One of Prague’s most popular tourist attractions, the Palace gardens on the southern slope of Prague castle, have to undergo a major renovation due to an alarming state of disrepair. The National Heritage Institute plans to launch the reconstruction of the Baroque gardens, which should amount to 45 million crowns, in 2017. It is expected to last for five years but the gardens should remain open to visitors throughout the reconstruction.
With their terraces, fountains, pavilions and stone passageways, the gardens beneath the Prague castle walls belong among the most beautiful sites in the capital and every year they attract some 50,000 visitors. The unique complex of five interconnected gardens, the Ledebour Garden, the Great and Small Palfy Gardens, the Kolowrat Garden and the Small Furstenberg Garden, was last renovated in the 1990’s thanks to a substantial financial contribution from Britain’s Prince Charles.
Now, less than two decades later, the gardens find themselves yet again in a serious state of disrepair. The walls are cracked, the bricks are crumbling and plaster is flaking away. Naděžda Goryczková, the head of the Czech National Heritage Institute, says that despite the alarming situation, there is no need to ban the public from entering the premises:
“Most of the gardens are really in a very dismal state. Nevertheless, there are no changes to the structural condition of the gardens that would threaten the lives of employees or visitors in any way.”
According to preservationists, the gardens have been harmed by humidity and temperature fluctuations, which are caused by their location on the slope of the Prague Castle hill. But according to the National Heritage Institute, the current situation was also cause by some insensitive steps during the past reconstruction. Naděžda Goryczková says the private firm which renovated the gardens is to blame for the situation:
“The National Heritage Institute did not have access to the gardens for more than six years. And the agreement with the private firm which was in charge was highly disadvantageous.”
The former renovation of the gardens, which had been closed to the public since the 1950s due to a bad state of disrepair, started in 1989. Over the next eleven years, the five interconnected gardens were gradually cultivated and re-opened to the public one by one. The renovation, which was made possible largely thanks to the Prague Heritage Fund, established in 1992 by Prince Charles and then-president Vaclav Havel, amounted to nearly 300 million crowns.
The cost of the current renovation, which should amount to some 45 million crowns, should be covered in part by the Ministry of Culture. If everything goes according to plan, the beautiful Baroque gardens at Prague castle should be restored to their former beauty by 2021.
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