Whenever I visit a new country, I remind myself that the capital city is not the only sight worth seeing. This is true for Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic. You could do a lot worse than spending your entire trip in Prague. This is the stunning, culture-rich historical epicentre of Central Europe after all. Although, you would miss out on all the other historical and natural sites and phenomena spread across the rest of the country.
One noteworthy site is the Prachov Rocks/Prachovske skaly, natural rock formations resembling something plucked from Arthurian legend. This iconic landmark is part of the 'Bohemian Paradise'/Cesky Raj, a protected nature reserve located four miles from Jicin in northwest Bohemia. The way I discovered this destination is bizarre, to say the least...
One day whilst browsing through Reddit, I came across the meme below. Some users had noted how this stunning winter setting reminded them of a real-life Skyrim, the fantasy-adventure role-playing game developed by Bethesda Game Studios, (back when they still cared about creating quality content). As an avid gamer, I knew I had to find this place! Imagine my delight when I discovered that not only is this in the Czech Republic but is less than an hour's drive from my family's hometown! Needless to say, I didn't try to ride a horse up the side of a mountain...
During our visit, I managed to convince my cousin (then a child) that this labyrinth of towering monoliths predating humanity itself was imported from China using helicopters. 'I knew he was lying. There's no way helicopters could carry such big rocks', was his retort upon learning of my deceit. Oh, to be young!
The impressive and breathtaking views draw busloads of tourists, hikers, climbers and filmmakers from all over the world. Over time, the installation of footpaths and metal railings has made the area more navigable and helped to reduce the strain on peoples' calf muscles. Bear this detail in my mind for our next point.
The main highlight of the Prachov Rocks is the magical 'Emperor's Corridor'/Cisarska chodba. A steep stone stairway sandwiched between two mountains. Legend has it that during the early 1800s, the Holy Roman Emperor Francis I stopped at this rocky passage on his journey to discuss the growing threat of Napoleon with Russian Tsar, Alexander I. As he couldn't be bothered to walk, the Emperor ordered his servants to carry him up the stairs in a palanquin, thus giving the site its name. The historical accuracy of this story is open for debate.
A little over an hour's journey from Prague, this natural gem is not one to miss. I fondly recall my visit here. My experience arguably marks the only time an internet meme has ever proved useful in real-life.