On the day that Czech authorities ordered the closure of schools due to the outbreak of coronavirus, as we parted, I reminded my English colleague – to whom, incidentally, I am dedicating these five writers’ trails on the event of his retirement – that Shakespeare wrote King Lear during quarantine from the Plague. We had a laugh as we went our separate ways, into karanténa. No pressure, indeed! Less than three weeks on, my admiration of Shakespeare’s achievements has intensified somewhat, as I contemplate my own seemingly, inversely proportionate efficiency. After yet another chaotic day of grading pdf copies, uploading lesson files and participating in fragmented bouts of on-line teaching, the success or failure of which is decreed by O2, making MacBeth look like a reliable host, I peruse social media and learn that during lockdown, the opportunities to sign up for a course in immunology at Harvard, speak Korean fluently or join a masterclass in Mexican cuisine are staring me in my ignorant face. Well I’m evidently not going to manage to accomplish anything quite as noteworthy before schools reopen next month. I have merely managed to write up some more of my favourite walking trails in the evenings as my cotton face mask simmers…
As a very modest contribution towards a more tolerable quarantine, which may interest but a few, I’m sharing a pretty trail that can be done in total isolation. This walk which I’m dedicating to Jindrich Šimon Baar, is located close to Prague and is the first in my series of 5 trails, dedicated to Czech writers. It is suitable for families and mountain bikes too.
Difficulty : easy Distance: 8Km Time: 1h45
Access: By car: Drive to Ořech and park at the starting point. By bus: take the bus from metro line B (Stodulky or Luka) or from Řeporyje to the last bus stop in Ořech and follow blue trail markers to the starting point.
Starting point: 49°59.73870’N, 14°17.77617’E
Park at, or walk to the tree pictured above. Do not follow the blue trail marker arrow pointing towards the left. Instead, go straight on, heading down a country path where huge electricity pylons stand in fields to your right. You are going to walk round the perimeter of this field. Keep going, veering right each time a fork in the path appears. When you reach a country walks post and are confronted with the choice of 3 paths, choose the one furthest to your right which borders country cottages. When you pass the country cottages do not turn down to the left. Go straight on until you reach the road. Cross the road and just a few metres towards the right, you will find two paths barred with rusting barriers. Follow the path to the left, which bears right, to circle the football field. You are also going to walk right round the perimeter of this huge field as though to rejoin the road again, therefore get your bearings and keep following the forest path right round in an inverted U shape. As you are on the last stretch, heading for the road ahead, you will walk past many tall fir trees growing to your left. Walk on for a few more metres and separated from the previous dense line of them, you will find three tall fir trees growing side by side, to your left, while to your right, there will be an opening and view of the field. There, you will find a very narrow path to your left, sloping downwards, into the forest. (See photos below).
You will then emerge onto a wider path. Go left and follow this pretty path all the way down to Dubečský mill. Probably named after the surrounding oak trees, due to Gothic masonry, the building is estimated as having been built in the same era as Karlštejn castle. And coincidentally, in relation to my mention of coronavirus and bubonic Plague in my introduction, when there was an outbreak of the latter in this region, in 1713, the first person known to be infected was a girl from this mill !
Continue straight on, on this upward sloping path and turn left at the top. This path bears red trail markers which you must follow through the forest to Chotec.
Cross the village, following red trail markers and descend the steps to the second mill. Passed down from one generation to the next, this mill which is the only one on the Radotínský creek to have preserved the original mechanical mill equipment is now owned by the seventh generation of the Veselý family. Continue along the creek and your path will cut through three little hamlets of country cottages, passing yet another mill, Curčkův či suchých mlýn, of which the first mention dates back to 1747. You will see a wooden saloon and a bar with a bottle opener hanging from above, poised, ready for post-confinement celebration…
A few minutes later, you will arrive at the Kalinův mlýn signpost which precedes the actual mill. The first mention of a mill at this location dates back to the 16th Century and there are records of it being sold to Václav Kalin in 1715. Apparently, Jindřich Šimon Baar visited it on occasion. At the signpost, you must switch to blue trail markers, taking the path behind you which climbs towards the right.
So who was Jindřich Šimon Baar? He was a poet, writer and Catholic priest who participated in the struggle at the beginning of the 20th Century, to modernize the Catholic Church. He was appointed chaplain of Ořech, the village towards which you are now walking. As well as encouraging Czech Catholics to be open to a new era, in his writing, (for example in Cestou křížovou where a young chaplain finds himself shipwrecked), without attacking the Church directly, he points out the consequences of the practice of celibacy. His writing also focuses on the theme of rural life, traditions and nature. Selský cyklus (The Peasant Cycle or Rural Cycle) explores the cycle of Nature wherein the death of the protagonist is not tragic but rather, the completion of a meaningful life.
The path becomes flat and leads right back to the tree where your vehicle is parked, marking the completion of your 8Km circuit. Should you have arrived by bus, you will need to walk back along the unsurfaced road into the village of Ořech where you can find a statue of Jindřich Baar and an information board outside the nursery school and take your bus from the square which has been named after him. If you do so, you will have walked a total of 10,3 Km.
Returning to Shakespeare; there were many outbreaks of the Plague during his lifetime. Indeed he survived one such epidemic just after his birth which quartered the population of his town. Then in the summer of 1592, theatres in London, along with all shops and taverns were closed for almost six months. Fellow actors died, all source of income was once again lost; Shakespeare wrote poetry. The Elizabethan era passed. As weddings and events are postponed today, so too, in 1603, was the coronation of the next monarch. During a further epidemic in the summer of 1606, scholars agree that it is highly likely that Shakespeare, while in quarantine, wrote both King Lear and MacBeth, the former of which would be acted for the first time for King James I, on 26th of December. I’m sure that Shakespeare was grateful for the time! Time, free of interruptions such as learning parts and rushing over to The Globe to rehearse or perform. Listening to people lament on-line, just eight days after confinement has been announced, I feel puzzled. Should I feel ashamed by this emotion of joy and gratitude I feel so intensely? I very naturally and undeniably feel profoundly grateful for this unexpected opportunity to slow down, to work from home – but one week ago, merely an enviable and unattainable dream – my dog snoring contentedly at arms length as I greet pupils on-line. Pupils whom I hasten to add, seem every bit as liberated and enthused by the present arrangment as I am. Grateful to the stranger who out of the blue, gifted me with a carefully crafted face mask to replace the make-shift, stapled dish cloth beneath which I was suffocating while dog walking, and overjoyed, to ascertain that confinement rules have no intention of infringing on access to the fresh air of parks and any trips to the countryside one might care to take. Scrolling down the long list of services and businesses which shall remain closed “until further notice“, I register the hardship into which many may be plunged but I reach out and fondle Artemis’ velvet ear, as I realize that dogs have knocked it off again. Yes. This is Prague baby! Among the handful of practices exempt from restrictions: Veterinarian surgeries : Open. Pet shops: Open. Pet shops? And of course, walks in nature are actively being encouraged. I smile at Artemis and muse that she must be wondering if dogs have also been granted the right to vote!
Here is the link to my precise itinerary. Enjoy!
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Dedicated to Paul Thompson, along with parts 2-5 of Writers’ Trails.