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Written by  Professor Barry Goldsmith

BTHDT Europe
My favorite castle in the Czech Republic is Konopiste, a few miles outside Prague. Too many guidebooks warn visitors if they support animal rights to avoid Konopiste. Agreed that its thousands of displayed antlers and taxidermied animals are repulsive, but homes of many great hunters (such as Teddy Roosevelt’s Sagamore Hill) also reflect their owners’ greatness.

Konopiste, home Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife, Sophie, shows the life of two people who were hunted and murdered in Sarajevo - the repercussions of which precipitated WWI - changing the world forever. Konopiste offers 5 tours. Tours 1 and 2 involve guns and hunting. Tour 3, “Franz Ferdinand and Sophie’s Personal Apartments,” personifies their tragedy beyond history books - a mother and father struck down, orphaning their three children. The sites seen on Tour 3 sear your memory; the music on the piano is still opened to the last Chopin waltz Sophie ever played. When you pick Tour 3, you’ll even see the bullet that killed the archduke. While in the Czech Republic, visit the charming and perfectly-preserved town of Cesky Krumlov, with its dominating hilltop castle, the second largest in the Czech Republic. Once again, the tour you choose makes all the difference. Tours 1 & 2 see the castle’s many period rooms, covering the history of furniture design from Renaissance through Baroque through Neoclassical to Neo-Rococo (“Victorian”). Taking the first two tours, you’ll miss the castle (and the town’s) most important draw, its sensational 18th-century Baroque Theater (pictured above). Cesky Krumlov’s theater has something totally unique. In addition to its 18th-century sets and sound-effect machines, this theatre has over 600 perfectly-preserved 18th-century costumes! Choosing the right tour is equally as important when visiting well-known sites: Versailles: Touring Versailles’ main (mostly furniture-less) palace can be disappointing. Instead, visit the fully furnished Grand Trianon and the exquisite, jewel-like (Marie Antoinette’s refuge) Petit Trianon, with its elegant Louis XVI furniture, and surrounding gardens. A “revolutionary” new tour has been added to Versailles “official” tours - the Versailles Tennis Court just outside the palace where (just a few weeks before the storming of the Bastille) delegates to a meeting (called by Louis XVI to raise money) refused to disband until they pledge France a constitution.

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