After, Znojmo, where else to visit in the Czech Republic? After all, one can only indulge in so many wine-cellars; it's
estimated that there are at least 10,000 in the country, most of them in Moravia. You may sample Ryzlink rynsky, Gruner veltliner, ice wine, and if you are lucky, straw wine. Rose-scented Palava is known as 'Yes' wine, because girls plied with it can't say no. Clearly I lack the stamina of one redoubtable British wine-writer who tasted the whole catalogue of 130 wines from nine to four at one place, discussed their qualities with the sommelier, then said she was thirsty and asked to be taken out - for a glass of wine.
The small town of Telč, a UNESCO Heritage site, claims to possess the most enchanting of castles, built in the 14th century, transformed from a Gothic Residence to a Renaissance chateau in the16th century. (Every hill in the Czech Republic seems to be crowned with its own red-roofed castle.) The builder of the castle was Zacharias of Hradec, after whom the plaza was named; the houses in the central square, adorned with facades, gables and arcades, are so much like a stage setting that you expect cheerful peasants to fill the street and burst into song. Until 1945, Telc had, as did its neighbor Jihlava, a principally German-speaking population.
Charles IV, (1316-1378) son of John of Luxembourg, liked Telc so much that he bought the entire town when he was Margrave of Moravia. In a dazzling career rise, he went on to become King of the Czechs and then, Holy Roman Emperor. This civilized and intelligent monarch is regarded as the Father of his country - and the wine-industry.
The Chateau Lednice, "the Garden of Europe," was originally a Gothic fortress. A series of notable architects then rendered it Baroque, classical, and finally back to neo-Gothic in the mid-nineteenth-century. The city walls and the Church of the Ascension of Mary are Gothic in style. It was the summer pad of the Liechtenstein family, who were so wealthy, that they loaned the king money whenever he ran short. Among the attractions are two chateaux and manor houses set in a vast 200 km. English-style park. There is an enormous greenhouse, 92 metres long with cast-iron columns shaped like bamboo stems. The gardens surrounding this fairy tale establishment are French, with towering hedges. You can take a dreamy cruise along the two km. artificial canal built by 700 prisoners of war in Napoleonic times.
If you are brave enough to visit the park at midnight, you may see the Black Knight. You will hear the pounding of hooves and from the murk the ghostly rider, his skull lurking in a large black cape, will appear, often accompanied by several ghosts. At dawn, they vanish into one of the Lednice pools.
Among the rare imported birds, plants and exotic animals inhabiting the park is an unusual castorine Canadian errant. It's a poignant tale. He is an old beaver, a widower, who likes to lie for hours sun-bathing on a bank.
At the end of the cruise, you disembark and walk back to the Chateau, admiring those fantasies beloved of eighteenth and nineteenth-century nobility: a 302-foot arcaded minaret decorated with sayings from the Koran, temples of Apollo and Diana, an obelisk, and a "Roman" aqueduct with an "Inferno" in a cave beneath.
Only Czech Airlines (www.czechairlines.com)fly direct to Prague from Toronto or Montreal. It's a treat. They don't make you take off your shoes, you eat with proper knives and forks and you can enjoy Moravian wine.
Mary Alice Downie writes for Kingston Life Magazine and contributes to Fifty-five Plus, Good Times, Forever Young and many other magazines as well as a food blog, 'Edible Souvenirs' on the website
kingstonlife.ca. She is the author of 28 books for children and adults.
Transportation, visas, health, maps and temperature
Airlines (Wikipedia): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_airlines
Embassies/Consulates (Embassy World): http://www.embassyworld.com/
Health precautions (WHO): http://www.who.int/ith/en/
Google interactive map: http://maps.google.com/
Temperature (Temperature World): http://www.temperatureworld.com/