CZECH REPUBLIC

Within easy reach of Vienna are some of the Czech Republic’s greatest houses and collections. MORAVIA is a frequent destination for Reality & Beyond.

The cramped conditions of the Hofburg Palace encouraged courtiers to build lavishly in Vienna and the Empire. A private visit to the new Liechtenstein Museum sets the scene for the family’s wealth and power, and as of 2013 they will move the second half of their collections back to Vienna. Just over the border, their houses of Lednice and Valtice appear almost as follies themselves in one of the greatest landscape parks of Europe. The Episcopal Summer retreat at Kromeriz offers resplendent 17th and 18th century interiors and gardens, while there are charming houses and gardens all within easy reach of Brno, our base.

‘I loved every moment. My only regret is not to have been there for a few more days, given how much there is to see, but I'm so glad to have visited as many houses as we did, so that one came away with a glorious overview of the countryside (beautiful and so very unspoilt) and the astonishing number of historic houses that have somehow survived. You and Harriet are brilliant at making everything happen exactly as and when it should!’

‘Besides the good weather and the sheer beauty of the places it was perfectly organized and we had lots of fun.’

Brno was centre of so much important architecture of the 1920s and 30s, of which the Tugendhat Villa, Mies van der Rohe’s masterpiece, is the best known, and the subject of the novel The Glass Room. Brno is also foodie heaven these days.

It goes without saying that PRAGUE is a major destination for us, especially as it is now Harriet’s home town, and she can gain access almost anywhere. Contact R&B if you wish to do some special visits.

Prague was an astonishing place during the reign of Rudolf II, who was quite possibly one of the greatest connoisseurs of art in Europe ever, although less competent as Holy Roman Emperor. This year marks the 400th anniversary of his death, and this great Mannerist period had a strong impact on the art and architecture of the city. Prague saw pleasure buildings such as the Star Palace and the Belvedere for the first time in the 16th century. We will visit these, the palaces of his courtiers, as well as his favourite castle in Brandys nad Labem, recently restored, and Tycho de Brahe’s observatory, where Kepler worked. This offbeat tour includes private visits to secret astrological rooms at the Wallenstein Palace, the newly-reopened Martinic palace, as well as the famous Lobkowicz art collection, now reinstalled in Prague Castle. We will visit Rudolf’s early clock collection, and see some of his books and Kunstkammer in a behind-the-scenes visit at Strahov library. There will also be an opportunity to see Don Giovanni at the 18th century Estates Theatre.