Take a trip into this landscape of spectacular precipices, bottomless canyons and vertical cliffs, beneath which lurks a fascinating world of caves with marvellous dripstone decoration. Located a mere 30km from Prague, the Koněprusy Caves aren’t just the longest known cave system in Bohemia, they’re also steeped in many a myth and legend.
It was in 1950 that a controlled explosion was carried out on the southeastern side of the Zlatý kůň Hill, following which workers discovered the entrance to a cave in the quarry wall. In their spare time they slowly began to explore the caves metre by metre, crawling through and widening narrow passageways until one day a magnificent dripstone cavern with a deep chimney-like abyss opened up before them.
A greedy woman and a hill’s name
How did Zlatý kůň Hill (meaning “Golden Horse”) get its name? It’s said that once upon a time there lived in the nearby castle an evil and rather greedy woman, who one day decided she would snatch the treasure trove hidden inside the local cliffs. But first she would have to outwit the spirit who guarded the treasure, and who, according to legend, would only give the treasure to a person with golden hair and an iron hand. The woman had a golden wig and an iron glove made and mounted her horse for the journey to the cliffs. From that moment onwards no one ever saw her alive again. When the maid and her betrothed decided to go looking for their mistress, they found her sitting motionless in her saddle; the angry spirit had turned her into gold. But the spirit didn’t hurt the young couple. In fact he gave them the treasure as the girl had golden locks and her betrothed a hand as strong as iron.
A million-year-old rose!
As you head deeper into these mysterious underground spaces, you’ll pass dripstone in weird and wonderful shapes, dark corners and the special feature of these caves – beautiful Koněprusy “roses”, which at over a million years old are the oldest features to adorn the caves. They were created when Bohemia had a tropical climate!
Watch out for the bats!
The Koněprusy Caves aren’t just about dripstone formations. It’s hard to believe, but animal and human bones have been unearthed here. And the caves are still inhabited today – mostly in the winter months they provide a home to bats. The cave has also turned up a secret money forger’s workshop, where in medieval times silver Hussite Hallers bearing the emblem of the Bohemian Lion were struck illegally. The area surrounding the Koněprusy Caves is also worth exploring. You certainly shouldn’t miss a tour of Karlštejn, the best known Czech Castle commissioned by Emperor Charles IV as a place of safekeeping for the Bohemian crown jewels. A real medieval ambience can be experienced at Křivoklát Castle, one of the oldest castles in the country.