Path: Tourism/ Česká Skalice

Česká Skalice

Two Settlements

Česká Skalice 1852Picturesque Česká Skalice is located on the banks of the meandering Úpa River, on the route linking Prague to Wrocław. Česká Skalice (formed through the merger of the originally independent municipalities of Velká Skalice and Malá Skalice) found itself at the centre of events during the Hussite Wars. In 1424 Jan Žižka of Trocnov defeated the Roman Catholic League of Lords near Skalice. In 1441 the Silesians wreaked havoc on Skalica, while in 1450 it was destroyed by regional troops. Hedvika Smiřická from Smiřice granted Skalica a town charter in 1575. It was during her time that Velká Skalice and Malá Skalice became part of the Náchod lands. Then, after the Battle of White Mountain, the town came into the possession of the Trčkové of Lipa family, and later Octavio Piccolomini. Skalica was destroyed by fire on numerous occasions. In 1639, when the Swedes set fire to the town, the whole historical district burnt down. The greatest conflicts in the region took place in 1866, between the Austrian and Prussian Armies. A few days before the Battle of Sadowa, which was to decide the balance of power between the German states, there were battles in the area around the current Česká Skalice. More than 5000 soldiers lost their lives in the fighting. The dead were hurriedly buried both in mass and individual graves, which are now scattered across the whole area and still recall those events. A trail, leading through sites connected to the battles, has been laid out to honour the memory of the fallen. The largest cemetery for the dead of 1866 is located to the north of the town, close to the village of Zlíč. The merger of the two settlements took place in 1942, with the name of Česká Skalice being adopted.

The Dahlia Festival

The Dahlia FestivalČeská Skalice is an exceptional town. This is visible not only in its magnificent historical buildings and rich history, but also in... the textile factory. The 19th century ushered in a worldwide industrial revolution, with countless factories springing up across the whole of Europe. The textile trade developed in Česká Skalice – the first cotton mill was set up in 1837. A reminder of this activity is the textile museum, the only one of its kind in the Czech Republic. It occupies the building of the former “White Lion” Inn, where in the 19th century the famous “Dahlia Festival” took place, gathering together groups connected to the Czech National Revival. The future writer Božena Němcová twice participated, and the second museum exhibition is devoted to her. There are also two monuments to her – one on the market square is a marble bust from the C19th, while the other is contemporary and located next to the museum. In the centre it is possible to visit the school (Barunčina škola – Barunka’s School) in which the famous writer studied. The first written references to the school date from 1407. Children studied there up until 1864. The table above the entrance was carved in 1919 by the sculptor Quido Kocian, and is called “Children’s Homage to Božena Němcová”. The current building is a reconstruction of the former, which was carried out by the architect Vladimír Labský in 1972-1981. Inside, apart from the 19thcentury classroom, you can see a permanent exhibition devoted to the conflict of 1866 between Austria and Prussia. You can also take part in a specially prepared lecture on regional topics. The trail devoted to the life and work of Božena Němcová begins from below Barunka’s School.

Historical Buildings

the Church of the Assumption of the VirginBesides the museum and the school that Božena Němcová attended, the small town also contains a series of notable historical buildings. The earliest history of one of the two former settlements can be found in the walls of the current museum to the writer. This building, standing on the left bank of the river, was erected on the remnants of the earlier medieval stronghold of Malá Skalice, which guarded the river crossing at this site. All that has remained to the present day is a medieval wall with castle features in the form of a tower and small window openings, which in later years served as the foundation of the current building. In recent years the walls have been exhibited, which has made it possible to view the remains of the old castle at first hand. Right next to the bridge is the Baroque sculpture of St. John Nepomuk.

Adjoining the museum is the Church of the Assumption of the BVM. The original Gothic church was adapted in the Baroque style in 1725. The interior is noteworthy for the 15th-century tin font and the richly decorated high altar. The church entrance is watched over by statues of St. Florian and St. Donat. Standing immediately next to the church is a Baroque retirement home for priests.

Located in the central part of the town is the Neo-Gothic Town Council Office. The original town hall was built at the end of the C16th. It owes its current appearance to a redevelopment in the Neo-Gothic style that was carried out in 1863. In 1931 it became the site of the first Czech literary museum – the Božena Němcová Museum – which was based here until 1962, when it moved to the former and newly-reconstructed Steidler’s Inn, “The White Lion”. Two commemorative plaques can be found in the town hall. One is devoted to local victims of the Nazi occupation, while the other commemorates the act that established the Božena Němcová Museum as well its first Director, the teacher Jan Krtička.

Božena Němcová and Granny’s Valley

Ratibořice chateauOne of the greatest female Czech writers – Božena Němcová – spent her childhood in these surroundings. From 1820 until her seventeenth birthday she lived in nearby Ratibořice, as Barunka Panklová. She went to school in Česká Skalice, and married Josef Němec in the Parish Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In later years the writer often changed her place of abode, but the years spent in Ratibořice in her youth made a great impact on her. Stretching to the north of the town is the magical place known as Granny’s Valley (Babiččino údolí), the name of which recalls the main heroine of Božena Němcová’s novel – Granny (Babička). The book is a depiction of the idyllic life of a village, with all its cares and joys. Located in Ratibořice itself is a palace. It was built in the 18th century and owes its current appearance to a complete overhaul in the 19th century. Stretching around it is a huge English park. The whole area between the town and the village of Havlovice is under protection as part of the Czech national cultural heritage. The most interesting area around the palace in Ratibořice draws a great number of tourists each year. The focal point is a monument of the famous Granny surrounded by children and animals, established here on the hundredth anniversary of the writer’s birth. Nearby, in a reconstructed water mill building, there is an exhibition devoted to cloth making. For a time Božena Němcová and her family lived in the nearby Staré bělidlo. There are many interesting walking and cycling trails that run across Granny’s Valley. Of particular interest is the nature trail that sets off from the town centre and allows you to get to know the most interesting sites in the area.