The Wallenstein Palace
Our last day in the historic city of Prague was spent with sight seeing in the morning followed by a fun pedal boat ride in the afternoon that we had promised Jerome all weekend after he saw the boats on our first walk over the Charles Bridge.
Our first stop was a tour of the gardens of the Wallenstein Palace, which had been recommended to me by a friend as one of the must see destinations in Prague. After a short walk down the hill from our hotel we reached the entrance to this baroque building. The Wallenstein Palace is a vast complex of buildings, 26 in total and was built in the 16th century by one of the wealthiest and most powerful nobleman at the time. Nowadays it houses the Czech Senate and the splendid halls can be visited by guided tours only but the gardens are open on most days.
The Beautiful Garden Pavilion
We only barely glanced at the buildings and strolled through a pretty courtyard to the entrance of the gardens. The Wallenstein Garden was created in Italian style and congregated into six individual sections. It was the first formal garden ever to be built in Prague and is completely enclosed by a high wall and buildings. Soon after we entered, we noticed one of the most stunning features of the garden, the Sala Terrena (garden pavilion) to our right. The monumental loggia contains three arcades, a high arched vault with incredible frescoes and stucco details. The paintings exhibit Greek myths and were the work of a famous Italian artist.
While I admired the beauty of the garden pavilion the boys had already moved on to find the stalactite grotto. The grotto is covered in fake lime stucco stalactites, as it was part of the fashion at the time. We had seen a similar cave, even though on a much smaller scale in Mallorca a few weeks before using recycled real stalactites. There was also a huge bird aviary with some sleepy owls perched on trees. The walls inside and next to the aviary were also designed to look like a limestone cave. The boys noticed a moon statue among the grey stalactites. We wondered if there were other things hidden on the wall and soon enough we found a tiger and several other animals, plus a gruesome face. Quite a cool idea we thought and a great occupation for kids to enjoy while wandering through this part of the garden.
There were only a few other visitors, some enjoyed the shade of the chestnut trees for a respite of the already warm morning sun, others were wandering through the semi-maze of paths between the tall beech hedges in the formal garden.
The other main section of the garden included an artificial pond with an islet at its midst. On it we could see a marble fountain with the statue of Hercules. The pond was once used as a boating lake and for experiments with steamships, although we thought it was far too small for this purpose! Jerome noticed cute, little ducklings among the yellow irises and to our surprise a white peacock. We would soon discover other peacocks, some had sought shade underneath the bushes and plants around the pond. I was sad to discover the greenhouse was closed for visitors, I could spy some interesting plants and succulents though the windows and Chris and I would have liked a closer look.
From the Wallenstein Gardens we went on to the Jewish Quarter, all in my next post.