Surrounded by the charming Brdy Forests in Western Bohemia, Zbiroh Chateau really catches the eye of anyone who visits. With its rich history and impressive Neo-Renaissance architecture, the chateau is one of the most curious in the country. The renowned Czech painter Alfons Mucha painted his famous Slav Epic here, along with much of his other oil based works. During World War II, the castle was occupied by a secret SS division which monitored radio communications all over the world. Now even more of the secrets of this intriguing castle have been revealed, but this time deep in the chateau's well.
Historians have been investigating the well at Zbiroh chateau for some time now. In 1965 it was explored by military scuba divers, who discovered a chest of Nazi documents, suspected to be secret SS war records. Since then, further explorations have yielded similar documents and one find two weeks ago revealed a trove of historic weapons, stolen by the Nazis during the Second World War. Maria Slavkovska, from the SCSA Security Company, responsible for the excavations, explains a little of the ongoing work:
"We have taken out 43 metres of material but very different sorts of material, like stone, dirt, metal and wood. One thing that was particularly special was a collection of old guns from the 17th century, or maybe older. We found some documents from the Germany army, from when the SS existed, and when we open it hope that we will find something older."
In addition to these finds, 163 metres below the chateau itself, investigators have recently discovered a false concrete bottom to the well, which, historical documents suggest, conceals a passageway used by the Nazis to store valuable stolen treasure. The false bottom was built from reinforced concrete and was decorated with jasper stones, which are common to the area, so that it looked natural. But further examination of the well may prove risky as the Nazis may have protected the cavity with explosives, either to secure the treasure or to prevent access to the chateau through the passageway.
"When we were cleaning it, we found some hand grenades which were explosive and we think that they tried to close the whole thing using them. Now there are special teams which will see if there is anything there which might explode, as the German army was not stupid; when they wanted to close something so that no one could get in, they would do it very professionally. So now we are doing everything to see if there are any dangerous items."
The SS was originally attracted to the site by the veins of the semi-precious stone jasper which run beneath Zbiroh chateau. The Nazis discovered that jasper reflects radio signals, and as such the site was a useful tool in monitoring radio traffic, and so set up their headquarters in the castle. They evicted the Colloredo-Mansfeld family who owned the chateau at the time and set up equipment to observe radio communications across the globe. Following the war, the Communists continued to use the site for its radio amplification qualities, tracking the supposedly "invisible" American stealth aircraft for the armies of the Warsaw pact. But as investigations of the castle's well continue, we can only imagine what will be revealed about this intriguing landmark in the future.
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