Nymburk--a medieval village not in the guidebooks

Published: November 3rd 2008
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Nymburk -- