Written by Zofia Froněk
The romantic ruins of Okoř castle with the leaning remains of its eastern tower dominate the skyline of this small village which lies to the north-west of Prague. Built by a wealthy burgher of Prague in 1359, the castle has since passed into various hands before crumbling in the 18th century into the ruins that you can now see. Legend has it that a ‘white lady´ haunts it to this day. For opening hours and prices, see http://pupcsik.cz/okor/hrad.htm.
The small hamlet of Okoř had an official population of just 76 people in 2006. However, every August this handful of residents welcomes upwards of 7000 music-lovers as they descend on the field beneath the castle for the annual Okoř Festival. This year, the sun shone as fans were entertained by artists such as Divokej Bill, Mig 21, Kryštof and Hana Hegerová. Watch this space (www.festivalokor.cz) for 2008!
When the throngs of music fans depart, Okoř reverts to a sleepy village. If you want to eat out, you don´t have much choice, but happily the couple of restaurants on offer are reasonable. In the centre of the village is the family-run Hotel Okoř (www.hotelokor.com), where you can find good-quality food and also accommodation in homey, cottage-style rooms. There is also the Restaurant Dělová Bašta, next to the castle, which serves Czech food with a medieval theme, such as ‘Dracula Steak‘ and ‘Bear Paw‘ (pork with ham and mushrooms).
Around 5 km to the west of Okoř is the site of Lidice. This small village was totally obliterated by the Nazis on 10th June 1942 in a revenge attack for the death of Reinherd Heydrich in a Czechoslovak military action. In all, 503 inhabitants lost their lives on that night, and nothing remains of the village itself, so thorough was the destruction. It is now a memorial park with a museum where visitors can read about the history for themselves and view the touching memorial statue to the children of Lidice. In the ‘Park of Peace and Friendship‘, first opened in 1955, thousands of rose-bushes from various parts of the world have been planted (see www.lidice-memorial.cz). It is a sombre and beautiful place to walk and reflect. Next to the original site, a new village of Lidice has been constructed over the years since the tragedy, with aid from the state and abroad.
Okoř itself has no shops or facilities, other than a couple of restaurants and ‘občerstveni‘ (small food stands). For more amenities, you will need to go a little further afield, to either Buštěhrad, Tuchoměřice or Kladno.
The village of Buštěhrad is a bigger, although somewhat run-down, village across the other side of the R7 road. The decaying paneláks seen on entering it are a testimony to the fact that Buštěhrad´s fortunes have changed since its mining and steel-producing heyday; the large ‘Poldi´ factory which once employed many hundred people remains, standing sentinel on the edge of the village. Buštěhrad also has several shops, pubs, a school, post office, library, a crumbling 17th century chateau (not open to public), an equally deteriorating hotel and a museum to the Czech novelist, Ota Pavel. There is also a famous collector´s market – the third largest in Europe – every two weeks. Selling antiques, furniture, military items and many other bits and pieces, it is a huge, glorified car boot sale where the occasional treasure can be found. The next one will be this coming weekend, 12-13 October.
Tuchoměřice village stands between Okoř and the main R7 road to Prague. Dominating the village, the 17th century St. Vitus monastery is now used by the Catholic community ‘Chemin Neuf‘. There are plans to redevelop the large 18th century Tuchoměřice brewery into a residential area of new flats. In the village you will also find the Auberge de Provence restaurant, hotel and conference centre. This is in a converted Jesuit monastery, and serves French and Belgian cuisine. At 300-600 czk for a main course, the menu is more expensive than average; however the restaurant is well-patronised by embassies and large companies and corporations – even Lucie Bílá has eaten out here! (see www.tuchomerice.cz)
Kladno is the nearest large town (8 km west of Okoř). With over 72000 residents, it has a much wider variety of shopping facilities, and several new developments of flats and houses. Property prices are generally lower than average on this side of Prague. Sports facilities in the town include a winter stadium for ice-hockey, tennis courts, a track and field stadium and an aquapark (see www.aquapark-kladno.cz).
Although the surrounding area suffers from high unemployment and a struggle to recover its former industrial successes, the small village of Okoř retains its charm. Legend surrounds it -the castle is supposed to have been the hiding place for the Crown Jewels on various occasions in its history, and the field directly beneath the castle is rumoured to have energising properties. A popular Czech folk song tells us, “The way to Okoř is like no other, an avenue lined with trees…. at the end of the road stands a pub like a castle, where hungry, weary travellers start to sing…“ Whether you are a hungry, weary traveller or just enjoying an afternoon out of the city, Okoř is definitely worth a visit.
How to get there:
On PT – Take bus 350 from Dejvická. (Journey 42 mins.) Regular service, limited at weekends.
By car – From Dejvice, follow Evropská all the way to the end, and join the R7, in the direction of the airport. After the airport, turn off at exit 5 (signed Číčovice and Středokluky). Follow the minor road through Číčovice village, and turn right into Okoř.