Extreme Castle Makeover: Chateau Trebesice
The Czech Republic has more castles per square mile than any other country, not a big surprise in a land that has long been a major crossroads of trade routes and cultures. In fact, while other countries produce reality shows on home makeovers, this magical country in the heart of Europe has reality shows remaking castles.
Forty years of Communism kept the Czech Republic’s 2000 plus castles and chateaus a secret, but since 1989 when Velvet Revolutionaries rose up and demanded freedom, many of the castles of this proud country have been restored and updated.
I recently had the privilege of visiting Chateau Trebesice, a Renaissance castle (complete with moat) that is lovingly being restored by Italian artist Eugenio Percossi and his partner, architect Alberto Di Stefano.
Much like the fairytale, Sleeping Beauty, where the prince had to hack through 100 years of brambles to get to the castle to bestow his kiss, Percossi and Di Stefano took on a monstrous job when they bought the 13th century castle just ouside Kutna Hora, one of two Czech cities listed as World Heritage sites.
“We spent the first two years just removing brush,” says Percossi, an artist of much renown with past shows in New York, Rome, Dubai and, of course, Prague.
It was worth it. Today, Chateau Trebesice is not only a fully-restored historical monument, but it’s one of the most unique B&B&B’s (bed, breakfast and bodacious three-course dinner) in the world.
The third “B” is no small prize as all meals are prepared by Italian foodies from the castle’s French-inspired, “potagers ornes,” an ornamental kitchen garden with asparagus, fava beans, berries and dozens of other organic fruits and veggies.
Every summer, the creative duo, who also own the art gallery, Futura, in Prague and an artists’ residence space in New York, invite in contemporary artists from around the world. In return for room and board, each of five artists creates an installation for the castle. So far, more than 80 pieces of contemporary art are scattered through the castle and its ooh-la-la grounds.
When artists are not in residence, guests can stay in one of five suites, each an art piece in itself. I stayed in the “Presidents Room” that features Jiri David pieces of Vaclav Havel and Vaclav Klaus, the first two presidents of the non-Communist Czech. Originally created for the 2004 Venice Biennial, the twin portraits were made by splitting photos and reassembling.
The Black and White room, created by Percossi to look like a period photograph, has 1930’s style furnishing in endless shades of grey and black. Even the paintings, the books, the plants and the fruit in the fruit bowl are black and white.
Precossi, who speaks fluent English with a charming-a-Italian-a-accent-a, greets each guest to Chateau Trebesice personally. He gives tours and weaves delightful tales about each piece of art from the library’s graffiti ceiling (created by Czech street artist Jakub Matuska (AKA The Masker) in 2008) to the main hall’s Memento Mori, a modern ossuary with hundreds of anatomically realistic skulls made from bread.
Nestled in the secluded Bohemian countryside, Chateau Trebesice is only 80 minutes from Prague.