Czech Republic

Frýdlant – Day Trips in Czechia

I continue to be amazed by the many interesting and beautiful places that surround Görlitz, and Frýdlant in Czechia is no exception. We recently had a friend from the U.S. visiting us and he wanted to “check off” as many countries from his bucket list as possible. I told him that Görlitz was the perfect place for that, because we are so close to Poland and Czechia. Crossing Poland off the list was simple, since it only required a walk across the bridge. But we didn’t have a lot of time to go to Czechia, so I started looking at the map and saw that there was a small town called Frýdlant just a forty minute drive by car from Görlitz (about 30 km). I noticed that there was a castle and a brewery there, but I knew nothing else about the town before arriving. Sometimes it’s more fun that way! But I discovered that Frýdlant is a charming little town with a castle full of treasures, and the Duke who owned it became embroiled in a feud with Görlitz in the 14th century resulting in a gift to the city.

View of the Castle Frýdlant from the brewery
Castle Frýdlant
Castle Frýdlant

Frýdlant (sometimes also called Frýdlant v Čechách to avoid confusing it with the other Frýdlant nad Ostravicí in eastern Czechia) is a town in the district of Liberec in Bohemia, near the border of Poland with a population of about 7,600. The area, which is near the Jizera Mountains and on the Smědá River, was probably settled beginning in the 6th century by Sorbian tribes from Lusatia, while the castle in Frýdlant made its first appearance in the history books in the 13th century when it was acquired by Rulko of Bieberstein. The castle sits perched atop a hill above the river in the center of town, and has known many different owners over the course of time.

Important trade routes crossed through the area, including those to Görlitz and Lusatia. From Görlitz one could get on the Via Regia, or Royal Highway, which ran west-east through the Holy Roman Empire.  Bieberstein had a moat and curtain walls built to further protect the castle, but it was still raided several times during the Hussite Wars (1419-1434). The originally gothic castle was rebuilt into the style of a Renaissance chateau.

Frýdlant Castle
Frýdlant Castle

The castle in Frýdlant changed hands many times over the centuries due to death, politics, assassination and intrigue. Some of the famous people that owned it were the families Bieberstein and Redern, or Albrecht Wallenstein, a prominent military leader during the Thirty Years War who was later assassinated for treachery. But one of the owners worth mentioning here, because of his relevance to the history of Görlitz, is Friedrich von Bieberstein. He was a baron and one of the most powerful men in the kingdom of Bohemia, he also owned the castles Landeskrone and Tauchritz. In 1349 von Bieberstein became involved in a feud with the city of Görlitz.

The cause of the feud was a warrant for the arrest of a thief and general mischief-maker named Nitsche von Rackwitz. Görlitz wanted to lock him up, and they knew him to be a vassal of von Bieberstein, so the city sent a delegation to Tauchritz to demand the delivery of the criminal Nitsche, but von Bieberstein refused to hand him over. The delegation decided enough was enough, and they rode with an armed crew to the castle Frýdlant, where they suspected Rackwitz was staying, and they stormed the castle to capture and arrest him. Von Bieberstein anticipated this move, however, and he met the armed crew there and ordered his guards to slay them as enemy invaders. Two men from Görlitz lost their lives at the castle, the rest of the men ran but the guards caught up with them in the square and left five more dead.

Naturally, this angered the people of Görlitz, and they demanded some recompense for the lives lost in the pursuit of justice. After much negotiating, von Bieberstein agreed to pay Görlitz 200 Shock (the coin currency used at the time), so that a church could be built for the salvation of the seven slain men from Görlitz. That church is the Frauenkirche, which today stands beside the Kaufhaus in Görlitz. Read more about the Frauenkirche here. 

The Frauenkirche in Görlitz

Today the castle Frýdlant (Zámek Frýdlant) is open for tours and contains an incredible collection of original decorations, furniture and historical artifacts since it escaped damage or raiding after WWII. If you tour the castle you will see the Countess’ and children’s rooms preserved with decorations and contents, an exhibit on  Albrecht von Wallenstein, an armory containing thousands of historic weapons dating from the Hussite period up to the 19th century, the chapel of St. Anne which has both a Catholic and Protestant altar, the uniforms of staff at the castle, an impressive antique pipe collection, and a working kitchen. I am used to visiting castles that are beautiful from the outside, but quite empty inside as a result of war and looting, so I was quite blown away by the historical treasures this castle contains. The castle interior can only be visited during a guided tour – we took a tour in Czech language but were given a script to read along in German and English.  I can only show you pictures of the exterior of the castle and the kitchen, as photography wasn’t allowed inside. You will just have to go and see it for yourself!

Kitchen in Castle Frýdlant
Kitchen in Castle Frýdlant
Castle Frýdlant

The town square in Frýdlant is small but charming, lined with colorful houses and the town hall building which was erected in 1893 according to plans by the Viennese architect Franz Neumann. Located inside of the town hall is a city museum with archaeological and historical exhibits. The square is named after Thomas Masaryk, the first president of Czechoslovakia after independence from the Austro-Hungarian monarchy in 1918. The town of Frýdlant, with a majority German population, became part of the newly-founded country. Masaryk was one of the first politicians to voice concern at the rise of Hitler, but he didn’t live to see the Nazi occupation of his country in 1938. After WWII ended, the Germans living in the area were expelled and replaced by Czech settlers.

Town square in Frýdlant
Statue of Albrecht von Wallenstein in Frýdlant town square
Frýdlant Town Hall
Frýdlant Town Hall
Church of the Holy Cross in Frýdlant

Just south of the town square is the Church of the Holy Cross (Kostel Nalezení svatého Kříže), which was built in the 16th century by Italian architects contracted by the Bieberstein family, and today has a mixture of architectural styles due to renovations over the years. The church contains the tombs of the family Redern.

North of the town square you will see a small half-timbered home hidden away on Zahradní, a tiny side street. This, one of the oldest buildings in town, is called the Bethlehem House and inside is an amazing construction – a moving, mechanical nativity scene. The man who created it, Gustav Simon, dedicated 60 years of his life to the construction. Today you can visit for a very small fee, make sure to peek underneath to see how all the figures are moved by string. Every so often they have to crank the machine to wind it up again. Watch the video below to see the nativity scene in motion:

We enjoyed a traditional meal and Czech beer at the restaurant U Wéwody fridlantského near the town square, and also stopped by Pivovar Frýdlant, the historic castle brewery that was built at the request of the Emperor Ferdinand I and has been restored today to a microbrewery. You should stop here not only to taste their Albrecht beer, named after castle occupant Albrecht von Wallenstein, but for the great view of the castle sitting atop the hill.

Bethlehem House in Frýdlant
Restaurant U Wéwody fridlantského in Frýdlant
Albrecht beer from the microbrewery in Frýdlant

On the way out of town we stopped at an observation tower, Rozhledna Frýdlant, which you can climb for a nice view of the town and the area. While we were there they were having some kind of marathon and at the tower they were grilling and playing live music. There were many hiking trails here and people out enjoying the unusually sunny and warm autumn weather.

I was really impressed by this small town that I had never heard of: a castle stuffed full of beautiful treasures, an intriguing historical link to Görlitz, and all just a forty minute drive away! Discovering places like this in the area are a big part of why I absolutely love living in Görlitz and can’t wait to discover more.

Lookout tower Rozhledna Frýdlant

A Weekend in Loket

When I heard that there was a Becherovka museum in Karlovy Vary (Becherovka is a Czech brand of herbal liquor), I became very interested in going there, but I noticed the accommodations in Karlovy Vary were a bit pricey. I also tend to like smaller towns when I travel because I like the slower place and getting to know the town better in a short amount of time. So I started searching on the map for places that were nearby and I came across a town called Loket, or Elbogen in German, both words meaning elbow.

Loket Czechia old town castle bridge czech republic

When I looked up some pictures of Loket online I was stunned by how picturesque it was and knew I had to go there! Loket is about 285 km from Görlitz, so it took us about 3.5 hours to drive there. It’s not really the right distance for a day trip, but perfect for a weekend getaway. Loket gets its name from the shape of the river Ohre, which surrounds it on three sides. It made a perfect location for the fortified castle and town to protect from intruders (the castle dates back to the 13th century).

Loket town hall main square czechia
The main square in Loket

We arrived after dark and in a bit of a snowstorm to our hotel Restaurant & Pension Atmosfera. The room was really beautiful with chandeliers, antique-looking furnishings and a beautiful tiled stove. The bed was perfect for those who like firm mattresses and we thoroughly enjoyed eating breakfast and dinner in the restaurant. Each morning we were the only ones there and they served us bread with meat & cheese, eggs and apple strudel.

Pension Restaurant Atmosfera Loket
Pension & Restaurant Atmosfera in Loket

In fact, we sometimes felt we were the only ones in Loket! In January the town almost shuts down and there were only two restaurants open that we could find. We didn’t mind because we felt that we had the entire town to ourselves! When we woke up the next day, the sun was shining so we decided to take a walk through the hills around the city where we had several stunning lookout points to photograph and stare in awe at this fairytale-like place. This was my favorite part by far.

loket czechia castle historic town
One of the views form our walk in the hills around Loket

We also booked a tour of the Becherovka museum in Karlovy Vary, the museum is no longer the location of the factory as they have moved to a more modern facility on the edge of town. The tour was quick and to the point, and the point was obviously the sampling of different liquors at the end! There were other flavors sold in their gift shop, so I wish we could have tasted those as well, since I already know what their standard tastes like. We bought some souveniers, like a bottle with a retro look and a special kind called KV14 which is sugar-free and has 40% alcohol content.

