A corner of Prague Castle's grounds long hidden and possibly forgotten by many has been restored and opened to the public for the first time this month. The Saint Wenceslas' Vineyard and the Villa Richter, a summer house on the same site, were long closed off to the public. But now, after careful reconstruction, visitors will be able to take in a tour of the Villa and Vineyards whilst visiting Prague's world famous castle.
With an area of 7000 square metres, it certainly isn't one of the Czech Republic's biggest vineyards, but one thing is sure, the location is fairly exclusive: Saint Wenceslas Vineyards lie on the south facing slopes of Prague's famous castle itself. A few years ago, however, these well-kept vineyards, and the gardens of Villa Richter also, resembled more of a jungle than something grand enough to belong to Prague Castle. That all changed though, as the vineyards were once again cultivated, and the villa restored to its former glory.
I spoke to Frantisek Kadlec, Head of Tourism for Prague Castle Administration, who explained the history behind the site.
“Saint Wenceslas' Vineyard is one of the last parts of Prague Castle to have been reconstructed and to have been made open to visitors. According to legend, this vineyard was founded by the Czech prince Wenceslas sometime in the 10th Century. The legend says that Wenceslas planted vines and pressed grapes himself and made wine for churches. But in fact this vineyard was founded later under Charles IV, under the famous Czech king himself, sometime in 1375.”
So it seems that despite some people claiming otherwise, the production of wine has more to do with Charles than with Wenceslas, but it is the latter's name which has stuck to this site. As for the villa, this is named for the Richter family who first acquired the site in the 18th Century. The building remained in their hands until the twentieth century, when the course of history started off a series of changes of ownership for the villa. Frantisek Kadlec again:
“After the Second World War, the vineyard, the villa and the buildings were confiscated form the members of the Richter family because they were German citizens. In 1956, this property passed into ownership of the Czechoslovak state. The vineyards and the buildings were used by the diplomatic service and later by the Ministry of Interior. The presidential office itself only started to take care of the restoration of the vineyard and property as late as 1990.”
The view from the previously inaccessible vineyards and Villa Richter, out over both the Old Town and Mala Strana, provides a fresh and dramatic panorama over Prague. The upper parts of the vineyard will be growing Riesling and Pinot Noir vines, as in the era of Charles IV himself. If the views alone aren't enough to tempt tourists, then plans for wine tasting events should.
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