Nails, bricks and asphalt

10 Jun 2017   Michal   4 min read

People often visit chateaux to learn about their history, and Chateau Nemilkov it is no exception. When visiting places like chateau Hluboká nad Vltavou, you will probably not hear much about recent Czech history. But when you visit us, it is unavoidable.

Chateau Nemilkov became state-owned after WWII, and because of its position and size, it was dedicated to serving the needs of the town and local agriculture. All inventory that was not useful was taken away by the “state supervisor”, probably to chateau Kozel.

An unseen benefit of this situation was that the chateau served many purposes, including offices of the town hall, as a library, to dry chamomile, and for apartments. Thus, relative to the agricultural buildings, there is little damage to the structure of the chateau, and there are even interesting features left behind by the communists that previously occupied the premises.

Fancy door covered with big nails. We still wonder what hung there?

Fancy door covered with big nails. We still wonder what hung there?

In connection to the chateau’s recent history, I often think of my grandfather, who was called “hromtětuk” (thunder knock). He studied in Paris at Sorbonne University and was later a head master at the High School at Hradec Králové. He was great with languages but wasn’t skilled with his hands. Despite this, he loved to hammer nails anywhere imaginable. His most common target was wooden doors, where he hung his hats.

Similar to my grandfather’s apartment, you will find doors, windows, and walls randomly covered by nails at the chateau. Their location is often illogical, and their size is also truly remarkable. The 2-cm (0.7 inches) thick board is punctured by 10 cm (3.9 inches) nails protruding through to the other side. The comrades apparently made a mistake somewhere, and only had nails 10 cm nails and longer! Here at Nemilkov, you will find nails everywhere possible.

Pile of bricks brought from every corner of the chateau. Was something else supposed to stand here?

Pile of bricks brought from every corner of the chateau. Was something else supposed to stand here?

The bricks of Nemilkov have a story very much like that of nails, in that you will find them everywhere, even in the attics! You can count on their presence everywhere you go. There are not only fragments of bricks, but also complete pieces that seem just like new.

During the 80’s, when my brother was building his cottage at Slapy, even our grandmother, who could manage to get anything (even the impossible) had trouble obtaining bricks. The only solution we could think of was the well-known rationing system: if you return extra goods one year, you get less the next year.

Courtyard covered with asphalt.

Courtyard covered with asphalt.

Unfortunately, there was plenty of asphalt, and therefore it is almost everywhere. Today, the courtyard we walk on is about 30 cm (11.8 inches) higher than during the Schreiner’s times in 18th and 19th century. Back in their day, the courtyard was paved with large granite stones, some of which we have uncovered in a couple of places.

The higher surface has- and continues to- cause a lot of damage as rainwater runs towards the buildings, rather than away from them. You can also see oddities in the courtyard, such as asphalted drains and rain pipes, an old corner bollard, of which only the top is visible, windows that are hardly above ground level, and molded floors situated below the level of the current surface!

All of this puts us in the difficult position of deciding what to do with the courtyard in the future. We do not yet know if it would be possible to change it back to its 19th-century appearance. The future will tell us…

Original floor discovered in the chateau’s courtyard.

Original floor discovered in the chateau’s courtyard.

Old corner bollard hidden under asphalt.

Old corner bollard hidden under asphalt.

Dining hall from Communist times with windows hardly above ground level and non-functional drainage.

Dining hall from Communist times with windows hardly above ground level and non-functional drainage.

Temporarily closed!