48km (30 miles) SE of Prague
About 16km (10 miles) east of Benesov lies the menacing Ceský Sternberk castle, once one of Bohemia's most powerful fortifications. The structure was built in the Gothic style in the first half of the 13th century, during the reign of Wenceslas I. The Habsburgs put in some baroque additions and improved its defenses, leaving few Gothic elements in their wake.
Getting There -- If you're driving, leave Prague on the D1 expressway heading south and exit at the Ceský Sternberk cutoff. From there, follow Hwy. 111. It's a 55-minute drive. From Konopiste, take Hwy. 112 to Hwy. 111. It's a 25-minute drive.
A few buses run daily to and from Ceský Sternberk, but not from Prague's main Florenc station. Instead, you must take metro line C (red) south to the Roztyly stop. You can buy tickets, costing 65Kc each way, at the Florenc station or from the bus driver at Roztyly. The bus ride takes about 2 hours.
Seeing the Fortress
This impressive fortress castle stands atop a hill, rising above the Sázava River. The 1-hour tour of Ceský Sternberk is worth taking. The enormous main hall and several smaller salons, with fine baroque detailing, elaborate chandeliers, and period art, are testaments to the wealth of the Sternberk family. After the tour, enjoy the grounds and relax among the trees and babbling streams that surround the fortress before heading out.
Admission to the castle is 170Kc for adults and 110Kc for children, including a guided tour in English. The fortress is open Tuesday to Sunday: June to August from 9am to 6pm, and May and September from 9am to 5pm. In April and October it's open only on Saturday and Sunday from 9am to 5pm. The rest of the year, it's closed. For information, call tel. 317-855-101 or go to www.hradceskysternberk.cz.
Where to Dine
Inside the castle, Vinárna Ceský Sternberk (tel. 317-855-168) serves standard Czech meat-and-potatoes meals, though the quality of food and service is reflected in the prices. Main courses are 60Kc to 140Kc; no credit cards are accepted. Since the restaurant's hours are the same as the castle's, you can't stop in for a quick bite to eat before the first tour or after the last one.