Do you know where to find an island in a railway café, which monastery doubled for the British House of Commons, or where to catch a faun?
With its medieval castles, ornate palaces and fairytale landscapes, the Czech Republic is a filmmaker´s dream. The past 20 years have been a golden age for the industry here, which has doubled for everywhere from medieval London to modern Israel. With summer here, we spoke with Pavel Mrkous from Stillking Films to get an idea of some choice locations to visit throughout the country. Following is a small guide to the most exciting, fun and bizarre. Whether you want to dine with assassins, read in Queen Victoria’s study or sleep with Bond, read on.
Only three hours by bus from Prague, Český Krumlov is the loveliest and most visited of the South Bohemian towns. In The Illusionist,Český Krumlov is the village where Eisenheim (Edward Norton) meets and falls in love with Sophie (Jessica Biel). Less rosy is its appearance in Hostel as the Slovakian town where backpackers Paxton (Jay Hernandez), Josh (Derek Richardson), and Óli (Eyþór Guðjónsson) are tortured by well-heeled perverts. The town has a strong cultural life with theatre, opera and concerts entertaining throughout the summer. Sitting near the foothills of Šumava, the Czech Republic´s largest national park, it is also a good base for exploring some of the country´s most beautiful landscapes.
Though only 30 kilometers from Prague, Beroun is far from the tourist trail. With its red roofs and neoclassical architecture it was nicknamed ‘my Verona´ by Charles IV. Oliver Twist, directed by Roman Polanski, was filmed in Beroun´s winding streets. It is a sleepy town with only picturesque architecture, a bear park and a ceramics fair to attract tourists. However, it is also close to the romantic rugged landscapes of Český kras, and to Křivoklát, a fairytale castle which incidentally featured in The Brothers Grimm starring Heath Ledger and Matt Damon.
Lednice is a South Moravian city whose main attraction is its neo-gothic chateau with formal gardens, hothouses, a minaret and aquarium. There are also boat rides, horse-drawn carriages and bird of prey shows. The interior is famous for its ornate woodwork and Chinese artifacts. The palace gardens were the location for devil-child Damien´s birthday party in The Omen, the scene of his nanny´s suicide. The region is Valtice-Lednice, a four hour train ride from Prague. Nestled in Czech wine country, and with friendly locals, rolling vineyards and numerous historical sites, it is well worth an extended visit.
For a more unusual way to combine dinner and a movie why not eat on a film set?
The height of film-buff dining is Hotel Pupp Restaurant in Karlovy Vary. The spa town, 130 kilometers west of Prague, is an ideal spot for a weekend away, with spa treatments, clean mountain air and hiking. And of course, the country´s biggest film-related event, the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, held every July. The Hotel Pupp Restaurant, in the five star Grandhotel Pupp, is where James Bond (Daniel Craig) and Vesper Lynd (Eva Green) eat after the poker tournament in Casino Royale, and in Last Holiday, Georgia Byrd (Queen Latifah), orders every dish on the restaurant´s menu, a big mistake given the prices.
In Prague 1, Boscolo Carlo IV, the majestic hotel on Senovážné náměstí, doubled as the American Embassy in the Bourne Identity. The hotel restaurant, Box Block, serves international haute cuisine at international haute prices, and there are two bars, the Inn Ox Bar and the Cigar Bar.
For those on a shoestring budget Fantova Kavárna in Prague´s main train station offers film glamour for the light-of-pocket. The tiled corridor appeared as Ellis Island in Nastassja Kinski´s The Ring, and in the Czech modern classic Mandragora.
On a Rainy Day
Only 40 minutes by car from Prague, Dobříš Chateau is an ideal spot to explore in bad weather. In his shooting diary from Shanghai Knights Jackie Chan recalls shooting at Dobříš one icy morning. Unwillingly during filming, he shed his coat as a gesture of respect to co-star Owen Wilson who was acting a scene in a thin shirt. They should not have ventured outside. Besides Rococo frescos, the chateau contains a restaurant, children´s area, the town museum and the Museum of Vintage Motorcycles; all more than enough to keep you occupied for a long afternoon. If you want to stay overnight, the chateau has a four star hotel, Hotel Garni, onsite.
Closer to home, the National Museum is big enough to get lost in on any number of rainy afternoons. In Mission Impossible the museum was the US Embassy where the doomed first mission happened. Strahov Monastary must be one of the most filmed locations in Prague. Most memorably, it was the secret chamber at Albion Museum in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen; Queen Victoria´s study in From Hell; and the British House of Commons in Casino Royale. It is here that M (Dame Judy Dench) gets a dressing down after Bond kills Mollaka. “Christ, how I miss the Cold War,” she laments, standing in front of Strahov´s rare book collection. Re-enact the scene for passing Czechs and cause your own international situation.
Adršpach National Park, tucked away in the Broumov highlands (Broumovská vrchovina) in East Bohemia, is 172 kilometers from Prague and just over three hours by bus. The deep pinewoods appeared in The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe as Narnia. It is here that Lucy (Georgie Henley) met Tumnus the faun (James McAvoy) after first going through the wardrobe. Though less well known than the Český ráj ‘rock towns´, the Adršpach-Teplice Rocks (Adršpašsko-Teplické skály) are equally staggering. Teetering monoliths and cloisters formed naturally from the sandstone rock rise weirdly out of the dark pine forests. If you wish to stay in the area in summer book well in advance, as it is a popular destination with German and Polish tourists. Entrance to the park costs 50 CZK.
If you are in Prague and feeling morbid, Olšany Cemetery is the place for a stroll. The oldest and most attractive part of the cemetery is located close to the Palác Flóra Imax, and scenes from Dungeons and Dragons and Van Helsing were shot here. Chris Rock was buried here in Bad Company.
To stretch your legs on a rainy day, take a tour around Nile House, part of the River City complex, which is open to the public. In G.I. Joe: Rise Of The Cobra, released summer 2009, Nile House is the De Cobray Laboratory, where the Accelerator Suit is invented.
The City of Prague and the Czech Film Commission put together a comprehensive map of Prague film sites. They are sometimes hard to find, but ask at any Prague Information Service, (a tourist office) location.