Resting at the heart of Prague’s baroque palace grounds is a famously eerie wall, surrounded by lush gardens.
Constructed at the behest of Albrecht von Wallenstein between 1623 and 1630, the Wallenstein Palace enjoyed a centuries-long first life as a magnificent private residence for various generations of the Wallenstein family. At the close of World War II, the land fell into the hands of the state government, who repurposed the palace’s main buildings to serve as the seat of operation for the Senate of Czechia.
Despite the elite negotiations that have always taken place inside the palace’s handsome corridors, it is the Wallenstein Palace’s massive network of complex, geometric gardens that remain the biggest draw for the public since 2002. Fashioned in an early baroque style, the grounds were partitioned into several distinct areas, the most secluded and fascinating of which was known as “The Grotto.” In this portion of the garden, aspects of real and artificial elements of nature co-mingle, creating an eerily unreal landscape. Here, grotesques were allowed to reign supreme, including imagery of snakes, monsters, and random, distorted faces, while an aviary provided a crucial acoustic element.
Contemporary visitors to the Grotto remain most struck by the Dripstone Wall, created by things that, from a distance, seem to be dripping skulls. Closer investigation reveals the wall is made from a haunting, uncanny assemblage of stalactite-like rocks. Signs along the wall note that, if one stares hard enough, it’s possible to make out human and animal faces peering out from within the wall’s recesses.
Adding further fuel to the site’s disconcerting nature are other strategically placed clues that the Dripstone Wall itself could, perhaps, contain secret passageways wending through its interior, accessible only by those bright enough to discern the pattern of access. Throughout nearly 500 years of years of existence, no one seems to have found a way in, but, thankfully, that hasn’t yet stopped visitors from dreaming about solving the mystery.