Every schoolchild in the Czech Republic knows Babička (The Grandmother). It’s the iconic work by the most famous Czech female writer Božena Němcová. It tells the story of Němcová’s childhood which she spent with her grandmother in a beautiful spot which she has set in eastern Bohemia. That place now bears the name Babiččino údolí – Grandmother’s Valley. If you want your children to learn about this fundamental piece of Czech literature in a fun way, take them to this little slice of heaven.
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Božena Němcová (1820 – 1862)
Božena Němcová was a Czech writer, probably the most famous female writer up to date. There are many theories about her origins – although brought up by simple people she is believed to be of noble descent by some and the daughter of one of her official sisters by others. What we know for sure that she lived in poverty most of her married life and she died young. She spent part of her childhood at her grandmother’s cottage and this is what she based her most famous work on.
The portrait of her is a work by Jan Vilímek.
If you’ve read Babička, you might wonder why she called the main character – the little girl Barunka. Barunka is a diminutive of the name Barbora and Němcová’s birth name was actually Barbora.
Babiččino údolí – Grandmother’s Valley
What is now a National Protected Landscape in the Hradec Králové region was first named Grandmother’s Valley in 1878 by the writer and doctor Otakar Jedlička. The place maintains the authentic look so you’ll feel like you are back in the 1820ies.
How to find Babiččino údolí
Click here to view the map.
The first thing you will notice and therefore know you’re at the right place is the sandstone statue of the grandmother, the children and two dogs by Oto Gutfreund. The original intention was for the statue to stand in the middle of the field as if the group was going to the château. However, the owner of the meadow didn’t allow this due to his fear of having people come over and ruin the grass. The children are looking up because they are watching for the first stars of the night.
This is the wooden cottage of the Grandmother. The inmobiliary is authentic and it was donated in 1945 by the Museum of Božena Němcová in the town of Česká Skalice.
The Mill (Mlýn)
Viktorka’s Weir (Viktorčin splav)
The saddest location of the whole book is without any doubt the weir where the young girl Viktorka used to sing. The young girl in the book went crazy after her beloved soldier died and she drowned their baby in the weir. Viktorka died after a hit by a lightning. The character is based on a real person Viktorie Židová who did love a soldier but her love was unrequited. She didn’t drown her baby but used to bath in the weir when she was homeless. She outlived Němcová by six years.
The pub and inn became the property of nobility in 1858. In the book it was the workplace of the waitress Kristýna. The pub isn’t open anymore and there’s a souvenir shop in its garden.
This empire-style château was the home of princess Kateřina Vilemína Zaháňská (Princess Wilhelmine, Duchess of Sagan) who supported the poor family of Božena Němcová. She became the model for the book character of The Princess.
Visit this website to see the entry fee and opening hours.
The educational trail will take you not only to the Protected Landscape in the town of Ratibořice but also to the nearby towns Česká Skalice and Rýzmburk.
We start in Česká Skalice, in a street that now bears Němcová’s name. The building was Barunka’s school and now serves as a part of the Museum of Božena Němcová. The walk continues across the river Úpa and on to Ratibořice around the castle, the former pub Panský hostinec and the sculpture of Babička and her grandchildren. We continue to the cottage Staré Bělidlo and the infamous weir and on to the town Rýzmburk we go…
It is an easy walking, the trail is 7,5 km long with 25 stops and 18 information panels. The best time to come is during the touristic season from May to October. The panels are down in winter, however, you can still walk the trail following the touristic markers.
Where to Stay near the Landmarks
The recommended place to stay is the village Ratibořice:
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