Český Krumlov and the Dancing Building

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30November 2012

A worthy assessment of the area by both domestic and foreign experts resulted in the acquisition of historic monument preservation status. In 1963, the town was declared a Municipal Preserve, in 1989 the castle became a National Monument, and in 1992 the entire complex was included onto the list of UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Monuments.

The mighty complex of the castle is erected on the rock promontory which has been sculpted by the Vltava river on the southern side and by the  Polečnice stream on the northern side. The castle towers proudly above the refined Renaissance and Baroque burgher architecture of the town below. 

Like a precious pearl, the town of Český Krumlov is situated in a valley surrounded by Blansko Forest to the north and the undulating foothills of Šumava to the south and west.

The name of the castle Krumlov originated from the Latin expression castrum crumnau or in ancient German Crumbenowe. It reflects the configuration of the landscape, krumben ouwe, the place on the rugged meadow. The expression “Český” has been used in connection with Krumlov since the middle of the 15th century.

The historical development of the town is marked mainly by four aristocratic families: the Lords of Krumlov, the Rosenbergs, Eggenbergs and Schwarzenbergs.

The Czech noble family of the Lords of Krumlov originated as one of the branches of the Vítkovci family. The last member of Lords of Krumlov was Wok who died without descendants in the year 1302, and the Krumlov castle together with the contiguous surroundings fell upon the Rosenberg branch of the Vítkovci family. The Coat-of-arms of the Lords of Krumlov was represented by a green five-petalled rose in a silver field.

Perhaps the most significant marks are those of the family of the Rosenbergs (1302-1602).  The town lived through the greatest cultural and economical bloom during the Renaissance, under the rule of Wilhelm von Rosenberg.  Their symbol was that of a red five-petalled rose with a gold center in a silver field.

In the 17th century the Krumlov dominion passed onto  the Eggenberg family (1622-1719).  They built the first theatre in 1675 but interest in theatre declined after the death of Johann Christian I. von Eggenberg in 1710.  The family emblem is composed of a trio of ravens bearing a golden crown.

The German noble family of Schwarzenbergs was originally called the Lords of Seinsheim and their proper emblem was a shield with silver and blue stripes. After the conquest of Raab, the Turkish fortress, the emblem was enlarged in 1599 with the head of a Turk, his eyes being pecked out by a raven. 

During the second generation of the new owners, the princes of Schwarzenberg, interest in theatre culture rose again. During the reign of Josef Adam zu Schwarzenberg, the original Eggenberg theatre was rebuilt in 1765 along with a large-scale Baroque reconstruction of the rest of Krumlov castle.  

It was a few hours drive to get to Cesky Kremlov.  We walked through the grounds and headed to the museum.  Because of the time of the year, I was not expecting nice gardens or active fountains, however I was disappointed that none of the Castle rooms, cellars or buildings were open.  We would have to be satisfied with the castle museum.  A big creepy factor was the relic room.  How odd that someone would collect bones and keep them in their house.  In the end, seeing artifacts in cases is not that interesting.  The bulding itself, with thick walled structures and stone floors is what caught my eye.  It must cost a fortune to heat this place, which is probably why everything else is closed.  After the museum we stopped for lunch at this medieval restaurant.  Cool atmosphere and yes huge portions of porc was on the menu!

We had free time after lunch for walking around town to soak up some of the beautiful architecture and painted buildings. 

I did not intend on buying anything, but I discovered the most beautiful jewelry.  A green jagged semi transparent stone, which turned out to be meteorite.  One stone in particular, encased in silver caught my attention, and I ended up getting it, with some proding by Regan.  I am glad that I did, as it is unique to this area of the world, and I really like green, even though I do not have anything to wear that matches.

What we did not know when we booked this tour, is that everything, except the castle museum would be closed.  I was greatly disappointed, as I was really looking forward to visiting the baroque theatre, my main motivation for coming to Cesky Krumlov.  October would have been a much better month to travel to Prague, as so many more things would have been open.  Also, a day trip is really not enough, a few days spent here when everything is open would allow you to soak up the many layers of rich history that are present here.

In the beginning of the 20th century the castle theatre was used only occasionally and was not open to the public. 

Only two records from 1903 and 1906 record the use of the theatre for social events.

All of the artistic and technical equipment of the theatre is located partly in the theatre itself and partly in the neighboring building, which is used as a theatre museum.

Proof of the rich theatre culture of the Český Krumlov castle is preserved in material objects (the theatre building, stage, orchestra pit, auditorium, stage machinery, fire fighting and signalization technology, technical props, etc.), in written pieces (librettos, partituras, particelas, notes), in literature (books about theatre art, about the repertoire, dances, ceremonies, festivals, construction and craftsmanship principles), in pictures and iconographic materials (examples of costumes, scenes, drafts, studies, portraits, with musical, dance and theatre subjects). This rich study material offers the possibility of the complex study of theatre history.

In the 20th century the theatre was used only for a short time from 1956 untill 1964 as a part of  the South Bohemian Theatre Festival. In 1966 the theatre buildings and equipment were declared to be in catastrophic condition. The state historical caretakers finally had good reasons to have the theatre closed for regular theatrical performances and to the public. Restoration work began and continues until now.  At present, we estimate that about 80% of all theatre inventory has been completed and restored. The introduction of trial visiting periods by the general public commenced in the autumn of 1997. 

View from the Roof of the Dancing Building

The food was expensive but the French cuisine tasted really nice, and no porc!  Unusual for me, but I had a drink with alcohol, with homemade syrup made with lavender.  It was yummy, although a bit sweet.  Had to wait for the ice to melt, but you probably should drink it that way.

A bit disappointing though was the view from the dinning area. Only small oblong windows and depending on where you were sitting, you could not see much.

When we were leaving, we noticed an adjacent section with bigger windows and nicer views.  Too bad that we did not notice on our way in.  Before leaving, we went on the roof and took our last photos of Prague’s nightscape.  We did not stay long as it was windy and cold.

The building portrays two people dancing hence the original name of the edifice: Fred and Ginger after the famous dance couple  Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. The building soon became known as the ‘dancing house’. Zagreb-born Czech architect Vlado Milunić describes the building as a dance performed after the Velvet Revolution.

The construction of the building in what is described as a deconstructionist style (the architects themselves consider the style ‘new Baroque’),  created quite a stir since the modern building starkly contrasts with its surroundings, both in its architecture and in its use of materials. Opposition against the building continued even after it was completed in 1996 but eventually Prague citizens have come to accept and even appreciate the building.

An interesting chandelier got our attention.  How does it work?


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