Well-marked trail offers a fine day out from Prague
Dating from the mid 14th century and looking magnificent on its hilltop location, Karlštejn Castle is justifiably one of the Czech Republic’s biggest tourist attractions.
Easy to reach on the double-decker City Elefant trains, it makes for an excellent day out from the capital.
But the countryside around Karlštejn is perhaps even more of an attraction than the fortification itself.
As detailed in a previous article, the Berounka River that runs by the river offers an great place for weekend walks in both directions.
But away from the water, there is an excellent 13.5km pathway from Karlštejn through the woods up to Beroun that offers a perhaps even more appealing way of spending the day.
To start, jump off the train at Karlštejn and, on leaving the platform, turn right to the village before taking a left into the village itself, then walk up to the castle.
Shortly before reaching the castle, take the road that runs left, and walk past the castle high above on the right.
Look out on the left, because a wide path will head up into the woods, marked by a small square with one red stripe sandwiched by two white stripes.
It is this square with a red stripe in it that indicates the route all the way to Beroun, with marks on the trees at junctions showing the way.
These red routes, and green ones as well, criss-cross much of the Czech countryside and what a fine initiative they are.
The walk passes through a variety of woods, often heading up or down, and at one point relatively early on continues by a stream with a number of small waterfalls.
At this time of year, the first flowers of spring have appeared, but temperatures are not uncomfortably hot, making conditions just about perfect.
Signboards in Czech highlight the main insects, mammals, birds and plants that can be found in the woods, which are part of a national nature reserve. Among the animals inhabiting the area are the hazel or common dormouse (scientific name Muscardinus avellanarius) and the Red Admiral butterfly (Vanessa atalanta), while trees to look out for include the Norway maple (Acer platanoides) and the sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus), which is another type of maple. Among the mushrooms that can be found along the way are the scaly wood mushroom (Agaricus silvaticus), which is edible, and the death cap mushroom (Amanita phalloides) which, as its name suggests, is poisonous.
About two-thirds of the way through the walk, at around the 9km mark, the trail leads down into the delightful village of Svatý Jan pod Skalou (St John under the Rock), which is known for the run-down St John Benedictine Monastery and the attached baroque Church of St John the Baptist, which has a spectacular cross once located on Charles Bridge in Prague.
The hermit Ivan, described as the first Czech Christian, is said to have lived in caves south of the village, and his statue is among the three opposite the church.
From close to the church, a 1.5km long trail up to the rock mentioned in the village’s name begins. The views from the top, where a large wooden cross stands, are magnificent. This is a popular picnic spot for families.
After descending back to the church, the trail heads out of the village before turning up into the woods again. The rest of the walk continues in an up-and-down fashion before a descent becomes more continuous as Beroun comes into sight.
From here, it is easy to lose the red markings, although walkers should eventually meet the Berounka River. At the river, turn right and continue walking. On reaching the pedestrian bridge, cross over and go straight on; this ultimately leads to Beroun’s main square.
The whole walk took this reporter about five hours, including the side trip up to the rock above Svatý Jan pod Skalou. It could easily be stretched out for a whole day with regular stops.
However long it takes, it certainly makes for a pleasant escape from the city, with beautiful countryside, abundant birdsong, a picturesque village and easy trails to follow.