In the North of the Czech Republic, there is a landscape where everything disappeared – nature, villages, life. At the edge of this scenery stands a majestic chateau that survived fires, wars, communist regime, and, most importantly, coal mining in its surroundings.
This chateau is standing side of the traditional touristic trails. The area is famous for its coal mining industry rather than for its natural beauty. However, at the edge of this coal quarry is standing a remarkable chateau where famous composers such as Bach, Beethoven, and Mozart personally performed their compositions. At this time, they had a great view of the lake. Today, at the same place, it is one of the biggest quarries in the Czech Republic. Nevertheless, there is a vision that the lake will be back soon at its location.
Although the chateau was destroyed and empty without any original furnishing, it opened its doors to the public in 1996. It was like a URBEX (urban exploration of abandoned ruins) where time stopped centuries ago. Even today, you can experience the same feeling, because the renovation of the chateau is still in progress.
Originally, a Gothic castle burned down, and the Lobkowicz family reconstructed it in Baroque style. During this time, there was a vast baroque garden of about 500 hectares where the stars of classical music such as Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven presented their latest compositions. Even today, you can see an original baroque theatre (waiting for the reconstruction), where these stars performed their music. It is worth mentioning that the famous Symphony No.3 Eroica by Beethoven had its world premiere at Jezeří.
The unfortunate history continued during WW2 when the Lobkowicz family left the country due to its sympathy with Czechoslovakia. SS took control of the chateau, painted it green, and turned it into the prisoner camp for prominent French prisoners. Personalities such as the brother of French president Charles de Gaulle, or son of prime minister Michael Clémenceau found their imprisonment here.
With the end of the war, the Lobkowicz family got the chateau back for a short period, until the communist regime nationalized it in 1948. This is the period of the longest disrepair of the chateau. The Czech army took it as a seat and destroyed everything that remained. In the 1980s, the Jezeří supposed to be demolished because of the coal mining in its surroundings and even disappeared from the official maps. Thanks to the fall of communism and local public activism, Jezeří survived until today (in contrary to 7 neighboring villages that disappeared in favor of coal mining).
Excursion in the Coal Quarry
If you would like to visit the quarry itself, you have two options. If you are an English speaker, I would recommend you to have a tour with Offroadsafari and specifically ask for this visit (I already visited the Central Bohemian Uplands with them). If you are a Czech speaker, you can go with Offroadsafari as well, or with Uhelné safari that is organized by the coal mining company itself. You might understand that the tour and information would be a bit different.
I book my visit with the Uhelné safari, and we experienced about a 4-hour ride around the quarry. With a group of about 15 people, we explored the area of the quarry with an experienced guide who took us to the mining machinery. We could see the mining in-process and learned about the history and future of mining in the region.
I found fascinating information about the recultivation of the landscape and the future of this place. The company is waiting for the government’s decision in 2021. If the government decides to continue, several other villages will disappear, and the landscape of the quarry will expand. If they decide to stop the coal mining, the quarry will be filled up with water (it would take about 16 years), and the original lake will be at its place again.
The border area of the quarry is already getting green by the power of nature, which is taking its land back. In these parts, you can even see some animals, such as foxes, wild pigs, and mouflons. However, I found the most fascinating border area is with the Chateau Jezeří that is overlooking this moon landscape.