Zlatá Koruna Cistercian Monastery
1 April – 31 May, and 1 September – 31 October: Tuesdays to Sundays 9am – 12 noon | 1pm – 4pm
1 June – 31 August: Tuesdays to Sundays 8am – 12 noon | 1pm – 5pm
Cistercians from Heiligenkreuz, Austria’s principal abbey, were called for by Duke Přemysl Otakar II in 1263 to support his struggle with the Vítkovec dynasty, who were establishing a powerful domain in South Bohemia. Přemysl Otakar II donated to the monastery he founded here an alleged thorn from Christ’s crown, which he had been given by French King Louis IX the Holy. On Přemysl’s request, the monastery was named after the relic, Holy Crown of Thorns (Sancta Corona Spinea). The name was changed to Zlatá Koruna (Crown of Gold) in the early 14th century.
The monastery is situated on a promontory surrounded by the River Vltava on three sides. The convent church, a triple-nave basilica with a transept, is the architectural focus of the grounds. It is facing almost precisely north, with the convent and the cloister adjacent to the south. North of it is the Guardian Angel Chapel, adjoined by the Small Convent. The abbey complex with a brewery lie to the north. Gothic gatehouses used to provide access to its rear courtyard from the east and west.
The two-storey Guardian Angel Chapel is the oldest extant building here, dating from around 1370.
The village of Černice lies about 2 km south of Zlatá Koruna, at an elevation of 513 metres.
The first written account of the village dates from 1315, when a Bavor of Strakonice donated it to the Zlatá Koruna Monastery in exchange for the right to be buried at the monastery. In 1787, when the monastery was dissolved, the village was appended to the Krumlov domain. The early Gothic St. Mary Magdalene Church was rebuilt in the Gothic style in 1483-1491, and the church tower was modified in 1818. The monastic yards at Černice provided the Zlatá Koruna Monastery with agricultural produce.
Štěkře, located about 1.5 km north of Zlatá Koruna, is the first and southernmost of a belt of villages where yeoman yards, medieval in origin, have been preserved in an outstanding quantity. They are mostly situated within the former Krumlov domain and, as such, bear marks of the late Gothic and Renaissance of the Rožmberks. Yeoman yards (yeomen were farmers partly or entirely freed of service to feudal lords) were simple buildings resemblant of serfs’ cottages; but they were substantially larger, had vaulted interiors, and were artistically decorated.
Štěkře has a late Gothic yeoman yard, rebuilt in the Renaissance style in 1642. A little stonehouse with an interesting chimney is located by the road in the south end of the village. A stone column of crucifixion with a twisted column stands at the edge of the village, under a majestic tree.
The village is easily reached from Zlatá Koruna following the bikeable walking path which runs through the campsite, climbing the steep wooded slope above the Vltava.
Further north, the remnants of another early 17th century yard are found in the village of Záluží, no. 1; a cellar and chamber with loopholes have been preserved. Yet further north, another yeoman yard, dating from the 16th century, is the house no. 1 in Radostice. It has a well-preserved late Gothic portal and Renaissance sgraffiti on the facade.
This village has well-preserved former yeoman yard grounds, later divided into two farmyards. Nowadays, the two vaulted, late Gothic entrance gates with pointed arches of no. 10 are reminiscent of it. The neighbouring no. 11 has an ancient granary; the gable at no. 2 has some Renaissance elements; the no. 3 is also an interesting farmyard. A stone column of crucifixion, dating from 1608, stands by the lane going to Opalice.
Čertyně’s historic core was declared a Village Heritage Site in 1990.
Krnín is a compact village preserved from the Middle Ages, with a small square and enclosed farmyards. They include one of the most noteworthy and least-known buildings: a yeoman yard at no. 3, dating from around 1500, containing an originally Gothic fortress. Its grounds, enclosed with two gates with Gothic portals, contain a house of residence, consisting in part of a chamber tract in its original situation, including the unique pisé structure in the attic. The late Gothic yard at no. 1 with a sgraffitoed Renaissance gable is another ancient building. Krnín is a Village Heritage Site.
Celtic Oppidum at Třísov
The Celtic oppidum (fortified settlement) at Třísov is one of South Bohemia’s major prehistoric locations, nowadays a National Cultural Heritage Site.
The Celts, whose major tribe on the present-day Czech territory were the Boii, developed a highly organised society in the 2nd century BC, evidenced by the oppida: fortified settlements of a pre-urban type. Within the Czech network of oppida, places along the River Vltava have an outstanding status; Třísov is the closest-lying of these. The distribution of these bases along the Vltava is linked with the route connecting the Bohemian Basin with Danubia and lands further south.
The oppidum at Třísov was built around the mid 2nd century BC, in a strategic location by the confluence of the Vltava and the Křemežský Brook; the 1st century BC saw its heyday. The settlement occupied an area of 26 hectares (or 64 acres). The fortifications, strips of ramparts, have survived on the western and eastern sides of the oppidum. The oppidum is dominated by two acropoles in the north-western and south-western corners. The oppidum was a major regional production centre, linked to a long-distance trading network, and probably played an important role in the religious life of the society of the time.
The fall of the oppidum is probably connected to the twilight of the Celtic power in Bohemia in the latter half of the 1st century BC. It was most likely not destroyed violently, but rather deserted.
The fortifications were crucial to the existence of any Celtic oppidum. At Třísov, the strongest ramparts were built along its western edge, from where it was most easily accessed. It was an earth and stone rampart, reinforced with a wooden structure, and complemented with a frontal stone screen. The inside bulwark was 7 metres thick at its base. The frontal stone screen was reinforced by perpendicular timbers, embedded 1.5 metres apart. Another wooden wall was probably added over the stone screen and the inside earth mound. The outer fortifications were constructed in a similar fashion. The space between the two lines of fortification is filled with periodic low ridges and trenches at a right angle to the wall axis. These are probably remnants of walls to prevent any sideways movement of the attacking enemy between the two ramparts. This defence element is quite unique in the Celtic world.
