I fell in love with Telč at first sight. I was looking at day trips from Prague and one of the images opened up to reveal pastel-shaded wooden houses with painted fronts and an empty cobbled square.
Further research revealed this town square, called Náměstí Zachariáše z Hradce, was an UNESCO heritage site. (We all know how much I love heritage spaces. Read Hoi An: The Town that time forgot.)
I knew I had to get there.
I got off the bus at the town square in this Southern Moravian town, and dragged myself (and my suitcase) over cobbled grey paths before reaching the square. It was bitterly cold and I had two heavy bags with me. And then I round a corner and stop short.
The town square
In person, Telč is even prettier than its pictures. The square, often called one of the prettiest in the country, lies at the centre of the town and on all sides, are beautiful wooden buildings – in yellows, pinks, greens and blues. Each of the houses has its own history and distinct style. I spent my first few hours there, just craning my neck upwards trying to understand the artwork.
Aside: History lesson – The history of Telč dates back to the 1300s. In the 1500’s, Zachariaš of Hradec rebuilt the town square after a massive fire damaged it. The houses thus had vaulted arcades added to their fronts, creating a covered walkway. Italian architects arrived and the Gothic castle, chateau and town underwent a magnificent Renaissance makeover. The houses are residential spaces or homestays, shops or restaurants and administrative centres; No 2 is a former Jesuit hostel, No 10 is the town hall and No 3 is a study centre.
The centre of the square had two fountains and a Marian column. The Marian (or Plague) column, dates back to 1717 and has the saints: Jan Nepomucký, Jakub, František Xaverius, Roch, Sebastián and the Guardian Angel; St. Rosalia (in a small alcove), and finally, Maria Magdalena. Atop a column of clouds on the globe stands the Virgin Mary. There’s a small water pump too, at the side.
It is around the square that tourists and townsfolk congregate, drinking cheap alcohol (hello white wine that costs 20 Kč – Rs 12 approx). Since we landed there late afternoon, K and I had a leisurely lunch and then walked about, stopping to admire street musicians filling the silence with the sweet melodies of the saxophone and trumpet.
Beyond the square
Away from the square, the town is quite small. It was originally created as a moated fortress so is surrounded by a ring of interconnected lakes. A walk to the north, takes us past a small gate and into a spacious park surrounded by duck ponds. There, we spot horses in a nearby field, duck chasing each other, owners taking their dogs out for walks and spectacular views of the town.
The northern end of the square is the chateau; Zachariáš of Hradec who transformed a Gothic castle into a Renaissance residence. It is beautifully preserved and there are daily tours -two, in Czech but with English booklets – of about an hour each. One tour takes us through the different halls: the Golden Hall, which has carvings and paintings on the ceiling; the Knights’ Hall has armory and weapons, and the African Hall has wall-mounted trophy busts. The tour also gives a glimpse into the rooms of the chateau, filled with waffle ceilings, a naked statue of Adam and Eve and oil paintings of the castle’s inhabitants. The Chapel of St George, which has a detailed depiction of St George fighting a dragon, holds the remains of Zachariáš.
The town’s shops/ restaurants shut by 6 pm, so we amble about, stopping to eat pastries at tiny bakeries, exploring a supermarket before finally settle in at a local bar, Herna (Non Stop Bar). There, we drink Czech beer (14 Kč) and try to make sense of local music videos. A closer look inside the bar reveals a room full of slot machines!
Telč is undoubtedly a pretty and romantic town and a well preserved historic square. Itis possible to explore it in a day, since the town shuts down early and there’s no nighttime entertainment.
Where to stay/ The homestay
Unknown to me, the homestay I booked was actually part of the heritage site, which meant I was actually living in a piece of history – Pension Stedler was newly reconstructed Renaissance 16th century building. The house, number 8, was a beautiful shade of pastel green and opened into a dark cool space. It was in the middle of the main square in front of baroque pestilence column an fountains. The bus/ train station is a ten-minute walk away.
I booked a twin room with private bathroom, common living room with a little kitchenette for 800 CZK without breakfast (870 CZK with breakfast).
There are direct buses from Prague (Florenc bus terminal) to Telč and back; takes about two hours. A cheaper option, which I took was taking a Student Agency bus from Prague to Jihlava (150Kč) and a local bus from there on; took about 2.5 hours and cost much lesser (about 50 Kč).
- Telc is a heritage town about two hours away from Prague.
- It is a perfectly preserved example of a historic town square, and a UNESCO heritage site.
- It boasts a beautiful town square, surrounding duck ponds and parks, churches, a watch tower and a well-restored chateau.
- The place is relaxed and quiet and everything shuts by 6 pm; very few places stay open for dinner.
- It is good for a day visit, or a night stay if you want to live in a house that dates back to the 16th century.