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Divoká Šárka Nature Reserve

As soon as we enter the valley of Šárka, we instantaneously feel embraced by ancient Slavic history. Even though some may attribute this to its typical Czech-sounding name and particularly to the well-known legend of Bohemian chieftain Ctirad and the warlike maiden named Šárka, the valley is not named after the treacherous maiden. The name of the valley is probably derived from the Czech word "šarý" or later "šerý" (meaning "dim" or "dusky") because it was a dim and dusky vale back then. The name originally denoted only the upper part of Divoká Šárka (Wild Šárka), over time, however, it became commonly used for the entire valley all the way to Podbaba. Other sources claim that the name is of pre-Slavic origin. Nevertheless, the air of ancient history is genuine as there was a massive Slavic fortified settlement on the site of the present-day Kozákova skála (Kozák's Rock). Along with the opposite Šestákova skála (Šesták's Rock), the rock formations create a coomb and a breathtaking gateway to the valley. The coomb with the adjoining area is known as Džbán (literally meaning "Jug").

The vast water reservoir spreading above a dam built at a rocky ingress in the 1960s bears the same name. The Džbán water reservoir is almost 1 kilometre long, up to 200 metres wide (with an area of 18 hectares), up to 7.5 metres deep and it retains almost half a million cubic metres of water. Today, the water reservoir and its surrounding shores offer a wide range of water sport activities, ball and other games, refreshments, as well as a variety of additional services for both less and more demanding visitors. A tent camp may be found on the water reservoir shore.

The water reservoir is fed by the Litovický Stream, which is renamed to the Šárecký Stream further downstream. The catchment area exceeds 60 square kilometres, it is almost 20 kilometres long with a 200 metre decline and the flow rate at the mouth into the Vltava River in Podbaba is 0.14 m3/s. Šárka is indeed wild.

The valley is divided into two parts with a distinctly different character. Divoká Šárka lives up to its name. The brook, which initially flows through cascades and further downstream creates numerous meanders of calmer waters, has carved narrow defiles with precipitous walls in the hard flinty shale rock. Several hundred metres beyond the Džbán coomb, the left side of the canyon-like valley temporarily spreads out across vast sloping meadows and pastures lined with woods only to narrow down once again near the rock massif known as Dívčí skok (Maiden Jump). The impressions evoked by the charming ambience allow us to comprehend the tones of Bedřich Smetana's symphonic poem Šárka.

Here, the valley turns to the east and after passing through several rocky defiles, it gradually widens into frequently wet meadows and it ends by the rocky hill named after the nearby settlement of Jenerálka. The lookouts on top of the rocky cliffs are easily accessible by paths, which are mostly marked and start either by Džbán or at Dívčí skok. With a little caution, you may admire the romantic landscape of Divoká Šárka from above and marvel at the variegated vegetation differing according to the position of the rock formations: while thermophilic steppe species grow at sun-bathed locations, reverse slopes deprived of sunlight are the home of psychrophilous moss and fern species.

Up to the period between the two world wars, Divoká Šárka had been the frequent destination of excursionists from Prague. It was a time of prosperity for garden restaurants at Dívčí skok, which has remained in operation to this day, at Čertův mlýn (Devil's Mill – an original mill from the 17th or 18th century), Želivka in the vicinity of a small settlement, and at the already mentioned settlement of Jenerálka. If you feel tired after roaming through Divoká Šárka, you may enjoy a refreshing swim in the pool with spring water known as U Veselíka (At the Merrymaker) by Dívčí skok.

The name is quite cogent as, unlike in the wild part of Šárka, the valley widens from Jenerálka, becoming more spacious and panoramic with numerous gradual and woody slopes. It is no longer dominated by solitaire rock formations but also by the hillock with the Church of St. Matthias, which is visible from a large part of the valley. Alike Divoká Šárka, also Tichá Šárka (Quiet Šárka – formerly known under the poetic names "Gentle", "Meek" or "Consoled" in Czech) is a prehistoric settlement locality. Unlike its wilder sister, however, it is also the site of modern settlements. After walking through the entire valley, we may come across a number of former mills and farmsteads, as well as small family houses situated along a rather quiet road, which follows the brook all the way to Podbaba. In the early 20th century, only a narrow field path led through here.

