Blog WHS Visits

WHS #735: Kladruby nad Labem

I’ve never liked horses. I’ve never had the common young girls crush on those stereotypically ‘noble’ animals. As an adult, on a group tour to Turkmenistan, I remember an obligatory stop at a breeding farm of Akhal-Teke horses which bored me within minutes. So the appearance of the horse farm of Kladruby nad Labem on the World Heritage List last year did not give me great joy. But well, you gotta go to every single one WHS and the subject in this case at least is quite original in the WH context.

I did look forward to the day trip as a whole though, starting the small expedition by public transport to the Czech countryside fresh of the plane. Having learned from previous reviewers, I visited on a Friday to make the best of the railway connections. On weekdays there are 2 trains per hour between Prague Central and Recany nad Labem, the closest station to Kladruby.

It was a gorgeous sunny day, which proved to be a blessing for the final 3km roadside walk. There are white-blue-white markers painted on trees to show the way, but it is easy anyway: just go straight ahead from the station. The first 1.5km of the walk is extremely boring, only when you cross the Elbe river (Labe in Czech) the landscape becomes more interesting. There are pastures bordered with white fences in which the horses run their laps every now and then - but I saw only few of them outside.

When I arrived at the ticket office and asked for a tour of the stables, they turned out to be sold out for the rest of the day! They only had tickets left for the tour of the castle at 3 o'clock - that meant waiting an hour for an undoubtedly boring tour. The gods of European castles and palaces may have had their revenge on me for my disparaging comments….

I bought the ticket anyway (90 Czech crowns / EUR 3.40) to get a taste of the atmosphere of the farm. At least I got a nice looking entrance ticket with a close up of a horse head in return. Access to the general areas is free and the WHS covers a large cultural landscape so it is not hard to get your ‘tick’, but the more interesting parts of this WHS are only unlocked by guides.

So I hung around for an hour - luckily there were benches in the shade available, as well as an ice cream cart. A side entrance to the stables was open and I could peek in there to see some of the horses. The Kladruby horses are sturdy animals: they are either pure black or white (light gray). About 250 are kept and trained here. They were especially bred to pull carriages, in contrast to the more famous Lipica where the Habsburgers bred their riding horses.

I can be short about my tour of the castle. About 20 fellow visitors showed up: all Czechs and the tour was also in Czech only. I received an explanation booklet in English. The (small) castle, more similar to a hunting lodge, has been heavily restored in recent years and looks newish. The only room of interest I found the one where copies of the studbooks of the Kladruby horses are displayed.

Els - 9 August 2020

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