By Tracy A. Burns
Features of the Park
Deer used to graze here, knights fought battles here and nobles challenged each other to duels here. Located in the Bubeneč district of Prague 7 bordering on the Výstaviště Fair Grounds on one side, the English park of Stromovka features a summerhouse in Neo-Gothic style, a planetarium, a former gamekeeper’s lodge, a former ice house, a former railway building, two restaurants, three playgrounds and a picnic area. It is ideal for sports such as jogging, cycling and in-line skating. Measuring 104.55 hectares in size, the park also boasts many kinds of woody plants, ponds, streams and meadows as well as a great variety of trees, oaks among them.
Stromovka Park has a rich, intriguing history. Czech king Přemysl Otakar II founded it as far back as 1268, when it was dubbed “The Royal Game Park.” At the end of the 15th century, King Vladislav Jagellonský had the royal hunting summerhouse built and carried out many repairs in the park as it had been destroyed during the fierce Hussite wars at the beginning of that century. It would also be destroyed by the Swedes during the bloody Thirty Years’ War, only to be reconstructed once more. During the 16th century the summerhouse got a Renaissance makeover. Later, during 1836, it would take on its current Neo-Gothic look. In 1584, Emperor Rudolf II added more ponds including his Big Pond which featured the unique construction of a tunnel connected to the Vltava River. Sadly, the Big Pond no longer exists.
The Imperial Mill
Another feature of the park is the Imperial Mill (Císařský Mlýn), which harkens back to the rule of Emperor Rudolf II, who received it as a gift. It was built during 1589-90 with baths and a grotto as well as a gemstone cutting shop. However, in 1679 the mill burned down, and now it is a ruin.
The Jubilee Exhibition
On May 15, 1891 a Jubilee Exhibition focusing on developments in industry was held in the park for five months. Nobles from the Schwarzenberg and Kinský family and even Emperor Franz Joseph I were among its 2.5 million visitors. Inventor František Križík shone among others with his remarkable fountain lit by arched electric lamps with colored filters. He also tried out his new invention of the tram, which ran to the gate of the park. Theatre performances also took place during the successful festival.
The Hussite Wars and Thirty Years’ War were not the only times the park was ravaged. Nature did its part. In fact, the grounds were heavily damaged during August 2002 floods, too. Thankfully, reconstruction continues to this day.
From the Middle Ages to Today
Stromovka Park is perfect for engaging in recreational activities or relaxing in front of a babbling brook or meadow studded with haystacks. While playing sports or sitting in the sun, try to imagine this place during the Middle Ages, with deer, knights and noblemen. It is an experience you are sure not to forget.