hosted concerts, two dining rooms (the smaller one for family dinners, the larger one for hosted dinners), private chapel and also a bedroom and bathroom of the countess. In the bedroom, there is a ship telephone and I will leave it to the guide to tell you who the countess used it to communicate with :-).
It is important to mention Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach (1830 – 1916) here, probably the most famous Austrian writter of the 19th century, as the library on the first floor bears her name. She was born into the Zdislavice branch of the Dubský House and she quite often visited Lysice, where her close relatives lived. She wrote novels, short-stories, fairy-tales a well as travelling notes and witty aphorisms. Her work is valued for masterfully depicted characters; she was able to describe the highest levels of aristocracy as well as the poorest people. In 1898 she received the Cross of Honour for Art and Literature from the Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria. The University of Vienna awarded her the degree of doctor of philosophy, honoris causa; she was the first woman ever to be given that award.
The end of the first tour is connected with another interesting name – Ervín Dubský (1836 – 1909) who was one of Emanuel Dubský‘s sons, served in the Royal Navy and reached the rank of Regatta Captain (the equivalent of Major General in the Army). He travelled all around the world on royal ships and brought many precious items from his journeys, not only for his private collection but also for museums and research institutions. You can admire small part of his collection in the Oriental room with maily Japanese and Chinese artefacts. Ervín was not only a mariner and collector, but also a skillful writer and painter. Pictures painted by him, including his self-portrait, are to be seen in his library that concludes the first tour together with the armoury. If you love weapons you should not miss it as the armoury, one of the largest in Moravia, is rich in bladed and balistic weapons as well as a few curiosities such as an executioner’s sword and a sword with a blade made of sawfish bone.
The second tour starts in a nicely decorated, airy two-floor hall. This is the youngest wing of the chateu and was built after the chateu theatre was destroyed by fire in 1902. It really is a pity that the theatre (built in 1791) did not survive to today; at the time it was destroyed, it was equipped with quite modern technology and richly decorated sets and costumes (even the Vienna Opera used to borrow some of the 360 costumes from here). The tour then continues on the second floor. This floor was a male space, unlike the first floor that was maily used by ladies, so it is no surprise to visit the count‘s bedroom or his office where at least three generations of Dubskýs managed not only the whole manor but the bolt and screw factory in Drnovice as well. I would say that the highlight of the second tour is the small and large shooting galleries. Do not worry, no shooting is done in the two rooms. The name is based on the decoration of the walls: shooting targets from a former shooting range in the chateau park.
A Walk Around the Grounds
Speaking of the park, if you take just a little walk up the hill above the chateau, the walk down the chateau alley is very pleasant especially in hot summers and it will also give you a nice view of the chateau and the garden; a much nicer than when you try to take a photo of the chateau from the main courtyard (a tip for passionate photographers).
The garden, with a unique colonnade covered with a pergola, is something you should not miss. If you buy tickets for the tour of the garden, you will have a chance to take a walk where the noble men and women used to walk when it rained; or enjoyed tea or coffee seated in comfortable chairs. However, the colonnade is not the only highlight of the garden. You can also visit the orangery, green house and the newly restored sala terrena but make sure tours are available for the day when you plan your visit.
By the way, the garden was one of most famous in the whole monarchy in the second half of the 19th century; flowers and seedlings were bought by flowershops in Prague and Vienna and even exported abroad, exotic plants were grown here and many experts and members of aristocracy came to visit to see it with their own eyes. The famous Vienna hotel, Sacher, was one of the customers who bought pineapples and figs grown here. It is still one of the most beautiful historical gardens in the Czech Republic. Flowers grown here are used to make beautiful arrangements that you will see in the interiors when you buy tickets to see the chateau inside.
After getting so much information, and all the sightseeing and walking, you certainly deserve to take a break and have something good. While you can choose from two or three restaurants in the town if you are hungry, I would certainly recommend the Dubský Café in the main courtyard if you only feel like having something small. Not only can you have a cup of coffee or tea together with something sweet, but you can drink your coffee while admiring a beautifully restored Berlin type carriage that was made around 1780.
Paying a Visit and Learning More
I hope I have persuaded you to visit the chateau. Or, maybe after reading this, you will start thinking about paying it a visit.
I have to admit I am a little bias in this case as Lysice chateau has always been close to my heart. When I was a university student, I spent a few weeks at the chateau every summer working as a guide and without Lysice, it would not have been a proper summer for me. I still return to Lysice for visits from time to time. It’s nice to check what‘s new and at the same time to make sure it is still the good, old chateau with its endless charm. I can confirm that it is.
If you don’t have a car to travel to the chateau, there is regular bus service from the Královo Pole train station in Brno to the Lysice townsite.
More information about the chateau can be found at the chateau’s official website: Lysice Chateau Website