In the footsteps of Mája through the Macha area in autumn colors

210 years have passed since the birth of Karel Hynek Mácha (1810–1836) on 16 November, but you will find his legacy in the region, which is crossed by the red marked Mácha’s tourist path, on literally every corner. Together with the ruins of castles, these are mainly places connected with a true story, which took place here in 1774 and from which the writer was based when writing Maya.

Karel Hynek Mácha

Photo: ČTK

In Doksy you will find an exhibition approaching Mach’s relationship to the region and his work. Although it is closed during the emergency, the building in which it is located is also worth seeing.

“North Bohemian Riviera”

It is the oldest house in the heart of the Mácha region, a two-storey log house from 1669, which survived two fires, during which almost all wooden houses in the village burned down. The building was used for old and incapacitated retirees from the manor. On the ground floor there was a chapel with benches and an altar, on the first floor there was a chamber with beds. In addition to the Mácha Museum, the building currently houses an exhibition dedicated to fishing and pond farming in the Českolipsko region.

The establishment of the Great Pond, today’s Macha Lake, by Charles IV was of considerable importance for the development of Doks. in 1366. The town gained fame in the first half of the 20th century, when it became a popular tourist and spa place. In the First Republic guides, Doksy was described as the North Bohemian Riviera. At the originally renaissance chateau from the end of the 16th century, which was later rebuilt in the Baroque style, an educational trail dedicated to Mácha begins.

Jarmila’s suicide

The current appearance was imprinted on the castle by the Wallensteins at the beginning of the last century. The building, which is not open to the public, is surrounded by an English park with rare trees, which, on the contrary, can be used all year round. From here, along marked hiking trails, you can reach not only the mentioned Klůček peninsula and the romantic Mácha’s Bay in a few tens of minutes, but also the opposite Jarmilina rock with a view of Bezděz.

A bridge leads across the romantic Macha Bay to the Klůček Peninsula.

Photo: Jan Handrejch, Law

When you head to the lake on the way among the mature trees, you will immediately realize what kind of pine grove Mácha describes it in a lyric-epic poem. Jarmila’s Rock can be reached via a beach with light sand planted with palm trees, until it seems that the First Republic’s guide was not far from the truth with his evaluation.

Jarmilina skála was named after the heroine Máj in 1910, because it best corresponds to the description in the work. In the 19th century, when the then Velký rybník was about half the size of today, the rock reached as far as the lake.

Here, Jarmila was waiting for her beloved, the robber Vilém, but she learns about his arrest and charges of murdering her seducer. From there, an unhappy girl jumped into the dark waters of the Great Pond to end her life. In August 1936, on the occasion of the centenary of Mácha’s death and the first issue of Mája, a monument to the poet was unveiled on the rock, the first in northern Bohemia.

Jarmila’s rock, from which the unhappy girl jumped into the lake.

Photo: Jan Handrejch, Law

In the autumn of 1938, German nationalists threw it off a rock into a lake, but the Czechs fished the statue in time and managed to take it beyond the Sudetenland to Bělá pod Bezdězem, where it can be seen near the cemetery today. Just like by the lake, Mácha stares at the beloved Bezděz.

By detour through Bezděz

Mácha first came to the countryside below Bezděz as a 21-year-old law student in 1832 at the invitation of his friend from studies, Eduard Hindl, who worked on the farm of Count Kristián of Valdštejn. The hilly region with deep forests, where robbers roamed (the end of one of them was also an inspiration for May), full of mysterious ravines and hills with castle ruins, in addition to the story of fatherhood and unhappy love, enchanted him.

He was most attracted to the just abandoned and dilapidated Bezděz, who visited during each trip to the north, even though he went, for example during his pilgrimage to the Giant Mountains in 1833. According to the drawings he made in his Notebook to conclude that he ascended the ruins several times in 1832 and 1835. He was inspired by it not only when writing Mája, but also Večera na Bezdězu and Pouti krkonošské. In 1930, a memorial plaque was placed in the Mácha complex.

The ruins of Bezděz castle

Photo: Jan Handrejch, Law

It is one of the most important Gothic castles in Bohemia, built by Přemysl Otakar II. in the years 1264 to 1278 to defend against the expansion of neighboring families. Bezděz is an authentic example of a medieval castle, because its appearance has not changed over the centuries. Immediately after Otakar’s death, he became the prison of his seven-year-old son Wenceslas II. and the widowed queen Kunhuta. Charles IV liked to stay in Bezděz, in the Hussite wars the castle was the greatest support of Catholics in northern Bohemia.

It was first conquered and burned in the 1920s. For more than a hundred years it served as a convent of the Benedictine montserrat and became a place of pilgrimage. People headed to Bezděz along the Stations of the Cross with fifteen chapels with scenes, which were built in 1686 by Countess Anna of Wallenstein. When Joseph II. the monastery was abolished, treasure hunters rushed into the dilapidated area, which inspired Bedřich Smetana to opera Secrets on Eliška Krásnohorská’s libretto. Most of the farmsteads in the village below the castle are built of material broken from the castle walls.

At the place of the father’s murder

In autumn, you can enjoy colorful leaves and a mysterious atmosphere at Bezděz as you ascend the Stations of the Cross immersed in a haze. The terrain closer to the top (606 m above sea level) is not easy in itself, and if moisture is added to it, it is necessary to be careful not to slip.

In addition to Bezděz, Mácha also attracted, for example, the castles Houska (rebuilt into a chateau) and Starý Berštejn, which he referred to as Pernštejn. We get a view of it from the place where the real father murder took place in May. It is located in the fields about a kilometer from Dubá. Although two marked hiking trails lead from the road to it, about three hundred meters walk through practically “open terrain” through a meadow without a trodden path.

At the statue of St. Prokop was murdered near Dubá.

Photo: Jan Handrejch, Law

Ignác (Hynek) Schiffner killed, probably with a hop stick, his father, who prevented him from marrying the blacksmith’s daughter. It happened in 1774 near the baroque statue of St. Procopius, the patron saint of Czechs, peasants and miners, which they built as a thank you for saving human life from lightning, later replaced by a copy. The murderer’s dear one, Jarmila, was actually called Rozina Trauslinová and lived in Dubá in a house next to today’s U Horáce pub.

On his travels to the region, which is now called the Macha Area, the poet could not miss the Kokořín Castle in the direction from Mělník, under which there is also a tourist route bearing his name. On his pilgrimage to the Giant Mountains, he probably even spent the night at the castle on a sandstone rock from 20 to 21 August 1833.

In August 1833, Mácha spent the night in Kokořín.

Photo: Jan Handrejch, Law

Kokořín is mentioned, among other things, in the unfinished novel Gypsies and in Zápisník when planning a trip to the Giant Mountains.

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