Rakovník in 2007
The house itself, in Secese style (Czech art nouveau), was designed by Otakar Novotný and was built in 1911. Novotný also designed the furniture.
Novotný, a very significant architect, had a long and varied career which included the city's Sokol building (somewhat similar to the house) and the design for the Mánes building in Prague, which is in a completely different style. You can get some data about Novotný at Archiweb (in Czech) or just do a Google search, which will turn up many references and photos although the texts are nearly all in Czech. Before lunch, we got to look at the original plans for the house and furniture, which was pretty exciting.
Since we're enthusiastic about gardens as well as architecture, any visit has to include a detailed tour of the plants. While I am neither a botanist nor a remarkably experienced gardener, my several years of gardening in California (when I haunted Berkeley Hort with some regularity), plus my parents' longstanding habit of planting fruit trees and tomatoes, seems to have enabled me to understand a considerable amount of Czech garden data. It is, of course, convenient that certain plants have similar names in both Czech and English, and that our friends are able to provide the Latin names of their plants at the drop of a hat (not that I know very many Latin names, but a few of these go a long way). Consequently, I was able to tell my parents which azaleas were Japanese and bloom late, that the tall pine tree was Canadian, that the cedar was from wherever it was from (the Himalayas?), that the taller Japanese maple's leaves vary greatly in color from season to season, that the tree with the peculiar shape and twisted leaves is a willow with a weeping habit, that the small fir shrub (or was it spruce?) is native to high altitudes, that birds tend to eat all of the yew berries, that the salvia is next to the oregano and lavender across from the blueberry bush, and that the rose bushes will have salmon-colored blossoms and will be about six feet tall by the end of the season. I didn't bother to translate most of the more technical data since most of the time my parents were wandering in some other part of the garden where they could look at the rhododendrons without being burdened by all of the details about each plant, its origin, its growth habits, its need for sun or pruning, and whether other variants had flowers of vastly different hues.
As may be apparent, I would like to have a garden like the one in Rakovník, but I realize that this is unlikely to happen since the gardener does have to keep at the project for much longer than I have ever lived in one place.
As we left the garden to go for a walk in the external world, our friends noted that the fact the house faces an extensive wooded park does effectively extend their garden. The park is quite long and a splendid place to walk in its own right, and we all agreed that the panelaky nearby had a most enviable view. While panelaky used to be hideous monstrosities (and some still are), we all agreed that with recent renovations and colorful exterior paint, Czech panelaky are finally beginning to look relatively appealing. (One of these days I intend to feature some photos of them...)
And it should be mentioned that while I didn't take any photos (being the designated driver), we thought the woods on the way to Rakovník were singularly gorgeous.