The door had been left half-ajar.
Stepping inside, I felt the temperature of the air cool suddenly. The last rays of sunlight faded away as I walked deeper through the hallway of the castle, my footsteps echoing across the stone walls.
This was one of the forgotten palaces of the Czech Republic, a quiet and remote building.
I reached the reception, which was empty. The mini television had dust gathering on its surface, and maps had been scattered across the desk, also gathering dust. It was as if one day the people working there had left suddenly in-between their work shift, something out of an Indiana Jones movie maybe, crumbling walls and dark cellar floors surrounding me. With one last glance at the black brewed tea still sitting on a kitchen surface, I walked slowly away.
The drawing room took me to a small staircase, with bare white walls. As I wondered whether or not they had been bare hundreds of years before I’d arrived, I assended the stairs, which creaked beneath me as if welcoming a visitor for the first time in eternity.
While the staircase had been barely big enough for one person, it opened up to an enormous room, laden with wooden tables, artwork, and standing armour. Accompanied by the groaning sounds of the floorboards, I passed between the rocking chairs and drawers to one of the circular-shaped windows on the side of the building, looking out to the greenery outside.
The sky was gray, like the roof above me, but as I looked up I noticed the beautiful family crests hung above, red and blue colours bringing the room to life. My eyes trailed across the stunning artwork- stone figures, paintings, and iron swords, hung around, and rested upon a piano sitting at the corner of the room.
Upon closer inspection, I could see faint marks and scratches on the wooden surface, and as I gazed upon it, I pondered how many times it might have been used in its lifetime- who had once looked down at its pretty keys as I did now? The answers to these questions, I don’t think I’ll ever know. I never found out the name of this particular castle. It was a beautiful remnant of a past that seemed now, far far away, like the journey that had taken me there.
I stepped slowly towards the window-filled room at the edge of the castle, and looked out to the view of the small village. It was a surreal moment, hearing nothing but the sounds of the birds chirping in the distance, the silence a comforting and yet strangely nostalgic one.
When I turned back to leave, I noticed a door which had passed my attention before. It was a pale blue, and the handles had been removed, making it difficult to enter through. I stood there for many moments, hands resting outside, where the handles would have been, listening for a noise, a sound, an indication of any life within, curious as to what lay behind the white walls surrounding it.
Then I turned away, walking quietly back to where I had come from, stepping out, to the warm air. The breeze played with my dress as I took one last look at the castle, wondering how many had looked at it before me, how many people still came here, to look out from its balcony views to the endless fields of the countryside, and how many people, in the near and distant future, would be able to visit this castle as I had done.
I walked down the crumbling steps, leaving the castle behind me.