Part 1 – Written by
David Creighton for Expats.cz
Do you ever feel that by just setting foot in Prague´s thoroughfares you‘re putting your life at considerable risk, either from kamikaze drivers or noxious traffic fumes? Have you had quite enough of city stress and noisy streets? Don´t despair – you can find oases of peace and quiet without even having to leave the city.
It‘s easy. Take a tram (see below for details) to Vypich and as you get off you´ll see a large open space on your right, beyond which is a wall with a gateway. Go through it and you´ll be transported to a world free of clattering trams and diesel fumes. You´ve entered one of Prague´s most beautiful green spaces – Obora Hvězda.
The Czech word obora can mean enclosure, and that´s what it still is, a green enclave fenced off from the outside world, and today it´s a nature reserve. Part of the park‘s attraction is its size: Obora Hvězda can absorb large numbers of visitors without giving the impression that it is overrun. It´s thus a place to escape to, partly wooded and natural, and partly landscaped and man-made. Ironically this peaceful haven is a very short distance from the site where the Battle of White Mountain, which was a key event in Czech history, was fought.
When you go through the entrance you are at the start of a very long (710m) and straight avenue leading to the centrepiece, the létohradek Hvězda at the end. It´s a rather bizarre structure in the shape of a six-sided star (from which the building takes its name). The Renaissance summer palace was built in 1555 by Archduke Ferdinand of Tyrol for his wife. Let´s hope she liked star-shaped buildings. Somehow it seems miles away from the entrance, which must be disheartening for the numerous joggers who circuit the park. Inside, the building is noted for its beautiful plasterwork by Italian artists, and there is an exhibition about the Battle of White Mountain in the basement.
Another attraction of the park is that it is worth a visit at any time. In spring, summer and autumn (and probably winter) those joggers do endless circuits of the avenues or the paths through the woods. In the winter Obora Hvězda is a favourite place to practise cross-country skiing. Teenagers and pensioners alike can be seen plying the snow-covered paths; the only sound coming from the incessant swishing of skis in the snow. So if it´s physical fitness, nature, peace and quiet or history you´re after then Obora Hvězda has them all. A truly versatile park for all seasons.
Getting there: Tram nos. 15, 22 & 25 run to Vypich (this is the terminus for the no.15). Alternatively take tram nos. 1, 2 or 18 to Petřiny (terminus), then turn onto U Hvězdy. Continue to the end of this street and turn right onto Libocká. The entrance to the park is around 50 metres on your left.
Létohradek Hvězda is open from April to October, daily except Monday from 10.00 – 17.00. Admission charge.