As a big fan of the Czech cinema I’ve downloaded few weeks ago Czech Film Trips application for my mobile phone as I figured with my numerous trips there it can come by really handy. Last year in Prague I’ve randomly found places in Zizkov where “Vratne lahve” where filmed and I thought it’s such a nice way to see a place, following the movie I watched and enjoyed. When I was on my train from Cesky Tesin to Zabreh I was browsing the app and saw there’re some film locations listed in Jeseniky mountains too! They were from the 1969 movie “Witches’ Hammer”. Back then I haven’t watched that one (I’ve already caught up) but the plot sound pretty interesting that I knew I will want to visit places from the movie as well! And since the app works with the Google map we found them easily.
“Witches’ Hammer” is based on the book with the same title – both tell the story of hunting, torturing and burning innocent people who were suspected for being under the devil’s spell. Sadly, this was not the fiction. At the end of the 17th century hundreds of women died in flames, accused of being witches. The first one, Marina Schuchova, was detained and burnt in May 1678. This beggar woman went for the Sunday mass to the church in Sobotin where she stole the Host in order to give it to the neighbour whose cow didn’t want to give milk, a superstition said this should help the animal. Her story was just the beginning of the dark years in history of Jeseniky mountains and now Marina Schuchova is known as the symbol of innocence and unnecessary tragedy. Women after women were forced by cruel tortures to admit that yes, they were going to the coven, flying on the cows, goats or simply on the brooms and mated with the devil itself. Thousands of people were coming to witness a “grand theatre” where these witches were murdered in the cruel way, most of them were secretly praying no one will say their name during the tortures so they won’t be the next ones in line…
We started our road trip in Sobotin but before we headed to the church where it all started we stopped by in the small park on the side of the road where beautiful tomb was hidden. It was designed in the Renaissance style by the architect from Vienna – Wenzel Baumheyer – and built at the end of 19th century for the wealthy Klein family. Altogether 12 family members rested in the mausoleum. These days however, the tomb is not in the best shape but its beauty is still undeniable. I really like visiting cemeteries but I haven’t seen many of such incredible tombs, and together with the isolated park and a lovely view to the surrounding mountains it really made a perfect resting place, almost like from the movies.
When we arrived to the church we were welcomed by a nice older man who has worked most of his life as a local church official. He told us the story of the place, including the infamous witch issues and a more recent war crimes, as well as guided us around. The memorial stone reminds all visitors that this was the place where it all began in 1678 and I must say that knowing the story I felt kind of weird when wandering around the church and its grounds. Such an unobtrusive building was a silent witness of such a tragic history… The movie itself wasn’t filmed here, St. James the Greater church near Prague played Sobotin’s St. Lawrence’s church but still the village is well worth a visit!
Couple of kilometers further, in a small village Marsikov, a true gem can be found. St. Michael’s church, built in 1609 in the Renaissance style with later baroque and rococo changes, definitely gave me a “wow” moment that doesn’t happen very often during my travels. It’s all wooden and so beautiful! The interior remained unchanged for years, even the somehow dusty smell gives the idea how old this place is. These days the mass are very rarely held here and the church is often closed but the nice man next door has the key and will gladly open the building and show you around! And belive me, you want to see this church inside!
Our next stop was in Velke Losiny – one of the oldest villages in the area, known for its spa facilities and again, for the infamous witches trials. Here, in the chateau from the 16th century, a cruel inquisitor Heinrich Franz Boblig von Edelstadt worked, interrogated, tortured and doomed innocent women. This place appears in the “Witches’ hammer” movie, playing itself and showing how cruel and tragic things happened there. When looking at the beautiful chateau and wandering its green grounds it’s hard to believe that this idyllic spot was the stage to some of the darkest moments in the history of Jeseniky mountains…
After the heavy morning with witches we headed to Jesenik for some more relaxing time, on the way stopping at yet another beautiful castle in Loucna nad Desnou. It’s incredible how many interesting places are in such a small area of Jeseniky mountains, every village has something worth visiting! After lunch in Jesenik we climbed up the mountains above the town for some spa treatment. In the beautiful nature surroundings a Priessnitz Medical Spa can be found – the oldest hydrotherapy spa in the world. A local self-taught men – Vincenz Priessnitz – has found out that cold water can be a great help when dealing with some diseases and based his whole treatment on that. At first he was accused of quackery but since he was using nothing but water he was not convicted. Soon after his spa has become a huge success! These days everyone can enter the premises where couple of pools with cold water can be found. You can sit with your legs dipped, walk around in the freezing pond or dip your arms in yet another tank. It looked so funny when all these people were dogging after each other in knee-high water but I stopped laughing the moment I tried some of this treatment on myself. In a hot day like that it was a pure blessing, even if I didn’t manage to stay there too long! Oh, and the quirky fact: Polish word “prysznic” (a shower) comes from Vincenz Priessnitz!
I really could have stayed in Priessnitz Spa all day long, just relaxing, but we had one more place to visit on that day – and it was another spa town! Karlova Studanka is second smallest town in Czech Republic and just so pretty! It’s surrounded by green mountains and the 19th century architecture along the main street is all wooden, giving the place an unique and charming look. It is said that Karlova Studanka has one of the cleanest air in Central Europe and I honestly wouldn’t be surprised. Sitting in the old-fashioned pavillion and drinking coffee (I’ll dissemble its quality…), walking down the main street and sipping therapeutic water right from the fountain was a perfect ending of this road trip around Jeseniky mountains.
From there we just headed to the cottage in the middle of the forest for the bonfire (I haven’t had one for years!), late night conversations and watching falling stars… One more time I could unveil northern Czech Republic and be surprised with it. This area is so close and is so interesting yet it remains so undiscovered! I really hope to revisit it soon again to explore some more and be enchanted one more time! And this is how our road trip looks like on the map:
Would you like to visit Jeseniky mountains? Have you heard about burning witches in Czech Republic before? And do you like spa towns?
If you think of visiting Czech Republic or just want to read more about the country take a look what else I wrote about it!
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