One day of that trip we visited Konopište chateau, the last residence of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, heir of the Austro-Hungarian throne, whose assassination in Sarajevo triggered World War I. Konopište castle is located about 50 km southeast of Prague, outside the city of Benešov. We arrived in the castle in the beautiful sunny morning. First we were impressed by the bear. Exactly, two black bears were walking in the loose-box next to the castle.
In the beginning we had to wait for our excursion time to come. We saw many other animals also. Would be more exact to say we saw birds - the peacock, the hawk and the owl. Later, after the excursion we understood why animals are demonstrated there. This is because of Franz Ferdinand was a passionate hunter.
The excursion to the castle was very interesting and educational as well. The castle was initially constructed as a Gothic fortification in the 13th century, but later it was later transformed into a Baroque style. Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria bought Konopište in 1887 and rebuilt it into a luxurious residence of the future Emperor. Since 1921, it has been a property of the Czechoslovak and later Czech State.
In Konopište castle we had a chance to observe the residential rooms of Franz Ferdinand. It was really interesting to hear that Franz Ferdinand was an enthusiastic hunter. In the castle there is a large collection of antlers, an armory with medieval weapons, and a shooting hall with moving targets. Really, then we first entered the residence we were faced with thousands of antlers, this was really amazing. All the walls and the doorposts were full of them; every antler had a date when the animal was shot. The main hall is a testament to the archduke, who reportedly bagged some 300,000 animals - that translates to an incredible 20 animals a day, every day, for 40 years. Only 1% of his total hunting collection is on display, and it still ranks as one of Europe's largest collections.
I read before the trip that as Konopište keeps extraordinarily rich collections of arts and crafts articles covering the Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque and also modern periods. A dimension of these collections puts Konopište among one of the most interesting manors in Central Europe.
The castle is surrounded by a garden with Italian Renaissance statues and greenhouses. It is a popular place for weddings.
Then the excursion in the castle was over, we had a time to have a lunch and bought some souvenirs from the stands. Actually there was also a small souvenir shop in the castle, where was a good choice. On the castle grounds there is a straightforward Czech restaurant Stará Myslivna, its interior resembles a hunting lodge.
This castle is really great and there is something for everybody - a large garden, thousands of hunting trophies, one of the biggest arms collection in the world, great interior.