Michaela Merz

Trip to Karl Huss at Kynzvart Castle

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Karl Huss was born 3rd January 1761 into an executioner’s family in Most. Being a hangman wasn’t an easy destiny. Hangmen and their families were looked down upon and finding a wife was difficult unless it was a daughter from an executioner’s family.

As a child it was impossible to learn another job other than the one of being an executioner. Karl was smart and talented and so his father sent him to high school. Harassment from pupils and teachers became unbearable and so the 11-year-old had to leave school. He continued to be taught by private teachers. He learnt the job of his father. At 15 years old he undertook his first execution. As the historical source suggests ‘with great skill’. In the summer of 1779, he went to Cheb to help-out his old uncle who was also a hangman. He stayed there for the next 47 years. As he gained a lot of knowledge about disease and their cures he soon became a famous person. He was called in to help the most prestigious family. That’s how he got to know the daughter of master baker Eberle, Sophie, who was twenty years older than him. It must have been love at first sight for the two. Sophie’s family was strictly against the marriage and fought against their bond their whole life. As there was no possibility that Sophie’s father would ever agree to the wedding of the two, Karl abducted Sophie in a very adventurous move (about which I unfortunately couldn’t find any historical record) and married her.

As both were now unwelcome, they lived in the executioner’s home at the border of the city by the town wall. The two lived alone, without children, cast out from society. Karl worked as a healer and received old (invalid) coins for his work which he started to collect. He became a big collector and the collection became famous across the border. One of the visitors of the collection was J.W. Goethe. Next to his work Karl Huss also wrote books and was a very good illustrator.

His wife Sophie died in 1824 and Huss was worried about what would happen to his collection.

The city of Cheb wasn’t interested in his collection and so Huss offered the collection to Prince Metternich who was also a passionate collector. The prince agreed and so the collection went to Kynzvart Castle. Huss received 300 guilders for rent, accommodation including heating and the position of curator. He died at the age of 78.

And this collection of curiosities we visited. You see quite a lot there such as the bag of Madam Pompadour, gemstones, stuffed animals, weapons, a mummy and much, much more. The Castle of Prince Metternich is impressive with its castle garden, golf court and huge park with old tree and many surprising constructions such as the forest chapel, altar and staircases which are exciting to explore. In the autumnal October, splendid colours and mushrooms at each step were just wonderful. If you are looking for an excursion destination where history and nature have a lot to offer then Castle Kynzvart is a good place to spend the weekend.

The history of Karl Huss and the fact that he was rejected by society unfortunately has its validity until today. Who knows what would have happened to Huss if he was born into a royal family. And who knows perhaps the time that Huss forcibly had because everyone avoided him unless they needed him led to him gaining his knowledge. By the way, in the two halls of the castle’s library there are books with the entire knowledge of the time. This led us to many discussions, such as the fact that bad human habits only change slowly, knowledge however multiplies at an incredible rate. Have fun exploring!

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