After spending the most delightful morning with a local Czech family at their bio dairy farm, it was time to say ‘nashle’ (goodbye) and move on with the rest of my tour with Guidilo (read part one of the review here) . Misa had a full afternoon of activities planned for us, the highlight of which would be a visit to the nearby Konopište ‘Cannabis’ Castle. We had a big afternoon ahead of us and it was time to get moving!
But first: lunch
Even though we had been taste-testing the products at the farm all morning, all of that learning about the cheesemaking process had still left us hungry! To ensure we had lots of energy to explore the castle with in the afternoon, our first priority was to fill our bellies with a big, Czech lunch. Honza drove us back into Benesov where Misa took us to a local pub, popular with locals. We sampled some hearty, traditional fare and both Ben and I ordered the roast duck with sweet, red cabbage and potatoes. It tasted every bit as good as it looked.
A walk through the forest to Konopište Castle
Bellies full, we were ready to go exploring. Although we had the option to take a short train ride directly to the castle, we chose to walk the easy two and a half kilometres through the forest to the castle instead to help digest our big lunch. This forest used to be the hunting grounds for the castle’s noble residents and cannabis used to be grown in these surrounding fields in days gone by, giving the castle it’s popular nickname.
This medieval fortress was built in the late 13th century to defend the surrounding area. In the early 1700s it was transformed into a Baroque style château. It is perhaps most famous for being the last residence of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, whose assassination in Sarajevo in 1914 triggered the outbreak of WWI. During WWII, Konopište became the site of the SS headquarters in the region.
Konopište Castle grounds
I was expecting such an important site to be busy on a Saturday afternoon, but to my surprise, Konopište Castle was quiet, with only a few people wandering around. It was pretty special to have the place almost entirely to ourselves. We walked slowly around the exterior first and I was surprised (and quite saddened) to see a rare Asian bear being held in captivity in a section of the old moat. Bears historically guarded Konopište; instead of a water moat protecting the castle, bears would live in the dry moat. Although this bear is a popular attraction of the site, its enclosure was very small and its habitat quite poor. I was happy to move on and take a look around the rest of the castle grounds.
It really was a beautifully grand structure. Although our tour didn’t include the price of admission into the interior of the castle, we were able to look around the courtyard at no extra cost.
Just off the courtyard and up a winding staircase was the Konopny shop, a hemp shop that stocks a number of Carun products. Carun is a Czech company that produces a variety of products made from hemp. The wide and varied health and medical benefits of cannabis are gaining more and more exposure in the media every day. Since October last year, the sale of selected hemp products has been legalised in the Czech Republic, but only a handful of stores and pharmacies stock them. I felt lucky to be able to visit one of them and was eager to try the products myself!
The store stocked a wide range of both edible and cosmetic products, all made with the beneficial cannabis oil, CBD. I was able to sample both the body and facial oil as well as the cannabis ointment. Both are said to have a positive influence on a broad range of skin problems as well as inflammatory conditions. Little did I know that these products would come in handy very soon!
Almost as soon as I returned back to Berlin, I began suffering from painful RSI in my wrists from lots of blogging and from not working in an ergonomically friendly position. Instead of taking painkillers, I began rubbing the cannabis ointment into my sore wrists and was genuinely surprised at the pain relief it offered. I used it a few times a day and each day the pain subsided more and more until it completely disappeared. I was amazed! I’m definitely going to be ordering some more soon as I much prefer to use a natural ointment over painkiller tablets.
Birds of prey
Making our way out of the castle, I was surprised to notice that there was a small selection of birds of prey on display, including huge, majestic owls and even a bald eagle. There are daily public demonstrations with these powerful birds and visitors can pay a fee to pose with the birds. I was quite shocked to see these beautiful birds tied up on such short ropes, but a nearby information board referenced a conservation effort that the program was related to. I sincerely hoped that these birds were not merely a tourist attraction like the bear in the moat.
After exploring Konopište Castle and its grounds, there was still one thing left to do: enjoy a Czech beer at one of the most traditional restaurants in the region: Stará Myslivna. This restaurant was like no place I had ever been to before. Built in 1840, the building has a long history and has been used as a distillery, a post office, a school, a military hospital during WWI and, finally, a restaurant. Decorated in the style of a hunting lodge, similar to the interior of Konopište Castle itself, the restaurant’s walls are filled with hunting trophies of stag, wild boar, pheasants, birds of prey, bear and fox hides, along with various hunting artefacts. As an animal lover myself, this would not usually be my cup of tea but I decided to just embrace it. After all, there is a strong history of hunting in this region and these traditional places so make for an authentic experience.
After enjoying a delicious dark Czech beer, we realised that it was now late afternoon and we were due to make our way back to the Benesov train station to catch our train back to Prague. Again, rather than taking the short train ride, we elected to walk through the peaceful forest back to the station. Even though Misa was staying in Benesov to spend the night with her family at the bio dairy farm, she dropped us off at the right platform and ensured we boarded the correct train.
All in all, Guidilo’s full day tour of the Bio Farm and Cannabis Castle outside of Prague was hands down the most memorable part of my entire weekend. Prague has so much to offer in addition to its most famous tourist sites and experiencing it with one of the Czech locals with Guidilo will give you a really authentic experience off the well-trodden tourist trail.
Over to you: what’s the best day-trip you’ve ever done? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!
Disclosure: I attended the Bio Farm and Cannabis Castle Tour as a guest of Guidilo and was offered Carun products to sample free of charge. As always, my opinions are my own.