Autumn 2021. In theory we could travel to other continents, but destinations we had in mind such as Japan or the United Kingdom were impossible to plan ahead. Instead we organised a rail trip to Eastern Europe, travelling to Berlin, Gdańsk, Wrocław, Karlovy Vary, Pilsen, Bratislava, Poprad, Vienna, Linz and Salzburg. By travelling to Germany, Poland, Czechia, Slovakia and Austria, we explore an area which was in the (not too distant) past bonded together by the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation and by Austria-Hungary.
Cheb, Eger in German, is a town in the Karlovy Vary Region of the Czech Republic. It has about 32,000 inhabitants. It lies on the river Ohře, at the foot of the Fichtel Mountains near the border with Germany.
Before the 1945 expulsion of the German-speaking population, the town was the centre of the German-speaking region known as Egerland, part of the Northern Austro-Bavarian dialect area. The town centre is well preserved and is protected by law as an urban monument reservation.
The earliest settlement in the area was a Slavic stronghold at what is now known as the Cheb Castle complex, north of the town-centre. In the century it became an Imperial Free City.
Cheb suffered severely during the Hussite Wars, during the Swedish invasion in 1631 and 1647, and in the War of the Austrian Succession in 1742. In 1634, during the Thirty Years’ War, Albrecht von Wallenstein was killed here.
In 1723, Cheb became a free royal town. The northern quarter of the town was devastated by a large fire in 1809, and many middle-age buildings were irreplaceably destroyed. Until 1851, the renowned spa-town of Františkovy Lázně belonged to the Magistrate of Cheb. The carbonated mineral water coming from these springs was delivered to spa visitors residing in Cheb.
Geographers of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy proclaimed the nearby 939m high Tillen (Dileň in Czech) as the geographical centre of Europe. This claim was documented on a copper plaque mounted at the summit.
The terms of the 1919 Treaty of Saint-Germain-en-Laye triggered civil unrest between the Sudeten German population and the new Czechoslovak administration, just as in the rest of the Sudetenland. As elsewhere, protests in the town – now officially named Cheb – were eventually suppressed by force.
From 1938 until 1945, the town was annexed to Germany and it was one of the municipalities in Sudetenland.
After the end of World War II the region was returned to Czechoslovakia. Under the Beneš decrees of the same year, the German-speaking majority of the town was dispossessed of their homes and property, and was forcibly expelled from the country.
We visited (the ruins) of Cheb Castle. The site was used as fortified place since the 800s. Archaeologic finds show Slavonic orgigins. The elevation in the western part of today´s castle is not of a natural origin, debris and clay had been transported there for decades.
Frederick I Barbarossa, Holy Roman Emperor had another castle built in the second half of the 12th century, but this one was located in the more eastern part. There was no capital in the empire at that time and the ruler would travel around the empire with an entourage and rule from his castles called palatines. And Cheb Castle was such a palatinate with a palace, chapel and farm buildings.
Constricted into brick walls and casemates, the castle has become a fortification in the last years of the Thirty Years´ War. The chapel served as a powder store and therefore it was saved from demolition. The first predominantly conservation works started after the castle has been transferred to the town in 1895.
Visiting medieval castles can be monotonous and repetitive. Let’s face it, such castle are are rarely nicely decorated and museum exhibits often feel unnatural.
Yet, Cheb Castle shows some aspect of castle life throughout the centuries. The keep, the torture room, the casemates etc.
When in Cheb, it’s worth a visit.
On the Market Square, dating from the 13th century, are a group of houses originating from the late-Gothic period known as Špalíček. This distinctive feature of the market place is a bizarre complex of eleven houses. The outline of the two blocks can still be seen on the oldest existing records of 1472.
The Green House on the market place belonged to the Wrendl dynasty, whose family crest lies above the entrance. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe frequently spent time here.
2021 Rail Tour of Imperial Europe
- POTSDAM 2021 | Schloss Sanssouci.
- 1945 Potsdam Conference’s Cecilienhof Palace.
- Potsdam 2021.
- REVIEW | InterContinental Berlin.
- BERLIN 2021 | Pergamon, ‘Das Panorama’.
- BERLIN 2021 | Humboldt Forum in the Berlin Palace.
- BERLIN 2021 | The Bundestag in the Reichstag.
- Berlin 2021.
- By train from Berlin to Gdansk via Szczecin.
- Stopover in Szczecin.
- REVIEW | Restauracja Ritz in Gdańsk.
- REVIEW | Holiday Inn Gdansk.
- GDAŃSK | Museum of the Second World War.
- GDAŃSK | European Solidarity Centre or Europejskie Centrum Solidarności.
- A walk through Gdańsk.
- Gdańsk 2021.
- POLAND | PKP Intercity Gdansk to Wroclaw via Warsaw.
- Wrocław Museum of Architecture.
- The Dwarfs of Wrocław.
- Poland 2021.
- By train from Wroclaw to Karlovy Vary.
- Karlovy Vary.
- REVIEW | Hotel Imperial Karlovy Vary.
- Czechia’s Great Spa Town of Europe Františkovy Lázně.
- CZECHIA | Pilsen Historical Underground Tunnels.
- CZECHIA | Pilsner Urquell Brewery Tour.
- CZECHIA | Pilsen.