Dramatic Český Šternberk looms over the Sázava River and surrounding countryside, and looks positively forbidding at night. Šternberk roughly translates to "star on the hill." Perched on an outcropping of rock, this 13th-century castle is striking from the exterior, and it has the period interiors to match.
Founded in 1241 by Zdeslav of Divišov, it was originally built as a fortress. Amazingly, descendants of Zdeslav have remained in the castle, making it their residence through the centuries and up to the present day. The Šternberk name comes from the custom of using German names at the time. The exterior retains a late Gothic look, while the interiors were mainly redone in a baroque style. The latest major work was done in 1911, when electricity and water were added. Tours are required to see the interior, approximately 45 minutes in length, but the rooms are gorgeous and the guides are excellent. (Best to reserve online in advance.) Furnishings date back to the Renaissance,
and are either original from the castle or brought from other Šternberk properties around Europe. Beautiful frescoed walls and stucco ceilings can be found throughout, including the Knight's Hall lined with paintings. You'll see items in the rococo and Czech baroque style, Louis XVI furnishings, portraits of generations of Šternberks, and an amazing collection of copper engravings dating back to the 17th century. Guides will also explain the connections between the family history and the country, while a timeline strings the rooms together. Members of the Šternberk family included scientists, bishops, officers, and government employees, all of whom left their mark on aspects of the country's history. One even helped found the National Museum in Prague. During the nationalization period under communism, the castle was seized and became government property; however Jiří Šternberk agreed to stay on as caretaker and guide, thus keeping the family's connection to the castle. The Šternberks received the property back in 1992, and Jiří's son Zdeněk still lives in four rooms on the second floor.
Also on the property is a "small" tower you can climb (10 Kč) for a view of the castle, river, and surrounding forest.