We are in Prague, a magnificient city full of hidden alleys and charming walkways.
Hidden behind the high walls, at the heart of baroque palace grounds, among a variety of buildings, is a palace lush garden with fountains, statues and other unique features.
Constructed at the behest of Bohemian military leader who fought on the Catholic side during the Thirty Years’ War Albrecht Vaclav Eusebius of Wallenstein, between 1623 and 1630, the Wallenstein Palace (Valdštejnský palác) enjoyed a centuries-long first life as a magnificent private residence for various generations of the Wallenstein family. At the close of World War II, the land fell into the hands of the state government, who repurposed the palace’s main buildings to serve as the seat of operation for the Senate of Czechia.
Despite the elite negotiations that have always taken place inside the palace’s magnificent corridors, it is the Wallenstein Palace’s massive network of complex, geometric gardens that remain the biggest draw for the public since 2002, locally know as Valdstejnska zahrada (Wallenstein Garden).
Fashioned in an early baroque style, the grounds were partitioned into several distinct areas, the most secluded and fascinating of which was known as “The Grotto.” In this portion of the garden, aspects of real and artificial elements of nature co-mingle, creating an eerily surreal landscape. Here, grotesques were allowed to reign supreme, including imagery of snakes, monsters, and random, distorted faces, while an aviary provided a crucial acoustic element.
On current days visitors to the Grotto remain most struck by the Dripstone Wall, created by things that, from a distance, seem to be dripping skulls. Closer investigation reveals the wall is made from a haunting assemblage of stalactite-like rocks. Signs along the wall note that, if one stares hard enough, it’s possible to make out human and animal faces peering out from within the wall’s recesses.
To add further fuel to the site’s fascinating nature are other strategically placed clues: the Dripstone Wall itself could, perhaps, contain secret passageways wending through its interior, accessible only by those bright enough to discern the pattern of access. Throughout nearly 500 years of years of existence, no one seems to have found a way in, but that hasn’t yet stopped visitors from dreaming about solving the intriguing mystery.
The garden is open to the public daily from April to October, and is located behind the Malostranská Metro station.