There's a picturesque little town of Nove Hrady in southern Bohemia, close to the Czech-Austrian border. The town dates as far back as the 13th century when a settlement developed around a sentry castle along a trail leading from Austria to Bohemia. Until the early 17th century, Nove Hrady belonged to the Rozmberk, or Rosenberg, family. It was almost razed to the ground during the Hussite wars and was damaged even more in the Thirty Year War.
Nove Hrady's appearance today can therefore be mainly attributed to the Buquoy family, which gained control of the estate in 1620. One of the town's most dominant historical monuments is the Nove Hrady Castle. JanSmolik is its caretaker:
"The Buquoy family gained control of the castle when Charles Bonaventura Buquoy, who was commander of the emperor's troops asked for it as a kind of reimbursement for his expenses during battle. This was before the famous Battle of White Mountain, so the family acquired the castle quite differently than most other noble families got their property - it was not the classic post White Mountain confiscation and the Buquoy family owned it until 1945."
The castle was rebuilt between 1792 and 1798. After further extensive reconstruction, it is now open to the public. And just like any proper historic castle, this one too, apparently houses ghosts. Jan Smolik:
"If we believe the rumours that are going around, then strange things happen in the front part of this castle at noon. It is believed that there are ghosts in the part where the Buquoy archive is located. This is where many nineteenth century legends are based. Apparently there's a lot of noise and heavy banging on doors at noon, even when there is no one there."
By the castle is Therese's Valley, a beautiful park with many rare and exotic wood species. Just like the castle, or possibly more so, it attracts many tourists all year round. The park came to being in the second half of the eighteenth century, on the orders of John Buquoy. He had it named after his wife Therese, who had a small private spa built in the middle of the park from 1788 to 1797. In 1817 an artificial waterfall was added as well as a Swiss Chalet in 1852. It was recently restored and now houses a restaurant and a place offering accommodation to tourists.
Although small, Nove Hrady boasts a main town square with a lot to see. The sixteenth century city hall dominates the square with the Buquoy coat-of-arms and the town crest on its façade. East of the square, is the Servite Monastery that was founded in 1678 by Ferdinand Buquoy. Zdenek Tousek is its caretaker:
"Nove Hrady is in a region of the country that used to be called the Sudetenland - the area which once populated millions of ethnic Germans. Consequently the monastery was greatly affected when the Second World War started. Nove Hrady became part of Hitler's Third Reich and most of the monks who lived here had to join the Nazi Wehrmacht, where they were forced to serve as either health workers or as priests. Surprisingly, many of them came back without a scratch after the war. But they did not stay for long because they were expelled with the rest of the ethnic German population in 1946 and 1947. Only two monks remained here in the monastery because they were Czech nationalists. However, they did not get to stay either because of the communist persecutions - on April 20, 1950, all church council and congregation members in the country were arrested and the monastery was used to house members of the border police."
The border police occupied the monastery until 1987, when it became too devastated to provide accommodation. Thanks to Father Bonfilius, who was the first to return to the monastery and put all his effort behind its reconstruction, it is now a frequently visited place offer peaceful and pleasant stays. Zdenek Tousek:
"Most of the financial donations that made reconstruction possible were from individuals who live in Austria and Germany. They are mainly those ethnic Germans who lived in the Sudetenland and were expelled after the war. They gave handsome sums of money to reconstruct the monastery. Another significant sum was donated by the Servite Order. The Servite Order around Innsbruck, in Austria, owned some land and a vineyard. They sold it and gave the money to be used for the monastery's reconstruction."
Just a few kilometers away from Nove Hrady lies Dobra Voda, translated into English as Good Water. It is a place of pilgrimage, known for its (you guessed it) good water. But if you are thinking of the bottled water sold around the country bearing the same name, it is not from the same place. In fact, there are over fifteen places called Dobra Voda around the country and many get this peaceful little village confused with the nearby "bottled water" town of Ceske Budejovice. But unlike the bottled water, which comes from underground sources, this one springs from the nearby Kravi mountain and as Libor Albert, the caretaker of its dominating church says, it has proven to have healing powers:
"I do not know about any legends but we have written documentation that people came here to be treated, mainly for eye diseases. A nobleman from the town of Cesky Krumlov was even revived from his death bed after drinking our water. We also have all the cases documented with pictures and donations that the pilgrims who have come here brought with them."
But despite all of this proof, the fate of Dobra Voda in its current state could be threatened as soon as the Czech Republic becomes a member of the European Union in May next year. Libor Albert explains:
"I drink the water all the time although our accession to the European Union poses a bit of a problem because the water is not treated according to EU norms. But people do not care. They continue to come here to use the water. I had a funny experience about two years ago - there was a big truck parked at the spring and people collected lots of water into big barrels. When I asked them where they were taking it, they said they were fish breeders from the town of Ceske Budejovice and had noticed that our water helped to speeden up the reproduction process. Well, it makes the fish reproduce; I don't know yet whether it has the same effect on us humans."
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