Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Crystalex-Český křišťál Glassworks at Chlum u Třeboně, Czech Republic

The village of Chlum u Třeboně is ~20 km southeast of Třebon, near the Austrian/Czech border. It was founded in 1399 and has had a long tradition in making glass--artistic and Czech crystal.
Before heading to the local glass factory (story below), we drove through the town looking for the signs to the factory that were supposed to be there. We found out later why they couldn't be found.
Nonetheless, it was a fine March day with the warm sun shining. We didn't need our winter coats anymore! As we drive past the small castle with an historic fish pond on the other side of the road, we head towards the hill was sports this gorgeous High Baroque church.

The narrow roadway is lined with grafted, pollarded maple trees (in need of pruning!).
The golden walls shine in the resplendent March Bohemian sunshine!
Here are some views of the historic fish pond....one that feeds fish to Bohemia but also provides ice skating in the winter (it's done now!) and summer enjoyment. There are many camps and restaurants open during the summer here. Today, however, it is completely silent. Not a person in view anywhere!
The grand oak trees lining the western edge of the historic fish pond look across to the castle (zámek) on the right (west) side of the road.
Chlum u Třeboně (zámek)

The castle here dates back to 1710. It is a two-storied building with three wings and a central buttress (very unusual). In front of the main entrance is a sculpture of a Deer being chased by Dogs. After the end of WWII, it was a popular place for artists and poets to gather. Indeed, the famed Francis Hrubín (1910-1971) wrote here. In front of the castle are gates that lead into the garden which, we hear, has many rare trees growing--including a tulip tree, Liriodendron tulipifera. We shall have to come back here another time and investigate further.

We drive around the town several times on both sides of the historic fish pond, looking for the signs to the glassworks factory, Crystalex-Český křišťál...that our Czech glass guide, A guide to Czech & Slovak glass (by Diane E. Foulds, 1995, European Community Imports Publishing Co., Czech Republic), says should be here, but we couldn't find them. Instead, we follow our eyes and 'noses' and drive towards the tall smokestacks near the western edge of the village. While it looks completely deserted, we drive towards the main building to see what we can find, remembering what we had read in the history books that in the 15th century the mined iron ore was processed here until the late 1890s when it became a glassworks factory.
A tall company building has what we're looking for on its door: Czech Glass and Porcelain SF!
We look into the doors, but the building is locked and completely dark. Odd.....we think, since there was no mention in our guidebook that the factory would be closed down on a Saturday. Around the corner is this WWII memorial plaque, "In memory of those that died, that we might live...lest we forget". Most likely this is in honor of fallen WWII soldiers either from the village or who worked here in the glassworks factory.

The gate to the factory is closed. Our guidebook had said we should call before stopping by if we wanted a tour, but it doesn't appear that there will ever be any tours anytime soon. We spot the factory store but the door is locked and no lights are on. Then, Neil notices a man sitting in the office and raps on the window. He comes to the door, we greet each other in Czech, and ask if the store is open. He says that we can come in and look at the sample glass for sale. He speaks both Czech and German, so we converse in German beyond the usual Czech greetings and farewells.
Sadly, he tells us that the company and factory sind tot (are dead)!  Bankrupt and closed forever. It puts us in kind of a shock, since this factory was an old iron-works company that became a glassworks factory in 1891 thanks to C. Stoelze & Soehne. This soon closed in 1910 but then, in 1919, became a new firm, Vaclav Hrdina. Like all other businesses, it was nationalized in 1945 as part of Crystalex network here, in Lenora (see earlier posting), and Kamenice nad Lipou. After the Velvet Revolution in 1989, it was sold to some of the descendants of the founders. The company logo is a 'C' on its back in the shape of a goblet, as you can see from this abandoned sign inside the store:
As of recently (until this year), Crystalex-Český křišál wasn't connected with Lenora. Now, however, everything here in the small factory store is suddenly collector's items. We are so saddened to hear the story and sorry to have missed seeing the glass blowers at work (these are pictures of the photographs in the store):

The store is filled with miscellaneous pieces from various crystal goblet sets, types of glasses, series of vases, cut crystal serving pieces, and so forth....so much to look at and enjoy. Everything in these factory stores is always at a discount compared with what you would pay at the tourist and glass shops in the villages (one is in Trebon nearby).
Intriguing examples of bowls and vases with modern, geometric designs cut into the crystal:
Somewhat etheric, carefully swirled glass in these vases.
All kinds of decanters, cake plates (we bought a couple of them), glasses, and stemware:
A series of very delicate, hand-cut crystal that is so thin and see-through when you hold it up to the light that it looks like embroidery! We bought one of the bowls on the bottom shelf.
Many other interesting pieces are in this cabinet with various colored glass.
Then, we were amazed to see many fine examples of crystal flowers, plants and fruit trees. We know of the Harvard University collection of glass flowers, also made by Czech artisans, but had never dreamed of running into any here! We bought a stem of glass gladiolus to bring home.  Below are example lemon trees, oak and birch trees, and potted flowering plants:
We also got caught up looking at the glass lamp shades that had very different period designs and swirls of colors:

We left the store, laden with packages of glass stemware, vases, bowls and gladiolus to treasure forever as collectible remembrances of this historic glass factory, Crystalex-Český křišťál Glassworks at Chlum u Třeboně, Czech Republic.

Disclaimer: This blog is not an official University of Minnesota or Fulbright Program blog. The views expressed are my own and not those of the Fulbright Program, the U.S. Department of State or any of its partner organizations, or the University of Minnesota.


  1. So sad, what a loss! Hopefully some day some one will see the value of the craft and bring it back.

  2. Yes, well fortunately other glassworks are still in business, but competition from China is the issue....they're making cheap glass.

  3. Wow, in June I'll be going to the Marianski church you have pictured here in Chlum u Trebone. I'll do some genealogical research on my ancestors from Stankov and Chlum who were baptized and married in this church. I'm from Illinois, US.

  4. Judi,
    That sounds very interesting! Hope you can read Czech in old script...all the best!

  5. Stayed in Chlum for a week or so in 1995 as my now wife was studying glassblowing here in the UK at the time, so we spent a fair bit of time in the factory and still have 2 vases from the shop there. Such a shame it's closed down now.

  6. Oh, that's wonderful to hear that you both had a chance to live there and for your wife to study glassblowing!
    It's so sad that the factory is now closed - hang onto your vases from their as they're increasing in value!
    Best regards!