The Křivoklát Castle is an attractive tourist destination; it was founded at the beginning of the 12th century by Prince Vladislav, photo by: Archiv Vydavatelství MCU s.r.o.Prague - Malá Strana, Vltava River, and Charles Bridge, photo by: Archiv Vydavatelství MCU s.r.o.Prague towards the northwest, photo by: Archiv Vydavatelství MCU s.r.o.The beauty of the countryside, known as Bohemian Paradise, has enchanted many artists, photo by: Archiv Vydavatelství MCU s.r.o.Český Šternberk Castle, photo by: Archiv Vydavatelství MCU s.r.o.Koněprusy Caves, the largest cave system in Bohemia, photo by: Archiv Vydavatelství MCU s.r.o.Mělník Chateau and tower of the Church of St. Peter and Paul as seen from the historic locks in Hořín, photo by: Archiv Vydavatelství MCU s.r.o.
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Central Bohemia - the Kladno and Slaný areas

The area northwest of Prague used to form the core of the former Přemyslid state, where mythology holds that the first tribe of Czechs settled. The flat landscape here is dominated by the “mountain” Říp, whose shape clearly reveals its volcanic origins.

Říp

Říp Mountain (455.2 m ASL), visible from far away on all sides, stands about 4 km south of Roudnice nad Labem. Its even-shaped distinctive peak stands out about 200 meters above the surrounding flat landscape. Říp is probably the most memorable site of Bohemian mythology; according to legend, it was Čech, the great forefather of the Bohemians, who climbed the peak, looked around at the landscape, and claimed everything he saw (flowing with milk and honey) as the new home for his people. The peak of the mountain bears the Romanesque Rotunda of St. George from the early 12th century, which is a good representative of Přemyslid structures preserved on the edge of their former territory.

Even before the arrival of the Slavs, however, this area was a centre of Unetice and Knoviz culture (2400-750 BC). A “Czech Stonehenge” was even discovered not far from the town of Slaný – a sanctuary in Makotřasy from about 4000 BC. This square arrangement of mounds and ditches is about 300 meters long on each side and includes a number of boulders arranged in a mysterious lunar and astronomical orientation. Even though this prehistoric “calendar” is not as impressive as similar structures in Western Europe, its dimensions show that it is a work from people of the same civilization. A shrine was also discovered near Mšecké Žehrovice near Kladno from around 100 BC containing the world famous “Celtic Hero”, a stone sculpture of a male head, a rare artefact of Celtic art. A copy can now be viewed in the National Museum, since the priceless value of the original only allows for exceptional showings.

Kladno

The area around Kladno was already an industrial region for the Celts, resulting in the first ironworks and iron smelting workshops. The middle 19th century saw the first steelworks in Kladno which made use of the local deposits of bituminous coal.

The history of coal mining in the Kladno area dates back to the 3rd quarter of the 18th century, when coal was mined in the northeastern part of today’s city. The year 1846 saw the discovery of a massive coal seam which brought a huge mining boom – until the end of the 19th century, more coal was mined here than in the Ostrava area. In 1889, the Polnina steelworks (Poldihütte) was founded. The end of the 1980’s saw a gradual phasing out in mining; the last car harvesting this “black gold” came out of the Schoeller Mine on 29 June 2002. On this day, the history of mining in the Kladno area came to an end – it lasted 230 years.

Although the name Kladno today is synonymous with industry, having provided the town with its height of prosperity, the town also has its “pre-industrial” past. The Baroque period is recalled by the Chapel of St. Florian and the Marian Column on the town square. The town’s Late Baroque chateau from the early 18th century is likely the work of the architect K. I. Dientzenhofer.

The Kladno Chateau is one of the oldest buildings in the city; it is an art-historical monument and a cultural institution with a history older than the building itself. The Baroque three-winged chateau stands on the site of the former chateau of the Žďárský family from Žďár. The chateau was reconstructed in 1738-1740 under the Břevnov Abbot Benno Löbl and on the plans of K. I. Dientzenhofer. The Chapel of St. Laurence on the first floor has been preserved in its original state with wall murals by J. K. Kovář. The chateau also included an agricultural court, the remains of which today include the "Josífka" building, the granary, stables, and barn with chateau garden. The gallery is also an integral part of the Kladno Chateau and is a regular venue for art exhibitions, lectures, recitals, and creative workshops for children. The lower part of the chateau holds the "Štola" – a simulated mine worksite reminiscent of the Kladno mining tradition. The chateau is surrounded by a charming park where cultural events are held regularly. You can also visit the bear den where the she-bears Marta and Míša live.

Slaný

While Kladno is relatively young (13th century), the nearby former royal town of Slaný is a much older settlement. It lies in the first fertile lowlands of the Elbe river valley. The local church of St. Gotthard was mentioned as early as the 12th century, its Gothic appearance today coming from the 14th or 15th century. Many of the houses’ facades, renovated after a fire at the end of the 18th century, conceal Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque elements. The town’s former mighty fortification system has remained only in fragments today, including the Late Gothic Velvarská Gate from 1461.

Velvary

The nearby town of Velvary is decorated with a number of Renaissance and Baroque houses as well as Baroque sculptures. Important buildings include the Gothic Church of St. Catherine from the 14th-15th centuries and the Renaissance Prague Gate from 1580. Slaný and Velvary were prosperous only until the Thirty Years’ War, after which they fell into decline.

Lidice

The Kladno area saw its most difficult moments in history during the Second World War. As revenge for the assassination of the high-ranking Nazi Heydrich, German forces murdered the inhabitants of Lidice (10 June 1942) and attempted to erase the village from the map forever. A new Lidice has been built, however, and the site of the tragedy is marked by a fitting memorial.