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Golden letters from A to Z

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The most important personalities, characteristics and developments along the Golden Road
Crash course on the Golden Road

A is for Acanthus:
This thorny leafed ornament has adorned Corinthian columns for over 2500 years. In Bavaria and Bohemia craftsmen decorated the golden chalices and altars with acanthus spinouts and biblical scenes. Examples of this are still to be marveled in churches and chapels along the Golden Road. This traditional craft is still being practiced all over the region.
Jan Hus in the Bärnauer Summer Festival.

B is for Bohemian Wind: ‘On the borders to Boh’m the wind is ablow’n’ sang the elders. When a high-pressure front in the Czech Republic meets low pressure from Bavaria it often causes storms that are as infamous as they are ferocious. The elders sang on ‘Dulijoh, Dulijoh, he who doesn’t hurry home only has himself to blame’.

C is for Choden: The Chodove are a Bohemian folk that were given the task of policing the border between Bavaria and Bohemia by the kings of Prague. To this day they very proudly protect and celebrate their heritage in the Domažlice/Taus region, with bagpipe music, traditional dress and their own dialect.

D is for Dientzenhofer:
You cannot travel the Golden Road without hearing this name. The baroque churches of Kilian Ignaz Dientzenhofer and his father Christoph (1689-1751 Prague) are as important a part of village and town life in the region as plague columns and Patron Saints.

E is for Engelsgruß:
In the Lorenz Church in Nurnberg there is a statue depicting the Virgin Mary and the Arch Angel Gabriel by Veit Stoß. This magnificent piece is a fitting start to our Gilded Tour.

F is for Franconian Church Festival: In Franconia each year there are over 130 festivals involving the residents of the parishes with processions, church services and parades. ‘Das Vogelsuppenessen’ (a festival involving a ceremonial bird soup) in Pommelsbrunn is a particular favourite. These special festivals or ‘Kerwa’ are also very popular in the communities around Amberg-Sulzbach in the Upper Palatinate.

G is for Golden Bull: It was not only Prague and Nurnberg that were considered golden nor was it exclusively used to describe the treasures and riches amassed by these two great cities- but also the Golden Bull, a basic law book drawn up by Kaiser Karl IV. This work was seen as a kind of constitution similar to that drawn up by the Holy Roman Empire governing the German nation.

H is for Jan Hus (1370-1415): All Czechs are proud of the man from the south Bohemian village Husinec near Prachatice. 100 years before Martin Luther, the reformer Jan Hus challenged the Roman Catholic establishment, for which he was burnt at the stake in Constance, having traveled along the Golden Road.
Imaginary figures such as Golem and robots have their origins in Bohemia.

I is for Ivan Undercliff:
The legend says that Holy Ivan, a settler from the 9th Century lived in a cave and it is here that John the Baptist supposedly appeared to him in a vision. The Benedictine monks later built an Abbey to mark this holy spot.

J is for Jan von Nepomuk:
The statue of the patron Saint of Bavaria and Bohemia adorns more bridges between Nurnberg and Prague than this book has pages. The Bohemian priest from Pomuk near Plze? was the victim of an argument between King Wenceslas IV and the church. He is considered a martyr because of his torture and drowning at the hands of the monarch because he refused to reveal the details of the Queen’s apparently rather racy confessions.

K is for Karl (Charles) IV:
The creator of the Golden Road was born in 1316 as the oldest son of King John of Luxembourg and his Bohemian wife Elisabeth, the youngest daughter of the last ruler of the P?emslyden (the first Czech Royal Family) dynasty. At the age of seven he was sent to his father’s court in Paris. In 1346 he was elected Kaiser Charles IV over part of the Dukedom of King Ludwig of Bavaria. In 1355 Pope Innocence VI proclaimed him Emperor of Germany. As one of the most influential rulers of the late middle ages, he made Prague the capital of Europe and created a New Bohemian trade route from Prague to Nurnberg.

L is for Livanzen:
The culinary heritage of Bohemia is of course very closely linked to the Viennese and Bavarian kitchen with garlic soups, crispy duck and goose, roast pork, dumplings and cabbage. Schnitzels in poppy seed crust and of course beautiful pastries like Livanzen, with whipped cream and blueberries.

M is for Music: A traditional folk song quotes an old saying ‘Music comes from Bohemia’. The three kings of Czech classical music, Dvorak, Smetana and Janacek are not the only names that adorn this list- stars of the folk music scene like ?echomor also play a huge part in the Bohemian musical heritage in bars and pubs.
Europeans searched for many years for their El Dorado in the forests of South America, and all the time it was in fact in front of their noses. The Golden Road leads to the Golden City, where Kaiser Rudolph II had armies of Alchemists searching for the secret to make gold in laboratories lining the Golden Streets. Did he succeed? Well if you look at the roof of the National Theatre it would suggest that they came very close!