Despite the modern development, several protected natural localities have been preserved in the area. These include, for example, the Zlatnice natural monument, which is located on a rocky elevation on the right side of the road within reach of the settlement of Jenerálka and may boast remnants of forest steppe and heath. It is named after a homestead, to which an inn known as Šipkapas (literally meaning "Dart and Pass") had belonged until World War II. Only ruins of the inn remain standing today. The inn was allegedly named by merry making German students – Burschens. The then bare surrounding slopes were a popular terrain for skiers along with the vast grassy slopes situated only a kilometre further downstream above Podháj. Other natural monuments with a steppe character may be found in the locality known as Nad Mlýnem and above the homesteads of Šatovka and Žežulka. Some of the steppe areas are visible from the road, particularly in early summer when the vegetation is still green and the steppe flora is already yellow and sunburned.

If you follow the road or a picturesque path from the chapel, you will reach a site where, not long ago, the Baroque Dubový mlýn (Oak Mill) had stood below the dam of the pond bearing the same name. In the late 15th century, the mill was in the possession of P. Mysliveček, the grandfather of the famous music composer. One kilometre further, before a sharp bend of the road, you will come across the former Kalinův mlýn (Kalina's Mill). The mill was also called "Na posledním penízi" (At the Last Penny) according to a tale of a hassle among local settlers in the 16th century. Despite changing its owners quite frequently, the mill had remained in operation until 1935 and a bakery had been in business here until 1945.

A few hundred metres further, we may find another former mill from the 16th century with the fitting name Mlýnek (Small Mill). The mill served other purposes as well. At the turn of the 19th and 20th century, it housed a workshop where various items from beaten bronze were made. The water from the abundant well was driven by the millwheels up to Horní Šárka (Upper Šárka). Moreover, a garden inn was opened here and it soon became so popular that reservations for the Sunday roast goose had to be made in advance. Nearby, the Podháj and Kaplanka inns also thrived in the first half of the 20th century where guests could enjoy fried bread for 1 crown on Sundays while listening to a wind band or tambura players.

Even today, we may find a number of homesteads that are often named after former vineyards. We ought to mention the large Heřmanův dvůr (Heřman's Farmstead) or Podháj, Zuzanka with the villa of the owner of the well-known Rott company from Prague, or Šatovka (literally meaning "Dress Linen" and concurrently a contortion of the French word "chateau") with a former restaurant, the name of which is derived from the name of a 17th century tailor from the Lesser Town, Jan Křtitel de Chateau, or Sanytrovka and Žežulka from the 15th century, which housed a malt house and an inn with guest rooms where visitors from Prague stayed during the summer. At Podháj, you may climb up to the Church of St. Matthias by following a path along which funeral processions used to walk to the church cemetery or, as in Divoká Šárka, you may enjoy a swim in a pool with spring water near Šatovka.

Kozí hřbety & Sedlecké skály

On the flinty shale ridge of Kozí hřbety (Goat Backs), which is partly overgrown by low stands and partly by pinewoods, you may find resting places and lookout points offering a view of northern Bohemia and of places entwined with ancient history. Nearby, behind a ground wave, you may see a part of the municipality of Únětice where extensive burial grounds from the Early Bronze Age were uncovered in 1879. A real treasure consisting of seven gold decorated daggers of beautiful workmanship was found not far from Kozí hřbety in 1928. The bizarre rocks of Holý vrch (Bare Hill) rise from the opposite slope of Tiché údolí (Quiet Valley). Not far, in the direction of the municipality of Suchdol, there is a former cemetery where you may admire the Chapel of St. Wenceslas, which is almost three hundred years old.

Other natural points of interest and beautiful sceneries await you if you walk down any of the paths leading from Kozí hřbety into the Tiché údolí reserve. When you continue along the Únětický Stream, you will reach the well-known Maxmiliánka garden restaurant. When you follow the road leading along the borders of Prague 6, you will pass by Spálený mlýn (Burnt Mill), which is situated by a small crosswise dell from Suchdol. Coherent heaths have been preserved on the northern slopes of the dell. At the restaurant, you may turn and walk up the path leading through the oak woods known as Roztocký háj. If you continue through the woods, you will reach the slopes above the Vltava River. The rocky slopes descending towards the railway tracks are known as Sedlecké skály (Sedlec Rocks). It is an area of well-preserved rocky steppe with a number of protected rare plant species. The nature reserve is accessible through a path with stairs from the northern edge of the municipality of Sedlec. In any case, you will be rewarded by a marvellous view of the Vltava valley, the settlements on both sides of the river, the nature reserves and monuments on the opposite bank, which is dominated by the high-rise buildings of the Prague district of Bohnice.


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