“I must confess, I fell rather hopelessly in love with this city when I first came here. And not only with the city, but a large part of the country as well.”
The then Prince Charles speaking at a press conference on his third visit to Prague in June 1994. It was the first of three visits that the then prince made to the newly-formed independent Czech Republic, having already visited Czechoslovakia twice.
On this occasion, he had come to take part in benefit events for the Prague Heritage Fund, which he had set up with Václav Havel on a previous trip, and see how one of the project’s aims, the restoration of the terrace gardens below Prague Castle, was coming along.
Zdeněk Lukeš was the Prague Castle architect at the time, and remembers the visit:
“He is an expert, especially on the Baroque period, so it was very interesting to speak with him on this theme and to consult how to sensitively save the most important monuments of our country with him. I think that he was fascinated with the city of Prague.”
It wasn’t just Prague that drew Charles’ admiration – he also visited Brno three times and other parts of the country, such as Jezeří Castle in northwest Bohemia and the Moravian village of Hostětín. He chose the village at the foot of the White Carpathian Mountains because of its ecological projects, such as a photovoltaic power plant. While there, he even tried some Moravian slivovice – very strong alcoholic plum brandy, as Hostětín’s mayor at the time, Daniel Šenkeřík, recalled recently for Czech Radio.
“He had at least four shots. People were surprised because they thought he wouldn’t have any, but he did.”
His visits to Brno also drew praise and admiration. During his first visit in 1991, he and Princess Diana were greeted by large crowds of people in the city’s central Dominican Square. During his second visit to the Moravian city in 2000, he was welcomed at the airport by the then mayor Petr Duchoň.
“It was a very pleasant meeting. Prince Charles is one of those people who have a talent for communicating with others. A natural talent, honed by many years of practice.”
By all accounts, Prince Charles was very taken with the historic beauty of Prague and with the country in general. He was saddened to see that many of its historic buildings had fallen into disrepair during the Communist era and it was this that motivated him to set up the Prague Heritage Fund, which having fulfilled its goals by the early 2000s, ceased to exist in 2002.