Trebic & Telc

If cultural heritage was like Michelin stars, Trebic would be very exclusive, and it is with two UNESCO sites .  



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A town is born

Not expensive but rather low key. The baby brother of Jihlava with just shy of 40 000 inhabitants is located in the central Vysočina region of Czechia. Perhaps it would not even be if it was not for a group of Benedictine Monks who in the 12th century built a monastery overlooking the Jihlava River. Merchants followed and the town was born.


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Cathedral of St Procopius

Off the interior walls of exposed grey stone hang a balcony for the Waldstein family who built the adjacent castle. A spectrum of light filter through the large rose window. In some of the smaller rooms or chapels off the main nave tells stories in soft colors. Below it all the crypt where many of the hundreds of stone masons have made their marks in the basilica building blocks. The two towers of the church were added in the 18th century when the castle was expanded. Passing by the small spice garden is in season a treat for the olfactory nerves as insects swarm around fragrant flowers. A lookout at the end of the garden offers a fine view of the Jewish quarters and the town on either side of the river below. At the bottom of the ramp an ice cream shop is worth a lick.

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Jewish Quarters

The town’s second UNESCO site is the Jewish ghetto likely established somewhere in the 16th century growing to about 1500 inhabitants by the end of the 19th century. By the 1930ies only three hundred remained and they were all sent to concentration camps by the Nazis, none survived. Less than a dozen of earlier inhabitants returned after WW II and today’s inhabitants are mostly non-Jews. During the following Soviet influence the new synagogue was used as potato storage until the velvet revolution. 



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Since the original Hebrew texts have been restored along the white washed walls and on the women’s balcony a museum has opened. The synagogue is currently used also for non-secular events and music performances. A few houses up the street have been transformed into a museum of Jewish life with the family area upstairs and a grocery shop downstairs. As the Jews were separated from the rest of the town so was their cemetery. Located on a steep slope out of sight from the town the ivy covered cemetery it is also included in the UNESCO designation. Some of the Hebrew covered headstones lean precariously others bear witness of the Holocaust. 


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Across the Jihlava river the town itself is centered around a rectangular town square, surrounded by buildings in pastel colors. Above, the tall Town tower cast a shadow. It was built after 1335 but before 1468 when a historic text tell of an invading Hungarian army trying to topple the solid stone structure. At first it appears that it is a part of the Church of St. Martina but they were not fused until 1716. The tower stretch 75 meters into the air and can be scaled through a narrow door from where narrow spiral stairs spiral up to the ticket counter.  Thereafter it gets easier to scale creaky but wider wooden steps occasionally with low clearance. Until 1956 the top of the tower was occupied by a family whose job it was to warn the town’s people of impeding dangers and act as a sort of fire marshal. Whatever the living conditions up there was like there could be no complaining about the bird’s eye view. 


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Telc

Lifting his gaze from the church below to the castle onto the elongated town square surrounded by renaissance facades was a part of his job. Looking beyond the two artificial lakes, the park and around the horizon he scanned for threats. The lookout of Telc saw the vision of a renaissance man. What he did no see was the modern eye sore of a parking lot in the middle of the square. His top floor office lacked elevator and plumbing. Food was hoisted up to the balcony in buckets and his human bodily needs went the other way.  


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A (de)sign of the times 

Down in the castle Zachariáš of Hradec had taken ill and relinquished his duties before turning 5-0. He could not have known that 500 years later his vision would grant Telc a place on UNESCOS World Heritage list. It began in 1530, when Zachariáš was three, when a devastating fire burned much of the town to the ground. He inherited the remnants at 23 after his father’s sudden demise in 1549. Two years later on a trip to Italy he became smitten by the artistry and architecture of the renaissance. He set Italian architects and craftsmen to work in Telc for years to come and expanded the original 14th century Gothic Castle with new wings, parks, new city gates and dug out two artificial lakes. Much of the wealth in Telc came from trade as it lies on the route from Prague and Vienna. Farming and fish farming also bolstered the town’s economy. 


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Today tourists can follow in his footsteps through the castle starting in the gothic part with low vaulted ceilings covered by medieval painted patterns. A long blackened relief of St George lancing the dragon was uncovered under thick layers of soot and another room was converted for private weddings and ceremonies. Upstairs a grand office where the town’s business were handled, attached to it a small library with a portrait of the very beautiful lady of the house. A narrow gallery filled with big game hunting trophies dating from the 19th and 20th century long before illegal poaching.  


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A covered walkway with views of an interior park could just as well have been in Florence. So could the hall floored with geometrical marble mosaic over which a ceiling of semi-nude renaissance paintings and reliefs hover. Knight’s armor flanks the portraits on the walls in the intimate yet grand room.  Around the courtyard back to the gothic part and the grand banquet hall with an original wood flooring of massive blond planks with simple darker inlays. Even here a side room for private conversations with the lord of the house. 


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Cobblestones and candy

In the midst of the square it is hard picking a favorite amongst the pallet of grand candy colored renaissance and baroque facades. The wealthy burgers, the baker, the goldsmith, the fishmonger, the builder, the… had all tried to outdo each other leaving behind eye candy. It is Italian inspired yet tweaked to local circumstances amongst which one is snow. As snow melted it was funneled through drain holes which later were fitted with pipes an invention not present in Italy at the time. To claim bragging rights some even build gables taller than the buildings behind them and added fake windows. 


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After the inclusion on the UNESCO World Heritage list in 1992 tourism has grown to become a major source of income. Visitor numbers were also spurred by music and medieval festivals. One enjoyable way to digest the scenery is with a measure of the national beverage jokingly referred to as “liquid bread”. Here in Telc rose tinted glasses ar not needed, just lift the pint and look through the rich golden color of pilsner. 

Na zdraví!


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