Castle Hunting: Zámek Orlík

Zámek Orlík is a great example of a common kind of building: the semi-fortified chateau, built in an area mostly protected by other, more warlike castles. Here, on the flooded banks of the Vltava river, the structure is a residence with a few fortifications - most likely included as much for cosmetic reasons as for defense. One thing to keep in mind about this edifice is that the water levels of the river at this point are much higher than they used to be. Because of a dam downriver, the zámek is now just a few feet above the surface - when it was built, the rear of the castle was protected by a one hundred eighty foot cliff and looked something like this. In fact, the name "Orlík" is derived from the word for eagle, as it was initially likened to an eagle's nest.
The current version of Zámek Orlík was completed in the 1850's, but little has really changed since the castle's first rebuilding. The original walls were erected in the 13th century, but were destroyed by fire in 1508. At that time, a period of relative peace had made impenetrable strongholds less necessary, and the lords of Švamberk decided that comfort - rather than protection - was their primary need. The Thirty Years War wouldn't begin for another century, and the Hussite wars - which were a major event in Bohemia - had been over for about eight decades. Regional barons were growing in influence, and their wealth and general stability made the lands south of Prague generally more safe than other parts of Europe were.
Adding to the sense of security was the presence of Zámek Zvíkov, a few miles upstream. The impressive fortress, which absolutely commanded the Vltava valley, was considered - at the time - unconquerable. Because the lands to the north were protected from attack by the fortifications around Prague, and because attack from the south seemed unlikely because of Zvíkov, the location didn't require extensive bulwarking. Still, a dry moat was cut into the rock, here, to add to the walls effective height and front trilogy of towers were designed with optimal firing angles in mind.
Notice here how the bank of unprotected windows, which once looked down nearly two hundred feet, are protected by the bulge of the third tower. The crenelations were redesigned much later and are not original - their tiny size seems almost comical atop the battlements. It reminds me, a little, of a Lego castle, with rows of little bricks topping yellow battlements.
There were dozens of cars in the parking lot when we visited. A very European bit of pageantry was being played out amongst the trees in the formal gardens: a wedding party was moving from lawn to courtyard to wall for a series of photographs. There are peacocks there, and their squawking rang out over the water as we climbed along the riverbank. It was cloudy, but there was intermittent sun filtering through and some of the photos came out alright.
At nearby Zámek Zvíkov, which was actually cooler and less populated (but impossible to photograph well), we had lunch. This was mine. I have sworn off unnecessary meat, but this was necessary. In fact, it was either this or deep fried cheese. It's amazing how a nearly fluorescent klobásy can seem like the healthy choice.
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