Life at the chateau? No peace, but a lot of hard work
Leaving their lives in Prague behind, Markéta Kaplanová, former national coach of Czech swimming federation and her husband Michal, real estate broker in the fall of 2016, bought together with their relatives’ the chateau at Nemilkov in Klatovy region. They moved close to the Šumava mountains, and together with their family they are trying to bring life back to the chateau and rediscover its beauty. However, it is not easy. “I do not feel like a lady from a chateau at all, more like a servant. I’m a ‘girl for everything’, my day starts at 6 am and ends at 8pm sometimes 9pm when I am totally exhausted”, laughs Mrs. Markéta. She knows very well that there will be work for a couple of generations at the chateau before it will look like it does in their dreams.
The chateau, which is a cultural heritage site stands on the remains of an old fortress. The first written account about it is from the 14th century. It has had several owners, including the infamous general Martin De Huertat. For about 150 years, the German family of Schreiner owned the property up to the end of WWII. “The complex was booming at that time. There was a brewery, a distillery, a garden for small trees, a fruit orchard and many other things. After the war, they were forced to leave as the only Germans from the village. The family took it very badly. The marriage fell apart. The father went mad and their son also ended up in the institution. The wife moved to Switzerland. Their daughter is still alive, but she is bitter and does not want to communicate with us,” describes Mrs. Kaplanová. She added that after the war the whole complex was taken care of by MNV Nemilkov and later JZD. A Czech-German musician bought the complex in 2012 but died two years later. The Kaplan and Hager families bought the chateau at Nemilkov in the fall of 2016.
Year long clean up
“My dream came to life. We wished to find something that we could save. Therefore, we searched for properties, which were protected sites”, stated Michal Kaplan. “We liked it so much here that we decided right away”, added his wife. When they bought the chateau, it was clear that it had not been taken care of for years, and that nobody had lived there for a long time. “It was devastated here, around the buildings it was like a jungle, inside, except mice, woodworms, and mess, there was nothing from the original furnishing. The first year, we were only cleaning, there were tens of containers,” remembers Mrs. Kaplanová. The most important and biggest task was the reconstruction of the roof, so it would not leak inside anymore. “The roof was a big project; we are now entering the 3rd year of reconstruction. When we started it was tough, as the roof had 100 years old asbestos tiles. We had to decide what to replace it with. It could not be classic roofing tiles, and it had to be light. In the end we chose handmade wood shingles from the mountains of Beskydy. The reconstruction was very costly, we could only manage it only thanks to financial help from the Pilsner region and Ministry of Culture,” described Mrs. Kaplanová.
Work for generations
Besides the roof, we are also working on reconstructing the interior, where some rooms already look like chateau chambers. The historical kitchen is finished, you can also see the dancing hall with the wall paintings. The floor is being redone in the room next to the entrance, in the so-called “fireplace room”. During the work, many old ceramic shards were found, and not too long ago a time capsule was found during the reconstruction of the tower. “We found there an old newspaper, which is in awful shape and needs a restorationist, so for now it is in our freezer, and also a couple coins. The oldest is from the Middle Ages, the newest from the 19th century,” describe Tereza Hager, daughter of the owners.
Even though the chateau is under reconstruction, people can come for a visit. “We opened up the chateau to the public right the way, because we wanted people to know about us, and also we wanted to show them what it looked like, and how it looks now and how it is changing. People have still been coming during the coronavirus emergency this year too, but were not allowed to come inside. There will be a couple of events this season, two theaters and two concerts in the dancing hall,” revealed Mrs. Kaplanová. “One day there should be a hotel, a restaurant, a brewery, a sweet shop, craft workshops, and a bicycle point for cyclists. We have started to work on the project of a cycle path between Nemilkov and Velhartice, which will go under the hill of the chateau. We have a lot of plans, but everything is extremely expensive. It is work for couple generations,” closed Mrs. Kaplanová.
Author of the article and photo: Milan Kilián