Čáslav is a small town 70 kilometres east of Prague, which lies not far from the historical town of Kutná Hora. Situated in the flat plains which lie to the west of the Iron Mountains, or Železné hory, Čáslav has a history spanning back to the 9th century.
Situated on the banks of a small lake, on the opposite side of the old town one comes across an out of the way hillock. Right next to a sports field, this is the site of Hrádek, which is today a rather inconspicuous archaeological site first uncovered in 1876; a Stone Age settlement which later became a centre of regional power for the Přemyslid dynasty. Today, all that is left of this settlement is a patch of grass and some modern signs relating the history of settlement here.
Čáslav itself was founded in the mid-13th century and is surrounded by the remains of a stone fortification built around this time. Walking around the town, sometimes these stone walls lead to a pizza restaurant; other times, it’s just an arch between two modern buildings. Some parts are crumbling, while others look like significant restoration work has taken place – as evidenced by signage pointing to major renovation work undertaken in Čáslav back in 2010. The key feature of the fortifications is the Otakar bastion, a 22-metre high cylindrical tower built around 1330. Today, it’s open to the public.
Another key feature of the fortifications is the Žižkovská brána, or Žižkov gate, an entry point to the town, which was created in the 16th century by smashing open a part of the wall. A large stairway through the wall now leads up into the old town. At the top of the stairs one finds the 13th century early Gothic St. Peter and Paul’s Church. The outside is full of embedded stone slab statues of various saints. In 1910 archaeological work here led to the discovery of what are believed to be the remains of Jan Žižka – the celebrated Hussite leader, who conquered Čáslav in 1420 – although definitive proof of that may never be found.
Čáslav has a number of famous connections. For example, Mozart would often stop here on his way to Prague, Dresden and other places. A plaque on one building notes that an old pub once stood here called the “U Černého Orla” or “Black Eagle”, where the Austrian composer stayed on one of his trips. The slab is signed by none other than “Amadeus” director Miloš Forman. And not far from here one finds the “Miloš Forman Cinema” – the director is indeed a Čáslav native, born here in 1932.
There are a good deal of historical sites to see in Čáslav, particularly of the religious variety. From the yellow-painted 19th century Evangelical Church to the orange-coloured Čáslav Synagogue. A number of religious organisations are also situated in the town, from the Evangelical Church of Czech Brethren to the Apostolic Church.
The very large Jan Žižka square is the focal point of the town, with numerous charming narrow streets spreading out in all directions, offering sight-seeing visitors the opportunity to stroll around and also visit the town’s many shops, pubs, cafes and restaurants. Čáslav is about an hour’s trip by train from Prague and is well worth a visit.