The Czech Republic’s Bohemian Paradise: as magical because it sounds | Travel

A location for Sky Atlantic’s TV collection Britannia, this enchanted panorama within the north of the nation is someplace to enter Bohemian rhapsodies over

Panorama close to Hrubá Skála. All pictures: Kevin Rushby for the Guardian

Sitting in contemplative silence atop an unlimited sandstone rock, I hear the primary whoops within the distance. My preliminary response is to marvel who dares destroy this peace and tranquillity? Is it leftover warlords from Jez Butterworth’s new blockbuster TV drama Brittania? Scenes from the collection (which aired for the primary time on Sky Atlantic final week) had been filmed on this monstrous pure playground. Then I realise that the noise is coming my means, leaping up the nice boulders, climbing flights of stone steps, squeezing by shoulder-width crevices and spiralling round stone towers.

Bohemian Paradise map

The acoustics are so unusual on this forested amphitheatre of stone monoliths that I can quickly hear muttering: “This is incredible! I love it!” Then I see him: no woad-washed warrior, however a younger man in a shiny orange down jacket with a smile so broad I’m astonished he’s obtained it by the tighter areas.

Eventually he climbs my stone tower, panting a bit. “I’m so annoyed,” he says. “I’ve spent a week touring museums and town squares and now they bring me here and say I have two hours! This is a wonder of the world! I want a week here.”

His identify is Nils. He’s a Dutch scholar on a whirlwind coach tour of the Czech Republic and I understand how he feels. Despite its identify, Bohemian Paradise will not be a widely known vacation spot – although Brittania could change that. Even so, the digicam can barely address its labyrinthine magnificence. I’m in an space referred to as Prachovské Skály (Prachov Rocks), probably the most seen and best-known part. I have been strolling by comparable surroundings for 4 days.

Nils climbs down some steps in Prachovské Skály

Nils is as enthusiastic as our author about Prachovské Skály. All pictures: Kevin Rushby for the Guardian

At the beginning, a footpath from the small city of Turnov, a central European settlement that’s each historical and trendy, good and dilapidated, led me into countryside, climbing a wooded ridge with just a little rock tower, wind-worn and curvaceous, no taller than a London bus. That, nevertheless, was a mere canape earlier than the principle feast.

Now the forest is deep and silent, peopled solely by crimson squirrels and deer. To my left I discover the bottom appears to slip away between beech timber in leaf-littered curves. Investigating, I discover a deep canyon guarded by sandstone bluffs the place I lose myself, briefly, in a pure maze. The magic has began. On a aspect diversion I uncover an space the place an area artist has carved barely spooky figures into the rock: legendary giants on mossy steeds looming from underneath the forest’s toes.

Figures carved in sandstone near Valdštejn Castle

Figures carved in sandstone close to Valdštejn Castle

Approaching the hamlet of Hrubá Skála, I discover a steep aspect path main right into a slender cleft between cliffs. An hour later, completely disoriented by steep staircases winding by clefts barely a rucksack broad, I emerge from a slot canyon with fun of pleasure. I’m proper reverse my lodge. I’m so excited that as an alternative of checking in, I head again and spend one other hour exploring.

Day two is a circuit that begins with a protracted, sluggish descent into deep forest with mysterious cliffs among the many timber. It looks like I’m immersed in a fairytale. Rain falls. I attain Kost Castle, a darkish forbidding place the place I’m upset to be informed the torture chamber is closed at present. But the fortress proves sufficiently fascinating with out the addition of thumb screws.

The chateau of Hrubá Skalá

The chateau of Hrubá Skalá

Towards sundown, on the best way again to Hrubá Skála, I begin following some animal tracks, forgetting to unwind a string behind me. I attain the rounded fringe of a deep canyon, retrace my steps, then spot a motion. I freeze. All large horns and woolly chestnut coats, a complete occasion of mouflon (feral sheep) stroll into view, earlier than they spot me and cost away.

I have lost each my bearings and any semblance of a path. I get the map and compass out and resolve to go east. I drop down a protracted comfortable slope of dry leaves right into a gully, then come out reverse the lodge. How was that attainable? The receptionist swears that mouflon are extraordinarily uncommon and by no means seen close by. Who am I to disagree?

Strange rock formations in Prachovské Skály

Fiary chimneys … Strange rock formations in Prachovské Skály

After one other day of quiet forest strolling, I head for Prachovské Skály, the pièce de résistance. The gorges had been made extra visitor-friendly a century in the past with an intricate community of steps and passages, plus a number of iron balustrades to cease women in lengthy skirts from tripping and falling. I can see why the TV location scouts beloved it right here. It’s a spot to spend days on hide-and-seek, to carry a sketchbook.

Too quickly, I attain the baroque masterpiece that’s the city of Jičín. It has chequerboard paving and lengthy colonnades round a powerful market sq. – but in addition automobiles and folks.

Like Nils the Dutchman, I’m aghast. Four days was all too brief a time to spend in paradise.

Way to go

The journey was offered by On Foot Holidays, whose four-night strolling tour of Bohemian Paradise prices from £435pp, together with B&B, route notes and baggage transfers, however not flights. Extensions (to Prague for instance) may be added.

Wizz Air flies from Luton to Prague six days per week (and day by day from 26 March) from £41 return.

Best time to go
April to October. Early spring may be chilly, however by late April the spring flowers begin. May and June are arguably the perfect months, however excessive summer time remains to be good as a lot of the stroll is shaded by timber. Most castles and different sights are closed on Monday so time your go to fastidiously.

Exchange fee
£1= 28.9 koruna (CZK).
A easy lunch in a village restaurant will price about 100-150 CZK.
Beer is excellent and really low cost – a half-litre glass is about 25 CZK.

Further info

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