Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The Catacombs of Znojmo, Czech Republic

I wrote my YA novel, Far-Knowing, while living in the Czech Republic.  I first put pen to paper one fall morning while visiting the beautiful city of Znojmo, a place that I loved so much I just had to weave it into my novel.

Znojmo, Czech Republic
Znojmo is one of those towns that simply calls to me.  It’s not famous.  Even in many guidebooks it’s just a blip.  But it’s a lovely place, especially peaceful at night, when the buildings glow with soft lighting and the streets are quiet.  On a breezy evening, the lamps hung above the streets sway gently, giving the darkened alleys a delightfully eerie feel.  With curvy streets, numerous squares, fountains, and a lot of architectural beauty, it’s a wanderer’s delight.

Znojmo, from down near the river
When Kalli and Ista—my two main characters in Far-Knowing—enter the fictional town of Znemya, it’s really Znojmo’s buildings they see.  For them, however, it’s not a charming place to explore.  They’re on a mission, and danger lurks in all the pretty corners.

When they need a place to hide, to evade the baron’s men, they escape to the catacombs beneath the city.  These catacombs are my homage to Znojmo, whose catacombs you can visit for yourself.  They’re a huge network of interconnected cellars and tunnels, ventilated and at one time stocked with supplies. There’s a legend that a conquering army once swept into town and discovered smoking chimneys but no people.  The whole population was hiding underground. Supposedly they even rigged ropes to make doors slam and chairs rock.  The conquering army, spooked, declared it a town of ghosts and rode right out of the city.  The people were saved.  I incorporated this legend, among others, into the tales of my fictional Znemya.

Znojmo Catacombs
Photo courtesy of
To me, Znojmo will always be a peaceful, happy memory…and the place where Far-Knowing was born.

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If you're interested in Znojmo, see more travel information at the bottom of the post.  

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If you go to Znojmo...

More Sights

The town hall tower is a striking landmark, reminiscent of Prague’s famous spiked towers.  You can climb it for some very nice views of the town and the surrounding countryside.  Walk along the old town wall for more dizzying views down into the river valley.

Numerous churches of different styles stand watch over the streets and squares of old town.  The Rotunda of Our Lady and St Catherine dates from the 11th century, and in order to preserve the historic wall painting, they only admit visitors during short windows of time.

Znojmo sits on the edge of Podyjí National Park, where hiking trails abound.  The green trail starts at the Jihomoravské Muzeum.  It winds through the quiet outskirts of town into the park and through the woods for about 5 km (3 miles) to Králův Stolec, a nice place for a picnic, with views high over the river.  For something shorter, you can take the red trail across the river and up the opposite hill.  In about 2 kilometers (1.25 miles) you’ll get great views of Znojmo’s Old-Europe skyline.

Znojmo from the red trail
Around Znojmo:
Vranov Chateau perches on a wooded hill above the green-colored Dyjí river.  The interior is a Versailles-like confection you won’t want to miss.

Vranov Chateau, Vranov nad Dyjí, Czech Republic
Photo courtesy of

Bítov Castle is originally from the 11th century, and built for defense, a great contrast to Vranov.  From the village of Bítov, it’s a beautiful 3-km walk through the woods above the river. 
Bitov Castle, Czech Republic
If you go to Bítov or Vranov by public transportation, study the bus schedule carefully or you may end up hitchhiking back.  Of course, that might just be part of your great adventure.  

Views from my pension’s rooftop balcony 
(Cyklopenzion u Mikuláše)
I just sat in the sun and took it all in.
What a great day.
Getting there:
Znojmo is in southeast Czech Republic, close to the border of Austria.  By bus, it's 3-4 hours from Prague, just over 1 from Brno.  You can take a train from Vienna in less than 2 hours.


  1. Really enjoyed learning about this unique place as well as getting a bit of background on your book. Far-Knowing sounds fantastic and very original, much like Znojmo! Thanks for the post.

  2. Great post! One of my favorite things to do on vacation, if possible, is to tour the area and enjoy the architecture. This place has beautiful structures. And, of course, the catacombs are an added bonus to explore. I can see how this could easily inspire you to write.

    1. I too enjoy the architecture--especially old styles.

  3. I love finding diamonds in the rough. Getting lost in smaller towns like these is the best. Looks like I need to make a stop at the CR one of these days!

  4. I want to go to there! You had me at catacomb. Wow and now I want to read your book too. What a great place and post. Thank you!

  5. Wow! Beautiful pictures, Melinda. I had no idea. First you made me fall in love with Alaska, now the Czech Republic. Thank you.

  6. Such a beautiful place, and I loved that legend.

  7. It really is a beautiful place. If you're ever in the neighborhood, check it out.

  8. I really love your blog post! Znojmo sounds beautiful and fascinating and your book, FAR-KNOWING, sounds intriguing!