Jan Becher Museum in Karlovy Vary Becherovka Carlsbad
Jan Becher Museum in Karlovy Vary

Jan Becher Becherovka museum samples in Karlovy Vary Carlsbad Czechia

I would love to go back to Loket sometime when it’s warmer. Perhaps I won’t like it when it’s swarming with tourists – how could a place this magical not be? However, I’d like to try more of the restaurants and shops when they are open and go further on the paths in the hills around the town. I read that one can walk all the way from Loket to Karlovy Vary! Another great excuse to go to Loket are the events held at their open-air amphitheater which is just below the castle – they have an annual opera festival and I saw that this year Jethro Tull will be playing there!

Loket Czechia Amphitheater open air castle
Amphitheater in Loket

The weekend was over far too quickly and we regretfully packed our bags to drive home on Sunday. When we went outside, the town was coated in a layer of snow and the sun was out, so we stopped along the road to take a few more pictures of this magical place before we had to leave.

Loket Czechia in the snow

Loket Czechia Castle in the snow

You might be interested in these other day trips in Czechia:

Liberec – Day Trips in Czechia

Liberec is one of our favorite day trips from Görlitz – it’s only about an hour away by car or 2 hours by train. That’s one of the great things about living in Görlitz, you are a very short distance away from both Poland and the Czech Republic!

We have really fallen in love with this little town. Liberec (Lee-bur-etz) is the fifth largest city in Czechia and part of the historical region of Bohemia. The city was formerly known as Reichenberg and was settled by German migrants in the 14th century.  Most of the Germans were expelled after WWII. The city thrived in the textile industry and many beautiful buildings were erected towards the end of the 19th century, including the impressive town hall and the opera house, which boasts a curtain designed by the famous Austrian artist Gustav Klimt.

Liberec is also located on the Neiße River and is surrounded by the Jizera Mountains, where you can hike, bike or ski in winter. Sitting atop the highest summit (1,012 m/3,320 ft) is the Jested Tower, a futuristic, space-ship like structure that was finished in 1973. It’s a hotel, restaurant and television tower. You can choose to hike up to the summit, drive, or take the cable car.

We decided to take the cable car to the top, although there were many people walking, biking or driving up. We were lucky to have great weather that day and although it was a bit windy up top, the views were fabulous in all directions. We stopped to have a beer and take it all in.

During one of our visits we decided to walk down instead of taking the cable car back. There is a paved road that winds around and around down the mountain. It was taking forever, so we thought we’d be clever and take a shortcut down the path of the ski-lift. This was a mistake since the path was so steep we had trouble walking down it (can’t imagine walking up!), but we made it in one piece.

Starving after our strenuous hike down the mountain, we stopped and ate at our favorite restaurant in Liberec: Plzeňka-Duli. The portions are generous, the food is hearty and filling and the prices are unbelievable. The most expensive meal on the menu is 120 Czech Koruna (which as I write is equal to about €4.44!). Once you look at the beer prices (Pilsner Urquell and Gambrinus) you will need no further convincing. There are also several cafes lining the Dr. Edvard Benes Square where the town hall is located and you can enjoy a drink or some ice cream while people watching in this beautiful square.

Delicious Czech food and…hey, I need a refill!

Liberec is also known for its zoo, botanical garden and its water park. The zoo was the first to be opened in the Czech Republic in 1919 and has many different species on display including rare white tigers. The Babylon aqua park is a great escape for both children and adults, with a spa, waterslides, caves, laser games, bowling, indoor golf and an aquarium, among other things!

If you decide to go to Liberec by train, there is an incredible deal to be had by purchasing the Euro-Neisse Ticket. This ticket covers several destinations in Germany, Poland and Czechia. The ticket is for 1-5 people (the more the cheaper!) and is valid for any number of trips until 4am on the following day and also covers local public transportation. The Euro-Neisse ticket will also get you a reduced price for the cable car to the summit.

Whether you are looking for a day trip from Görlitz or Prague, Liberec is just more proof of the unique experiences and surprisingly great prices you can find when you take a risk and stray from the more touristy cities!

Here are some other wonderful places you can visit in our region that are in the area of the Euro-Neisse ticket!

 

like-photo