N is for New Bohemia: This part of Europe is has been passed back and forth throughout history. The Wittelsbachers, the ruling family at the time sold New Bohemia to Kaiser Charles IV, an event which even today continues to busy the Munich Central Government. After the Kaiser’s marriage to Anna from the Palatinate large parts of Middle Franconia and the Upper Palatinate were signed over to him with Sulzbach as the administrative centre.

O is for Originals:
Common character traits that distinguish the folk of New Bohemia such as directness and slyness make the people truly original. Characters such as Heigl and Kneissl, robbers who are celebrated like national heroes. Even during the Cold War the forces of the Warsaw Pact were driven to despair by the citizens moving road signals and swapping town signs.

P is for Pilsner Urquell: Pils- as the name indicates was first made in Plze? in 1842 by the Bavarian master brewer Josef Groll. The region is also keen to remain faithful to the purity laws (a kind of brewers 10 Commandments), a further similarity between the neighbouring provinces.

Q is for Quelle:
The German word for a source, or spring is ‘quelle’. Charles IV apparently discovered one such hot spring while out on a hunting trip. He then renamed the place previously known as Vary (which means boiler) to Karlovy Vary (Charles’ Bath). This prompted the beginnings of a new lifestyle and of bathing and cleanliness as therapy and healing for the upper classes.

Wittingauer Masters: A Living History by F.X. Havlí

R is for Reading: It is possible to get a taste for the Golden Road from innumerable novels based on characters and their exploits in the region for instance Jan Beinssens ‘The Master Thieves of Nurnberg’ or period thrillers such as Pavel Kohout’s ‘Murderers’ Greatest Moments’. Other books have been made into films, such as Bohumil Hrabals ‘I Served an English King’ a parody on German and Czech clichés.
S is for ‘The Brave Soldier Švejk’:
Every few years a group of amateur actors and performers from both sides of the border meet in Bärnau to bring plays to the stage that tell stories from and about the region, for instance the story of Jan Hus or ‘The Good Soldier Švejk’.

T is for Tatran Tribe: In olden days it is said that two brothers, ?ech and
Stone statue of the Winter King in Amberg.
Lech, sons of a mighty ruling family left their homeland in the Tatra, high up in the Carpathian mountains, in order to find a new home for their tribe. They settled on a hillside about 20 miles north of Prague, Rip Mountain. Bohemia, from the Latin, or ?echy in Czech was born.

U is for Utopia and Utopenec:
these two terms are as closely linked as Bavaria and Bohemia. Utopia- as an ideal like Jan Hus’s vision of a reformed church, or Rabi Löw’s guardian angel Golem who would protect all Jews. Even the inventor of the robot- at least as a concept (from the Czech word for work, Robota) - was a Bohemian, Karel ?apek. His book ‘The Newt’ is considered to be one of the first Science Fiction novels. Utoponec is in fact a sausage, pickled or ‘drowned’ in vinegar. Many Utopias have indeed suffered a similar acidic fate in a sometimes harsh Socialist reality.

V is for Velké Synagogue:
Not only the brewery in Plze? is worth a visit, but also Europe’s second largest synagogue is a real eye-catcher (Europe’s largest is in Budapest). The building completed in 1890 was built in a combination of Moorish and Roman styles and is open to the public daily except on the Sabbath.

W is for the Winter King: The drama surrounding this man is truly the stuff of great novels. Friedrich V, The Crown Prince of Palatinate ruled for just one year from the centre of his realm in Amberg, hence his name, the Winter King. After losing the battle of White Mountain in 1620 against the Kaiser he lost not only the control of the Kingdom of Bohemia, but also the rest of his own realm, the Palatinate, and was stripped of his title.

X is a symbol for the barriers the people of this land put in the way of unpopular leaders: Bavarians and Bohemians are notoriously stubborn and very protective of their opinions. In the Czech Republic, after the Spring Risings in Prague in 1968 Vaclav Havel demonstrated his anger and distain of the ruling parties with open letters of criticism to the government of Gustav Husák.

Y is for Yin and Yang:
Some things never change. Many young people still believe in old clichés. The young Bohemians think of the Germans as arrogant, over-disciplined and rather stiff. On the other side of the border the young Bavarians consider the Czechs to be unpunctual and rather uncool. These are just some of the misconceptions that arise through ignorance. In reality Bavaria and Bohemia compliment each other very well, like Yin and Yang.

Z is for the Zlatá Cesta:
This is the name of the Golden Road in Czech.

This Article is part of the tour "The Golden Road"


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