KAREL JAROMÍR ERBEN TRAIL

Karel Jaromír Erben is our well-known Czech collector of folklore (fairy tales, nursery rhymes and songs) and poet, but also historian, lawyer, archivist and translator. He is the author of Prostonárodní české písně a říkadla, Písně narodní v Čechách (National Songs in Bohemia) and Sto prostonárodních pohádek a pověstí (One Hundred ProNational Tales and Fairy Tales in the Original Dialects). Among the most famous fairy tales I will mention Goldilocks, The Mind and fortuna, Rich and Poor or Pot boil. I dare say that everyone who has gone through elementary school knows it. I still remember his poems and I think I could recite them by heart even now. I decided to follow in his footsteps and visit his native land, which inspired his most famous work, The Bouquet (Kytice). There is beautiful language in this collection of sometimes brutal ballads and I think it should be a given for every Czech to read such a short book.

INTERESTING FACTS ABOUT KARL JAROMÍR ERBEN

Karel Jaromír Erben was born in Miletín. However, he did not have a happy life. He was born into the family of Jan Erben, a shoemaker, and his wife Anna. They had other children, but seven died. He often moaned and only his sister Josefina lived to adulthood.

Erben studied in Hradec Králové and in Prague, where he met many personalities from the revivalist circles, such as František Palacký and Karel Hynek Mácha. He was very talented. He quickly learned foreign languages and mastered Old Czech, Latin and German, Polish, Russian, Ukrainian, Belarusian, Serbo-Croatian, Slovenian, Bulgarian, Lusatian Serbian and Kashubian. He contributed to the formation of written Czech. If it were not for his work, many legends, fables, poems and sayings might not exist today. After finishing his studies, he joined the throat court in Prague as a trainee. He also changed other jobs. Thanks to his friendship with Palacký, he penetrated into archiving. He worked as secretary of the present National Museum, archivist of the city of Prague and a high official at the Prague City Hall.

He had a very nice relationship with his first wife Barbara Meříčová. They had six children, of which only three daughters survived. He depicted his cheerless life in his ballads.

KAREL ERBEN EDUCATIONAL TRAIL

ITINERARY: LÁZNĚ BĚLOHRAD – RYBNÍK (POND) NADÝMÁK – TETÍN – MILETÍN – AND BACK TO LÁZNĚ BĚLOHRAD VIA ČERVENÁ TŘEMEŠNÁ – BYŠIČKY

(1 way 10 km)

LÁZNĚ BĚLOHRAD

I start my journey in a small town in Podkrkonoší in Lázně Bělohrad, where I sleep. My steps will lead to the author’s birthplace and back.

Nejprve do Miletína půjdete po modré

In the local spa, peat is used for the treatment of spa guests. The surrounding countryside is truly picturesque and a balm for the soul. It is no wonder that the spa has been visited by a number of prominent personalities who have come here mainly for peace and quiet. The actor Oldřich Nový liked to come here. His wife was half Jewish. And so he hid his daughter Jana with the Lelks during the war. The town is also the birthplace of the writer and poet Karel Václav Rais and the composer and conductor Karel Moore.

BĚLOHRADSKÁ BAŽANTNICE

(BELOHRAD PHEASANTRY)

However, if we go back to the 19th century, we will find out that Countess Anna of Asseburg was the founder of the Anenské spa. The basis of the local therapy is baths and wraps in sulphur-glacial peat, the source of which are peat ponds in the Bažantnice forest park. I also walk through the local pheasantry, which is, by the way, a beautiful spa park. It is such a pleasant walk. I pass spa guests relaxing here. Of course, you’ll also find healing springs here. So I’m tasting the iron acid.

Bažantnice Lázně Bělohrad

The path leads through a really beautiful forest.

A walk in the forest is a real balm for the soul.

RYBNÍK NADÝMÁK (POND)

Further on, the path leads past ponds and beautifully green lakes. Probably the most famous is the Nadýmák pond. The border of the natural monument Byšičky runs around it. Here is stop No. 7, which is connected with Erben’s ballad “Christmas Eve“. In most of his ballads, it is not clear in which place it takes place. Thanks to the nature trail, however, you can imagine the plot right here.

