14. December 2018

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The Central Bohemian Highlands are not entirely unknown to filmmakers – its filmmaking treasures include the Zubrnice open-air folklore museum and the historic town of Úštěk. Straddling the border of two Czech protected landscape areas – the Central Bohemian Highlands and Kokořín – the area still has many unique and unrivaled locations remaining to be discovered by filmmakers: villages nestled in the picturesque countryside, preserved timbered buildings, interesting natural features.

On the recommendation of Barbora Hyšková of the Ústi Region Film Office, we headed for the village of Konojedy, situated five kilometers north of Úštěk. “Konojedy’s main attractions are its former chateau and the church located on the chateau grounds. But I think the entire village is a little gem. The retro grocery store in the village center is a relic from the 1980s; nearby stands a building that could easily be used for a war film. Also of interest are the timbered and Empire-style houses from the second half of the 19th century spread around the village square,” says Hyšková.

The village of just a hundred inhabitants falls under the administration of the city of Úštěk. “Úštěk already has plenty of experience working with filmmakers and we’re glad they come back to us. The most recent film shot here this past summer was Jojo Rabbit, starring Scarlett Johansson,” says Pavel Mašata of the asset management department of the Úštěk Town Hall. “But the entire Úštěk area is chock-full of places of interest, and we’re happy to help filmmakers discover them. The Konojedy Loaves, for a example, a natural amphitheater formed by solidified lava, is a very unique and special place,” adds Mašata. Konojedy Loaves is a wall of a former quarry, consisting of thick, hardened lava flow. The open semicircular space is lined with six- to eight-meter-high columns of tephrite (a type of igneous rock) that are fairly regularly cross-fractured and rounded off by erosion, giving the impression of stacked loaves. The site is located just five minutes’ walk from Konojedy.

The village of Konojedy is dominated by the former chateau complex and the Church of the Assumption. Originally a Renaissance chateau, it was owned from 1650 by the Špork family, then served in the 18th century as a monastery – the adjacent Baroque church is also from this period. After Emperor Josef II (1786) shut down the monastery, it was once again used as a residence.  The Špork Chateau was sold in 1804 and passed through the hands of numerous owners until it was confiscated after the WW2 and later handed over to the Ministry of Defense. “When we bought the chateau years ago, it was in absolutely catastrophic condition and we had to begin renovating immediately. Now it has a new roof, facade, and windows, and the renovation continues indoors - we’re working on the ceilings and floors. Filming indoors will have to wait for the time being, unless of course you want to shoot something scary,” says Vladimír Přibyl with a smile. “The church, however, is completely renovated and we were even able to reuse some of the original furnishings. And it might be an advantage for filmmakers that it has been deconsecrated,” adds the owner.

The journey to locations in and around Konojedy led us to other interesting places. Today we were intrigued by the defunct cemetery in Mukařov with a ruined church in the middle - a perfect location for a thriller. In contrast, the nearby village of Levin makes a pleasing impression with its picturesque village square and nearby castle ruins, which are captured in the 1970s Czechoslovak film Páni kluci (Boys Will Be Boys). Also noteworthy is Calvary Hill with the pilgrimage site of the same name near Ostrý u Úštěka. Depictions of the Stations of the Cross in niche chapels are situated along a path that leads to a terrace with fragments of Baroque sandstone sculptures. From here, a monumental sandstone staircase rises to the top of the mountain to three symmetrically arranged chapels with a beautiful view of the Central Bohemian Highlands.

“The cinematic riches of the Central Bohemian Highlands have been barely discovered. They hide unexpected locations, historic towns, and the remains of former village; side-by-side with traditional architecture stand bizarre ‘monuments’ of the socialist era. In addition, it’s an area with good infrastructure and easily reached by vehicle. We’re happy to convince the skeptics – offer advice, connect them with the right people,” says Barbora Hyšková of the Ústi Region Film Office. Contact: Ústi Region Film Office, Barbora Hyšková, hyskova.b@kr-ustecky.cz, or by phone at +420 778 494 321