Karlštejn Castle – Karlštejn, Czech Republic
"To Guard the Crown"
October 11, 2016:
Sometimes, it’s the little things. Sometimes, a kernel of an idea, of inspiration, will stay with you long after it first comes to mind…
When I was in Prague this October, I made a trip outside the city to a little village called Karlštejn. I wanted to see what was supposed to be the most impressive castle in the Czech Republic – indeed, it was supposed to be one of the most impressive in all the world. I got off the train and walked through the town; toward the end, a tower came into view. Soon, the whole castle rose up from the village and hills, its turrets mimicking Prague’s famous thousand spires.
Once inside the fortress, a guide overflowed my brain with the region’s history. In situations like this, it’s hard to remember all the info, but a few gems sink in. For me, it was this: the castle’s knights were broken into two groups, lower knights and higher knights. While lower knights contributed to most of the castle’s defense, the higher knights – 40 devoted souls – had just one duty: protect the Bohemian crown jewels in the great tower. A single-minded mission, but a mission of the utmost importance. A mission to which they dedicated almost every waking minute of their lives.
After visiting the castle, I stuck around the area for a while; there were dozens of paths through the forest to hike and a few shops and restaurants to visit. Afterwards, I headed back to the train. But before I did, I turned around for one last awe-inspiring castle view, and the moment will stay with me for a long time. I looked up at the keep – its great tower resplendent in the afternoon light – and thought about those knights and their noble directive.