With a name like Bohemian Paradise, this national park had a lot to live up to. Promising mythical castles, towering trees and gargantuan sandstone pillars, it sounded just the kind of flamboyant weekend break I craved. Casting off my work suit, I set off to follow in the footsteps of song writers and poets on a gloriously Bohemian Bank holiday get-away to the Czech Republic.
Situated 100 kilometres from Prague, our adventure started at the 14th century Trosky Castle. Balanced on two volcanic plugs, named Panna (Virgin) and Baba (old woman), the teetering twin towers glower across the fertile valleys of Bohemia.
Mincing up the winding, stone staircase, I puff my way up Panna to take in panoramic views across a patchwork of green fields and miniature toy villages. It is said that there is a network of underground cellars and escape routes under the castle grounds. As I glance at the towers’ menacing shadow, I wonder what tales they could tell.
Our next stop is the elaborate chateau, Hruba Skala. Originally a Gothic castle founded in the 13th century, the original chiselled well, staircase and remnants of stairs blend imperceptibly into the imposing façade of this 19th century Renaissance chateau.
Now transformed into a high end hotel and spa, members of the public can still sneak in for a peak at the stunning courtyard and viewing tower. Also worth checking out is the chateau’s amazing display of quirky public art – my favourite item being this charming bike.
Descending from the chateau, we waltz into Sound of Music-style meadows where blowsy clouds of cherry blossom create snowstorms of confetti wherever we walk.
The faint smell of wood smoke lingers in the air as we pass rustic chalets with quirky features such as this rather Bohemian-looking tea cup fence.
Delving deeper into the woods, we come across an ornamental lake and the imaginatively named “pub in the woods”. Consisting of a shack with low-slung wooden tables and a fierce heater belching out 30 hot air – it’s a bit like dining in a Swedish sauna. Managing to devour some weighty dumplings and stew before narrowly avoiding passing out, we lurch gratefully back into the open air.
Emerging from several miles of shady trees, we descend into what feels like the earth’s epicentre. “Rock City” as it’s affectionately known is a fairy tale land of gigantic sandstone skyscrapers towering 55 metres tall. All that’s missing is an appearance from the Big Friendly Giant.
Walking in the shadow of these bruisers, we squeeze into a network of caves and cavernous passageways where I feel in imminent danger of being wedged into forever. Craning our necks up to the dizzying pillars appearing between the passageways, we spot the tiny figures of intrepid climbers sunning themselves on teetering razor edges – seemingly without a care in the world.
Attracting climbers from across the planet, rock city is viewed as one of the best mountain climbing locations in Europe.
Once safely out of the caves with all limbs intact, we head to the park’s most popular viewing point at Hlavatice. Lumbering up the metal staircase, we’re rewarded with jaw-dropping views across to Hruba Skala which rises up like a fairy tale kingdom against the gigantic pillars of the Ještěď-Kozákov and the Jizerské hory Mountains,
Making our way back through this amazing landscape, I reflect on a bank holiday weekend break that has truly been larger than life. Should you be seeking a magical escape from your everyday environment, the Bohemian Paradise won’t disappoint.