Czech Switzerland National Park. CNN12.
The Pravcicka Gate is the largest natural stone arch on our continent.
The landscape started to develop many millions of years ago at the bottom of an sea. When the sea receded it started to transform the landscape by natural processes that continue to this day. For a long time the area around the Kamenice River was hard to access and its mystery instead turned people away. It was not until the late 19 th century that the area was investigated and modified for the purposes of tourism.
Visitors can expect walks through romantic nature along the Kamenice River surrounded on both sides by a wall of high rocks. You will walk beneath rock ledges, through several tunnels and across narrow footbridges. Two sections of the trail are passable only by boat – Edmund Gorge (also known as Quiet Gorge) and Wild Gorge. A boat driven by human power carries us between rock formations and the ferryman acquaints us with the living and petrified denizens of the gorges.
Between the gorges you can expect a rest stop at a restaurant where you can cook a nice delicacy over an open fire.
Boat rides can be made in both directions on two river segments called Edmund’s Gorge and Wild Gorge. Access to the gorges is allowed only by boat. The gorges have the form of a rocky canyon with sheer, often vertical, walls from 50 – 150 metres high. Some pieces of rock broke off a long time ago and slid down to the bottom of the gorge. Many rock towers have interesting shapes (“Rock Family”, “Guard” et al.)
The ferryman steers the boat with a pole, just as it had been done with this attraction was first created. During the journey he gives a talk on the gorge’s past and present and describes the odd rock shapes – the so-called „denizens of the gorge“.
Edmund (Quiet) Gorge measures 960 m and Wild Gorge is 450m. The ride through Edmund Gorge lasts about 20 minutes and through Wild Gorge 15 minutes.
The gorges can be reached from four places: Hřensko, Mezná, Mezní Louka and Růžová. Guarded car parks are available in Hřensko and in Mezní Louka.
From Hrensko there is a path along the Kamenice River, under rock ledges with three tunnels. The path is flat and 1.5 km long.
From Mezna follow the green-marked tourist trail, a very steep climb through open terrain leads to a forest, then through the trees along a path bordered tightly by rocks to the romantic, shaded Kamenice river valley. When you get to the Mezní Bridge, cross over to the left bank. If you walk upstream from here you will reach the boat launch at Wild Gorge (Divoká soutěska). Or you can walk downstream which leads to the upper boat launch at Edmund Gorge (Edmundova soutěska).
From Mezni Louka take the blue-marked trail, which starts through a pleasant, high forest and nearly flat. After 2 km leave the blue trail and turn right heading downhill till you reach the Kamenice River. Along its right bank, near the “Wellspring of Happiness” (Pramen štěstí) you reach the upper boat launch of Wild Gorge (Divoká soutěska).
From the northern part of the small town Růžová follow the green trail along a forest path, which starts out flat and then descends steeply down a stepped path, which brings us again to the Mezní Bridge. From here we can go right to Wild Gorge (Divoká soutěska) or left to Edmund Gorge (Edmundova soutěska).
Pravcicka brana is the rock formations above “Gabriel’s Trail” (Gabrielina stezka), Wild Gorge (Divoká soutěska) and Edmund Gorge (Edmundova soutěska).
Some courageous individuals can come up with the idea to go rafting down through the gorges. It seems that five daredevils in 1877 made an insane bet in a pub in Hřensko called “At the Green Tree” and floated down in three rafts from the Dolský Mill to a place known at that time as the “end of the world”. Four-meter long vessels carried their crew unscathed all the way to Hřensko. This laid the foundation for making use of the gorges as a tourist attraction.
Prince Clary-Aldringen brought in Italian specialists under whose leadership 200 workers modified the gorges, with the assistance also of the Mountain Club of Bohemian Switzerland, building floating walkways, bridges, tunnels, foot bridges and a weir. On May 4, 1890, the Tichá Gorge, also called Edmund’s Gorge, was opened as well as a restaurant. Service was provided by five small boats on which ferrymen dressed in sailor uniforms used poles to steer, which is still done to this day. The Wild Gorge had to wait eight more years before opening in 1898.
We can get an idea of how popular this attraction was by the written records from the 1920s – 14 boats operated in Edmund’s Gorge and 7 in Wild Gorge. Altogether the gorges saw an average of 160,000 visitors per year. Boats were on the river from seven in the morning till dark and strict rules were set: door-to-door peddling was prohibited in the gorges as was begging, commercial photography and posting political flyers.
Pravčická Brána is the largest natural stone bridge on our continent and a natural monument of our country. It is considered the most beautiful natural form in Czech Switzerland and is the symbol of the entire area.
Its dimensions are remarkable, although when looking at it close up it seems bigger. The span of the arch at the bottom is 26.5 m, the height of the opening is 16 m, width 7-8 m, minimum thickness 3 m, and the surface area of the bridge is 21 m above its base.
From the point of entry into the area, well-maintained trails and a staircase diverge to individual lookout points from which we can observe Pravčická Brána itself and take in the impressive views of the nearby and far away surroundings.
Inseparable from Pravčická Brána is the holiday chateau known as the Falcon’s Nest. It was built in1881 on the site of a cabin made from oak bark, which served as a tavern. Originally the Falcon’s Nest accommodated important guests of the Clary-Aldringen family. Today the first floor houses a museum of the National Park. The ground floor contains a preserved, period restaurant decorated with original paintings.
Pravčická Brána has been standing since time immemorial. It is the result of millions of years of weathering on less resistant parts of solid rock, formed by ashlar sandstone from the Turonian age.
When tourists first started to discover the beauty of Pravčická Brána there was a small, bark-covered cabin at the foot of it which served as a pub. The access road from Hřensko, called „Pelagiensteig“, was paved back in the late 1870s and at that time promenade trails to Mezní Louka were also built.
The first tourists were recruited from among the city dwellers and the nobility. Although the road from Hřensko to Pravčická Brána is only several kilometres, it was customary to rent mules and porters for an excursion
In 1881, Prince Edmund Clary-Aldringen, who owned the estate, had a chateau built near Pravčická Brána which was called the Falcon’s Nest. For this purpose he invited workers from Italy – since they were the cheapest work force. The entire chateau was built within a single year, which, considering its extensiveness and the time in which it was built, is nearly a record. Several years later a railing was built on the rock outlooks in the immediate vicinity. Soon after the restaurant was built an admission fee to the area started to be charged. Since the times when Pravčická Brána was „discovered“ for tourism, arguably millions of people have visited it. Among the more famous personalities the fairy-tale author Hans Christian Andersen admired its allure on two separate occasions – in 1831 and 1851. He undoubtedly drew much inspiration here for his work.
The largest natural stone arch on our continent. A symbol of Czech Switzerland National Park.
Visitors can admire its beauty from nearby lookout points or sit right beneath the arch. Access to the arch itself is closed to protect it from the large number of visitors.
„Falcon’s Nest“ chateau
Built in 1881 in Alpine style, this hotel is quite unusual in our country. The Clary-Aldringen family used it to accommodate their important guests.
The restaurant has been preserved and has nineteenth century wooden walls, ceiling and décor.
The first floor of the chateau houses the museum of Czech Switzerland National Park, containing photographs, flora, fauna, folk architecture, landscapes, a geological outline, and samples of folk crafts. This museum is the only one in the National Park.
In addition to providing tourist information and arranging accommodations the centre also sells various souvenirs such as maps, postcards, stamps, badges and many other items.
NW from Prague – 2hours
1)Duchcov castle trip number CNWW6 – 6hour round trip
Trips combinations :
NW from Prague – 2hours
1)Czech Switzerland CNWW12 – 9 hour round trip