Czechs simply love Charles. Who was he and why should you know him?

Czechs simply love Charles. Who was he and why should you know him?

Czechs call Emperor Charles IV “the father of the country”. In 2016, it will be 700 years since his birth and this round anniversary will not be allowed to pass without grandiose celebrations.

When visiting the Czech Republic, you could not ignore the name Charles (in Czech Karel) – even if you wanted to. Just by walking through Prague you will encounter Charles Bridge and Charles University. Then there is the majestic Karlštejn castle only a short distance from Prague, and of course the spa of Karlovy Vary in the west of the country. All of these places bear the name of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV who was born in 1316 in Prague. He came to love Bohemia and therefore grand celebrations are being prepared for the 700th anniversary of his birth.
The celebrations will begin where the life of Charles IV apparently began, in Prague, in the House at the Stone Bell in the Old Town Square. From November 29,, the house will present an exhibition called From Bohemia to the End of the World highlighting his love of travelling. Charles IV was not only the Czech king but also Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire and a monarch of European importance. Although he lived in France and sometimes in Italy, he fell in love with Bohemia the land of Czechs, and particularly with Prague which he made the centre of the whole Empire.

Prague has Charles’ fingerprints all over it

Charles IV simply knew how, with the help of architecture and art, to represent imperial splendour. Prague inhabitants are grateful to him for this even 700 years after his birth. The Emperor started the construction of the dominating features, St. Vitus Cathedral, New Town and of course Charles Bridge which is still one of the great symbols of Prague, along with Charles University which ranks among the best educational facilities in Central and Eastern Europe. In fact, Charles IV was a great supporter of education. He himself studied intensively, wrote several educational works and spoke five languages. If you are interested in knowing what sort of ruler he was, you should visit the House at the Golden Ring where you can find an exhibition dedicated to the everyday life of Charles IV and his House of Luxembourg. In the Wallenstein Riding Hall of Prague Castle you can see a Bavarian-Czech provincial exhibition named Father of the Country from May 14, until September 25, of next year.

Follow the footsteps of Charles into prison and spas

The vigorous activity of Charles IV did not end in Prague. The ruler often made trips to West Bohemia to pursue game because he was a passionate hunter and to look back on his memories because he spent a part of his childhood in the medieval castle called Loket. Together with his mother, he was imprisoned there by his father, John of Luxembourg.

One day, whilst out hunting near Loket, he discovered hot springs, and established spas in the location. He had no idea at that time that the small settlement would one day grow into the world-renowned spa town of Karlovy Vary, or that he would not be the only ruler by far to cure his ills there. The royal guests of the spa town have included for example the Russian Tsar Peter the Great and the Austro-Hungarian Empress Sisi. In May, a series of celebrations will begin in Karlovy Vary. A parade headed by Charles IV will provide a ceremonial opening to the spa season, the Gothic era and the reign of Charles IV will be the themes of the Karlovy Vary carnival in early June. The summer will be filled with musical performances, knight’s jousting, jugglers  and many other entertaining events. In September and October, Karlovy Vary will be visited by a touring exhibition of the masterly reproductions of the Bohemian coronation jewels.

The best protection is a castle

To protect his beloved Bohemia, Charles IV built several castles. The best known - Karlštejn – lies only a short distance from Prague. The majestic structure was constructed to house the royal jewels, saintly relics and imperial coronation jewels. These Bohemian gems were hidden there for nearly two hundred years. Moreover, the castle as one of the most visited monuments in the Czech Republic is open all year round.

To protect the border with Bavaria and an important gold field, the Kašperk castle was built in South Bohemia. It stands near the Šumava National Park. It is also close to Český Krumlov, included in the World Heritage List, which you can reach within an hour-and-a-half by car. During the reign of Charles IV, the Radyně Castle was also built, only twenty minutes from Pilsen.