Rybník Nadýmák

TETÍN

On the way you will pass the settlement of Tetín. You will find yourself in the pearl of the Podkrkonoší – in the Podzvičín region. You will pass through a part of the village of Tetín called Koleje. This settlement was founded after the Napoleonic Wars, when soldiers returning from the war were sold land cheaply.

Settlement Vlkanov

I liked it very much when we walked through a part of the settlement Vlkanov. There are several small log houses here. In a small area there is a bell tower and a statue of St. Venancio. The statue is the work of a pupil of Matyáš Braun.

MILETÍN

I know that you are interested in Miletín from the point of view of Karel Jaromír Erben. But I was looking forward to it for a completely different reason. I really wanted to taste the divine delicacy of Erben’s Gingerbread known as “pumpernickel”.  So my first steps led me to a famous pastry shop.

Before you get to the patisserie, you will pass the oldest monument in Miletín, the Renaissance bell tower. In front of it there is a plaque that commemorates Erben’s school years. Next to the tower there was a school run by the Žab family, from which Erben’s mother came. It was she who wanted him to become a teacher. But Karl’s health did not allow such a profession. He was an excellent pupil at school and became a patriot. This was also influenced by his patriotic professors at the grammar school.

MILETÍNSKÉ MODLITBIČKY

(Erben’s Gingerbread)

This is an original type of gingerbread, which is produced by the Erben family only in Miletín. But beware! There is no Erben like Erben. 🙂 It is impossible not to notice that the pastry chef Josef Erben has the same surname as our famous writer. They both come from Miletín and are distant relatives. Josef Erben got this great idea to make prayer books when he saw women returning from Sunday service. The women were holding a prayer book and it was the shape of the book that inspired him.

Miletinské modlitbičky
Miletinské modlitbičky

He has created a honey gingerbread based on gingerbread dough rectangles filled with a mixture of roasted walnuts and hazelnuts. It is decorated with a sugar glaze and half an almond on top. The latter symbolises a cross like on real prayer books. My son and I started offering them as a novelty at the famous Miletín fair. The specialty was a great success and was awarded several times at various exhibitions. The product was shipped not only to the Czech Republic, but also to Austria, France and Germany.

You can buy Erben’s gingerbread directly on the Miletín square. They are sold here individually or directly in boxes. You can take this delicacy home or buy it as a souvenir. Since 1913, the prayers have been protected by a word trademark. Among other things, President T. G. Masaryk enjoyed Erben’s gingerbread on the occasion of his visit to Hořice and Miletín in 1926. Unfortunately, after February 1948, Erben’s gingerbread stopped being produced for 42 years and the confectionery was nationalized. The communists were bothered by the name, which was a nod to Christianity. Here and there, the East Bohemian Bakeries and Confectioneries Pardubice expanded their range and sold their imitation under the name Miletínky. Finally, it was not until 1991 that the original owners regained their property and reintroduced the popular Erben’s gingerbread into their range.

MILETÍN BEER

And what else you must not forget to taste in Miletín is the Miletín beer Chmelka. It is really very good and can again serve as an excellent souvenir. I bought my beer in the aforementioned pastry shop. They have a choice of 10, 11, 12 and 13.

KAREL JAROMÍR ERBEN NATURE TRAIL IN MILETÍN

If you don’t want to go as big a circuit as I did, you can walk the Trail of  K. J. Erben trail only through Miletín and its immediate surroundings. The tour starts at the birth house of K. J. Erben. However, I walked it in the classic opposite direction so I didn’t have to backtrack too much. The route is 5 km long and there are 10 stops in total. At each one you will find an information board and somewhere a bench.

You will walk around the cemetery, where you will get information about the family that is partly buried in the local cemetery. You will reach the Miletín Spa. People used to meet there for healing. This is where the poet set the plot of the ballad Záhora’s Bed. The fourth place, again with seating and an information board, is enriched by a wooden statue of a gentleman looking at the writer’s birthplace. The visitor, looking over a part of the gentleman’s body, can see directly onto his birthplace. The ballad The Golden Wheelbarrow, from which Božena Němcová wrote a fairy tale with the permission of K.J. Erben, is also linked to the place.

