In Bohemia there is a paradise for climbing
The sandstone needles rise up to 744 meters in the Bohemian Paradise. Castles are enthroned on some of them, others appeal to climbers who struggle to the top. The Czech region of Bohemia has even more to offer.
The Bohemia region
“What íp should be to every Czech for Mohammed Mecca,” is written above the entrance to the Chata Říp mountain hut on Říp (Georgsberg), 30 kilometers north of Prague. According to legend, in the 7th century, the forefather Czech of the 456 meter high basalt cone gave his people the Bohemian land as their home – with “animals, birds and sweet honey in abundance”.
Today, of course, Bohemia stands for roast pork, dumplings and beer, Pilsner Urquell and Budweiser Budvar are among the most famous beer brands worldwide. What is less well known is that there are even vineyards in Central Bohemia around Leitmeritz and Melnik. In 2008, on the occasion of the 1100th anniversary of the birth of St. Wenceslas, the St. Wenceslas vineyard on the southern slope of Prague Castle was repaired in Prague.
It is the most famous of over 1,400 castles across the country. Part of it was restituted after the Velvet Revolution in 1989. Even Berg Říp, which was declared a Czech national monument in 1963, returned to the possession of the Lobkowitz family, a noble house that was elevated to the rank of imperial prince in 1623.
Climbing in the Bohemian Paradise
Rock towns are the name of the sandstone needles near Turnau (Turnov), which rise up to 744 meters – but only a dozen are “alive”; Castles are enthroned on them, tourists go on holiday (“Castle Hotel Hrubá Skála”), climbers fight their way up. The Bohemian Paradise (Český ráj) is twice as large as the Bohemian Switzerland, but less crowded.
Five German dialects can be found in Bohemia. Scientists estimate that half of the 18,772 Czech citizens who named “German” as their nationality in the last census in 2011 speak dialect. After 1945 only 250,000 of the 3.1 million German Bohemians were allowed to stay in the country. Boehmakeln, a German-Czech language mix, is considered extinct.
Krumau Castle is a UNESCO World Heritage Site
After the Hradschin in Prague, it is the most powerful and – thanks to the globally unique coat bridge, which is accessible on three floors – also the most impressive of the aristocratic residences in Bohemia: Český Krumlov Castle.
It guarded the city of the same name at its feet for over 700 years, with success: No war and no conflagration devastated the 300 old town houses, which were surrounded by a double loop of the Vltava.
The last “new building” in the maze of alleys dates from 1650, but this is not noticeable because at that time many of the originally Gothic houses were given facades in a Renaissance or Baroque look. The city and castle have been a World Heritage Site since 1992.
Bohemian crystal and hand-blown pearls
Because of its glass, the North Bohemian Poniklá was on the Unesco list in 2020: for 200 years, the Jizera and Giant Mountains stood for tree decorations made of hand-blown pearls; Today, Rautis, the last company in Poniklá, maintains the craft. Bohemian crystal, invented in the 17th century, is still produced by five factories across the country – from the 64 glassworks that were once.
“Bohemia is by the sea”
This is how the writer Ingeborg Bachmann wrote a poem in 1964. The apparently absurd statement of the inland by the sea, intended as a stylistic device, contains a grain of truth. In 1929, due to the Versailles Treaty, the Moldauhafen, a harbor basin in Hamburg, was leased to what was then Czechoslovakia for 99 years. The land was thus given access to the sea via the Elbe.
Quirky, record-breaking, typical: You can find more parts of our regional geography series here.
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