žítková
Traveling Moravia Cities Regions

Žítková, Where the Magic Is Very Real

If there is one place in the Czech Republic where you get the chance to disconnect from the stress of everyday life, it’s Žítková. It’s a place where you can feel the power of nature all around you and a place where the last “witches” in Moravia lived.

How this peculiar place came to be

Žítková is a village in the very east of Moravia, right at the border with Slovakia. The landscape is very typical for the area of Moravské Kopanice which Žítková is a part of – particular rural houses scattered around the hills. And so, the village may have less than 180 inhabitants (2024) but walking around the cadastral area will take you a few hours.

It was established between the 17th and 18th century as a settlement of the village Starý Hrozenkov which you can see from here down in the valley and it’s also co by kamenem dohodil (at a stone’s throw – very close) from Slovakia. The local dialect is a very peculiar mixture of languages that is sometimes difficult to understand. The people coming here were the poorest, they owned no land and established themselves in simple houses made from tree trunks surrounded by land made into gardens (the so called kopanica, from here the name of the region Kopanice). Many people made living by selling dried fruits which is why some of the houses had also a separate place for drying.

The name Žítková is most probably derived from the word život – life which had to be restored here many times after the attacks of the Turks and Tatars. And the life in this village used to be much livelier decades or even centuries ago. Many people had to seek their living elsewhere in the 1950s and 70s and the number of inhabitants went from almost one thousand in 1910 to todays historical minimum.

Local Folklore

The geographical isolation of the whole Kopanice region helped preserve its magic and folklore which is quite distinctive from the rest of the country. One of such folkloric elements is the traditional embroidery:

 

 

source: Hrozenské šaty

The locals are rightfully proud of their kroj (national and regional costume) and it’s not unusual seeing a lot of them at cultural events or at workshops focused on embroidery, sewing and other.

Beautiful ladies of the Čečera choir from Starý Hrozenkov; source: Čečera

Bohyně, Last Witches of Moravia and Literature

It’s not just the beautiful nature that attracts many Czech tourists a year, it’s also the folklore of this place and besides the elements already mentioned I mustn’t forget the bohyně. Žítková (as well as other nearby villages) was a home to the so called bohyně who were the last “witches” and “oracles” of this area. Although the dictionaries would tell you that the word bohyně means goddesses, it would be incorrect in this case. The name of these women derives from bohovat – to perform the rituals in which they helped people and animals with their ailments using natural remedies and sometimes foretold future events. Besides that, bohyně could also give good advice and served as psychological support. The word “witch” certainly isn’t correct to describe them, although there was magic in what they did. They were medicine women who had a special connection to the nature and could feel and understand things most people couldn’t.

The last of these special women, Irma Gabrhelová, died in 2001 and with her, the era of the bohyně in Žítková ended. The village gained on popularity after the release of the fictional novel Žítkovské bohyně in 2012 (which many locals weren’t very happy about because, in short, real names were used in a fictional tale that made the locals look bad) but if you’re interested in factual literature and ordinary people’s tales, the writer Jiří Jilík has dedicated his work to this place and phenomenon and has even befriended the last bohyně. He is the author of the original Žítkovské bohyně from 2005 in which he describes the rough life in the area. He published several other books about this area and there are a few more authors on books that talk about the local folklore and life.

One more I want to mention is a book I found by a complete accident many years ago. It’s Žítkovské bohyně – Lidová magie na Moravských Kopanicích (Bohyně of Žítková – Folk Magic in Moravian Kopanice) by Dagmar Pintířová Dobšovičová who spent some time in the 1990s visiting the bohyně being their client and doing her student research.

We know that the locals don’t like discussing bohyně and we come here respecting that. On our trips there’s no asking about them and no bothering the locals with questions we know they don’t like to answer. After all, not knowing exactly is what makes the mystery of bohyně alive. Our trips are focused on enjoying the nature of the surrounding hills.

Life in Žítková

Living in the mountains of Bílé Karpaty, far away from anything and with hardly any neighbors was tough and people had to rely on themselves and their skills. Nowadays, Žítková is much closer to “civilization”, of course, but it still remains relatively secluded thanks to which it has preserved it’s charm. The nearest village with schools and shops is Starý Hrozenkov, which is also worth visiting, at least during folkloric events. Life in Žítková revolves mainly around agriculture. If you visit in early summer, you’ll always see tractors and other heavy machinery at work. Also, there are always cows and other cattle on the meadows, horses and other animals roaming around freely. There’s also tourism, although only one larger hotel serves to accommodate it, and several particular places to stay.

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Moreover, there are shops with local products and several locals make their living by selling medical syrups and teas from local herbs or organizing herb seminars. There’s also lots of contact with Slovakia, naturally.

Let’s Walk Around

Don’t forget that you can do Geocaching anywhere in the Czech Republic so get your gear if you’re a cacher!

Let’s start at the village square (náves in Czech). It’s the place with probably the highest density of houses, there is the town hall, a pub and a few family houses. It’s the place to go if you want to see the route options and maybe check out the events. There is a board with all the upcoming lectures, workshops and other events, advertisement for the two local product shops, a signpost and an information board on the stop 4 of the so called Naučná stezka Kopanice or Kopanice Educational Trail in Czech and English. Following this track you’ll not only learn lots about this village and its region but also, at stop 7, arrive at Odpočívadlo u Hajtmanů which is a charming little spot to rest, have coffee and other refreshments and, most importantly, taste some delicious locally baked bread.

Walking down from the square the other way you’ll pass the hotel and have some incredible views of the hills.

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You will also very probably see some cows and if your children enjoy large agricultural machines, they will be very happy here in summer!

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Make sure to bring good shoes to enjoy the trails!

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Also, bring a raincoat. And, after a rain, you can enjoy this amazing view:

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Water evaporation from the forests

And about 2 km down from the square, you’ll see a small wooden house on your left. From April to October, you can buy here dairy products from the local sheep farm (I love their žinčica, drink from sheep milk whey), koláče or other sweet pastry and homemade lemonades that you can drink using real straw!

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Right across the road there’s the local wooden bell tower from 2012.

bell tower

From here it’s not far to the house of the last bohyně. The house has a new owner who remodeled the indoors and made the house into a small museum. However, the opening hours are very short and you cannot take pictures inside.

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What to visit close

The mineral source Vyškovecké Bošáčky is about 9 km away, the ruins of the Zuvačov castle 10 km. If you prefer palaces, Nový Světlov is 11,4 km away. You can also visit the famous Čachtice castle in Slovakia and Velký Lopeník, the highest peak of the Bílé Karpaty mountains is 15 km away.

Enjoy some more photos

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