Just as the Swiss escape to their chalets in the mountains and Parisians flee to their homes in Normandy, there's a mass exodus from Prague every Friday afternoon as the Czechs head to their cottages in the countryside. During the Communist era, these privately owned cabins provided a refuge from the constant control of the regime. At their homes in the country, people worked for their own benefit, not for the state. They planted vegetables to supplement the meagre supplies available in the stores, went mushroom picking in the woods and relaxed with their families. The cottage tradition is so engrained in the Czech Republic that second home owners represent 89 to 90% of the population of some Czech villages.
Always ready to adapt to the local way of life, Stéphane and I exchanged the hectic pace of Prague for the serenity of Chateau Hostacov last Friday. Nestled at the foot of the Czech-Moravian Highlands, the hotel is such a perfect place for a getaway that we started referring to it jokingly as "our weekend cottage".
|The wood-paneled library at Chateau Hostacov|
Our sojourn in the countryside started with a friendly welcome followed by a glass of sparkling wine in front of the roaring fire in the reception area. On the way to our second floor room, owner Vojtěch Haša opened the doors to the wood-paneled library and the billiard room. With plenty of books, games and a piano at our disposal, Stéphane and I knew that we would be pleasantly occupied even if the changeable Spring weather didn't cooperate with our plans for leisurely walks in the hotel's expansive park.
Suffering a bit from wine withdrawal because we've been drinking beer almost exclusively in the Czech Republic, I enthusiastically agreed when Vojtěch asked if we had any interest in joining the pre-dinner wine tasting. It was a great decision, not only for the chance to taste some Australian wines but because it also gave us the opportunity to learn more about Vojtěch's life. Born in the Czech Republic, Vojtěch's family emigrated to Australia when he was a child. In between swirling and sampling glasses of Watershed's Senses Cabernet Merlot and Senses Shiraz, Vojtěch explained that he had spent eight years in London before returning to the Czech Republic to take on the task of restoring Chateau Hostacov to its former glory.
|Room 214 at Chateau Hostacov|
With its Louis XIV style furniture, oversized spa bath large enough for two and an assortment of organic, loose leaf tea, our suite was a delightful testament to Chateau Hostacov's complete transformation from a 13th century fortress to an upscale hotel.
For Stéphane, the highlight of the weekend was the 18 hole disc (frisbee) golf course in Chateau Hostacov's large park. Inhaling the crisp air as we walked past the small lake, we wondered if it's time to swap our urban lives for something more pastoral. The chirping of the birds and the soothing gurgle of the stream through the forest provided a welcome change from the discordant sounds of the city.
If you're looking for a weekend escape that's less than 90 minutes from Prague by car, book a sojourn at Chateau Hostacov. With a restaurant serving locally sourced food, comfortable rooms and plenty of fresh air, it's going to be Stephane's and my home-away-from-home for the next couple of years. In any case, we'll have to return soon to replenish our supply of Watershed Australian wine.
Insider's tips: Ask for a room overlooking the forest. There aren't any televisions in the rooms but the wifi is fast and reliable if you need to stay plugged into the world. During the summer months, be sure to pack a swimming suit for the pool and tennis gear. Guests can also rent bikes for a pleasant ride to the nearby Chateau Zleby. The hotel also serves as a very convenient base for visiting Kutna Hora, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Golčův Jeníkov 582 82
Not surprisingly, Chateau Hostacov is rated "excellent" by travelers on Trip Advisor. Click here to read the reviews.
|Sunset at Chateau Hostacov|
|One of the greens of the 18 hole disc (frisbee) golf course in Chateau Hostacov's large park|