Zastávka Popraviště na naučné stezce Karla Jaromíra Erbena
Stop Scaffold

On the gloomy site of the former execution ground, you will learn about its history, when the town was granted the right of execution by King Otakar Přemysl II. The events of this place inspired Erben to write the ballad The Daughter’s Curse.

Zlatý kolovrat
This is a very nice view of Miletín. I think you may remember the lyrics “Around the forest there is a field of ropes, a lord rides, a lord rides out of the forest, on a wounded, exuberant horse, cheerfully ringing horseshoes, riding alone and alone”. The story takes place in the Golden Wheel.

Pokud půjdete naučnou stezku s dětmi, tak je asi nejvíc zaujme místo zvané Studánka na Koši. Místo je vybaveno dřevěnou sochou Polednice. A pokud si ještě pamatujete ze školních lavic, tak soubor Kytice začíná básní Mateřídouška. A právě tady jsou rostlinky vysázeny. No a Polednici asi není třeba představovat. Dozvíte se, že dříve v místě stál ovocný, převážně třešňový sad založený jeho otcem.

If you walk the nature trail with children, they will probably be most interested in a place called Studánka na Koši. The place is equipped with a wooden statue of Polednice. And if you still remember from school, the set of Bouquets begins with the poem Mateřídouška (Motherwort). And this is where the plants are planted. And Polednice needs no introduction. You will learn that there used to be a fruit orchard, mostly cherry trees, founded by his father.

Polednice

ERBEN’S FAMILY HOUSE

At the end, or if you go the right way, at the beginning you will find the writer’s birthplace. Here there is an information board that will briefly introduce you to the personality of K. J. Erben. The memorial plaque on the house reads “Karel Jar. Erben L.P. 1811“. Today there is a museum here, but you have to book a tour in advance. Here you will find examples of manuscript copies as well as personal correspondence and the family tree of the Erben family. The end of the exhibition brings you to a stylised attic room, reminiscent of Erben’s childhood. As you already know from my previous story, Erben’s only surviving sibling was his sister Josefina.

When she got married, she and her husband took over a house in debt. During the great fire in Miletín, the house burned down and they rebuilt it from stone and brick. The house thus acquired its present appearance.

The return route leads back this time along the red marker.

Again you will go through the forest and also through the village of Červená Třemešná.

BYŠIČKY – PILGRIMAGE CHURCH OF ST. PETER AND PAUL

The pilgrimage church of St. Peter and Paul is located on the Byšičky hill. It is one of the oldest monuments in Podzvičensky. The first mention of it even dates back to 1267. At the side entrance to the church there is a striking large stone with two hollows, as if pushed out by a permanent kneeling. According to legend, the stone bears the knee prints of St. Peter, the patron saint of the church, who knelt on it and begged for mercy on the village and the church. The village was punished because the villagers led an unruly life. They preferred to stay in the tavern at the time of the service and talk blasphemously. St. Peter saved the church, but the village and its inhabitants fell into ruin. Otherwise, there’s a very nice view of the Belograd basin.

Church Byšičky

This is where Karel Jaromír Erben placed the plot of his most frightening poem, The Wedding Shirt. Famous pilgrimages were also held in Byšičky. At the end of the 19th century, the last hermit in Bohemia, Augustin Hoření, lived near the church, for whom the Stations of the Cross were built here. At the end of the 20th century, however, only a few, mostly overturned stone columns remained. The original stone columns that could be found were repaired and the missing pedestals were added. Fourteen biblical scenes were painted by local artist František Koubek. The church is a popular place of pilgrimage, often visited by patients from the local spa.

For example, the K trail leads around the church. V. Raise.

Below the church there are the Stations of the Cross in the form of columns with Passion pictures.

The road leads back to the Bělohrad Spa, where you can refresh yourself with one of the springs along the way. So, did I manage to lure you for a short trip? Which ballad from the Bouquet is your favourite?

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