Monday, June 21, 2010

Jicin: City of Bohemian Charm & History

Small square outside the Valdice Gate.  The
gate is 52 meters (170 ft)high,  and dates 
from between 1568 and 1570.
Jicin, Czech Republic

Hi Everyone,
After visiting Prachovske Skaly (Prachov Rocks), Jiri and I are our friends decided to pay a short visit to the city of Jicin.  Jicin is called the gateway to the Cesky Raj (Czech Paradise) area, and it sits in the river basin of the Cidlina River, about 96 km (approximately 59 miles) north east of Prague. The city sits at the base of the Krkonose Mountains, near the foothills, making a lovely backdrop for this charming Bohemian town.

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Jicin has been designated as a municipal reserve (mestska pamatkova rezervace) due to it's beautifully preserved Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque buildings.  The first mention of the city was in a letter written by Queen Jitka (Guta), wife of Wenceslas II of Bohemia, in a letter from the year 1293.  

Many scholars believe the town was named after Queen Jitka (Jitcino mesto in Czech).  Jicin was a possession of the king, but the most famous owner was Albrecht of Valdstejn (Albrecht von Wallenstein).  

Valdstejn is an interesting person in Czech history.  He was a very successful Bohemian general for the Habsburgs during the Thirty Years War.  Albrecht claimed the duchy of Frydlant for his own, with Jicin as the capital, in about 1620.  Valdstejn hired Italian architects to remake Jicin into a Baroque masterpiece.  The city was in the makeover process when Ablbrect was murdered (he was too successful, and the Habsburgs considered him a threat).  The Baroque makeover of Jicin was never finished, but there is still much to see and admire in the work that was completed and preserved over the centuries.  

We took our time wandering the center of Jicin, and one of the first sites to meet us was this dragon in a small square outside the main city square.  

This part of the old city of Jicin is pretty and well preserved.  There are small flowerbeds gracing the sidewalks and boulevards, and flowers baskets hanging from the light posts, giving the city a colorful touch.  After pacing through the Valdice Gate, we came into the main square of the old city.  The buildings are beautiful examples of Baroque architecture.  You can just imagine the people from the era of the 1600's doing business and shopping in this old square.  Following are some of the sites we saw on the square and just off the square.

There are many shops and restaurants around the square. This was
a Sunday, and most everything was closed.

The square has monuments (see in the background) to Christ, and 
one war memorial to a battle that took place in the Thirty Years War.

Here, you can see the facades of the buildings are painted, but the 
sides and backs are left plain.  Usually this is due to lack of 
money to have the entire building painted.

Church of St. Ignatius, dates from 1627.

Beautiful organ in Church of St. Ignatius.

Main altar of Church of St. Ignatius.

Valdice Tower and some buildings from the square.

Me being robbed by Rumcajz.

Who is Rumcajz?  Rumcajz is a fictional character in a fairytale written by Vaclav Ctvrtek.  In the tale, Rumcajz is a shoemaker in the city of Jicin, who later becomes a "kind-hearted" highwayman who protects the forest and deer from those who are laying waste to these resources.  The Rumcajz tale is told to all Czech children who can also visit the shop where he used to work in Jicin.  We didn't have time for that, but I was "robbed" just in from of his shop!

Jicin is highly recommended as a place to stop and visit due to the number of sites available in and around the city.  You can easily spend several days exploring Jicin and the Prachovske Skaly, along with many other sites.  Jicin offers an excellent website of the city where its possible to find many details about it's history and sites, as well as take virtual tours of the area.   

That's all for today.  The next post for Czech Off the Beaten Path will take a look at another expat blog called Expat Harem, by Anastasia Ashman.  I have a guest post coming up on Expat Harem this Wednesday.  I'm very excited about being on Anastasia's blog, and can't wait for the guest post to go live!  

Have a great day!

God bless,
Sher :0) 



Judith van Praag said...

Dear Sher,
Lovely to travel alongside you through the Czech Republic. I've been to Prague on three different trips, 1980, 1983 and 2006 and during each visit I've marveled over the architecture, the lush countryside and whole towns turned into monuments, as you describe so well in your post. Czech friends took me on outings to castles and to their dacha. Not a fancy one, but a cabin in the woods near a lake. Apparently these were provided by employers for their employees to vacation in during the communist era.

I'm curious whether your husband or others have memories of such vacation houses?

Sher said...

Hi Judith,
Thanks for your comment! I'm sorry it's taken me a while to get back to you--things have been very busy here!

About the vacation houses--my husband's family has never owned one that I know of. However, during the communist regime, many people had some kind of a chata or chalupa where they would get away for the weekends. They enjoyed being in nature and away from the prying regime they found in every day life.

You have some very fond memories of the Czech Republic! This country is so beautiful and filled with so many places to visit--I am afraid it will be impossible for me to see them all!

Have a great day,
Sher :0)