The settlement had two entrance gates on the west side, and probably one on the east side.
The Celtic oppidum at Třísov contained residential buildings, some even raised on stone sleeper walls. The central space was probably filled with farm buildings, sized 7-9 by 3-4 metres, with walls constructed of poles (pillars).
There is a mighty linden tree, older than 200 years (31 m tall, 7 m in girth) near the Třísov train stop.
The present-day castle stands on the site of a prehistoric fortified settlement.
The name Dívčí Kámen (meaning Girls’ Rock) is probably of older origin than the castle built here. This is evidenced by a deed, dated 1349, in which Emperor Charles IV permitted the Rožmberks “to construct a castle in the Kingdom of Bohemia, named in the Czech language Dívčí Kámen.” After the fashion of the time, the Rožmberks teutonised the name to Maidštejn.
There is no doubt that the castle was erected with great speed. The burgraviate is mentioned already eleven years later, in 1360. Although the castle was a modern and comfortable dwelling for its time, it was never made a permanent seat of the monarchs; its primary function was that of authority and administration. King Wenceslas IV was imprisoned here briefly in 1394.
The castle was mostly home to a permanent garrison, commanded by the burgrave, numbering ten men including himself.
Petr of Rožmberk decided to stop maintaining the castle in 1509, moved its furnishings to Český Krumlov, and Dívčí Kámen is mentioned in written sources as a desolate castle as of 1541. Five hundred years after being abandoned by its founding dynasty, the castle became the property of the town of Křemže.
The castle is nowadays a regular venue for concerts, historical, fencing and theatre performances, medieval markets, lectures, and exhibitions.
Thanks to the combination of a rock formation, meandering streams, and human intervention, the site is very rich in terms of botany and zoology. That is why the castle area was declared a nature reserve, while being part of the Blanský Les Protected Landscape Area.
Kleť [elevation 1,084 m]
Kleť is the tallest point of the Blanský Les Mountains. It has a unique circular view. The viewing tower was built in 1822-1825, the oldest extant stone viewing tower in Bohemia, commanding views of the Alps in cold weather. A mountain lodge was built on Kleť in 1925, a century after the foundation of the tower.
Kleť can be accessed by walking paths from several places in the region, such as Český Krumlov, Zlatá Koruna, Holubov, Křemže, Brloh, and Chvalšiny. A chair lift can take you up (and down) from Krásetín near Holubov.
The observatory and planetarium, of world renown nowadays, were built by self-help in 1958-1961.
The earliest written reference to Krumlov dates from 1253, when it was named Chrumbenowe (meaning Curving Meadow). The name was derived from the shape of the town, situated in the meanders of the River Vltava. The earliest settlement dates back to the Palaeolithic (70,000 to 50,000 BC).
The town arose in two waves of construction. The first part was formed spontaneously under the Krumlov Castle. It was named Latrán and populated mostly by people who took part in the material functioning of the castle. The successive part was a textbook example of a ‘greenfield’ development, with a typically colonialist layout with a central square and streets pointing to the town walls from its corners. This part of the town was first mentioned in 1274 as a trading post. The first written record of a proper town dates from 1309, in a deed by Jindřich I of Rožmberk. During the reign of Josef Adam of Schwarzenberg, Český Krumlov crossed the notional provinciality line, and ranked among Central Europe’s prime seats of nobility with its level of construction activity, and cultural and social life. In the 19th century, Český Krumlov lost its status of noblemen’s residence, and it was neither an industrial centre at that time. For these reasons, the town has preserved its Renaissance-Baroque character, and later structural interventions only affected it to a negligible degree.
Since the 1960s, great care has been provided to maintaining the heritage value of Český Krumlov (declared an Urban Heritage Reservation in 1963); the town has been included on the UNESCO World Cultural and Natural Heritage List.
Hluboká nad Vltavou
An early Gothic castle was erected on a rocky promontory over the Vltava probably in the mid 13th century. It was probably founded by Czech King Wenceslas I. By establishing the castle, he intended to restrain the growing economic and political powers of the Lords of the Rose (the Vítkovec dynasty) in the south of the Kingdom of Bohemia. Throughout its history, the castle underwent several upgrades.
Around 1830, the then owners, the young couple Jan Adolf II and Eleonora of Schwarzenberg, began to consider a rebuilding of the Baroque Hluboká, no longer up to their growing needs, in the spirit of Romantism, which was gaining momentum at the time. They wanted to create a smart countryside residence after the English model, which would resemble as closely as possible the Tudor palaces with their many spires, battlements, and alcoves, which they became familiar with when visiting England.
An English-style park extends in the chateau’s vicinity. The original riding hall with an open roof truss now houses collections of the South Bohemian Aleš Art Gallery.
The first post-war hydraulic structure was constructed on the upper stretch of the Vltava, near the timbermen’s settlement of Lipno, with the purpose of harnessing the river’s energy potential. Two graded dams were built successively. Lipno I is the main dam, with Lipno II added above Vyšší Brod as a balancing reservoir for water discharged from the upper lake. The structure was erected in 1952-1959.
The lake, nestled amid the charming Šumava Mountains, is rightly called the South Bohemian Sea, and exploited for summer holidays, lake cruises, and efficient aquaculture. It is the largest body of water in the Czech Republic, extending 44 km in length and up to 14 km in width in the widest point near Černá v Pošumaví. The average depth is 6.5 metres and the maximum depth is 21 metres; the total surface area of the lake is 4,659 hectares (or 12,115 acres).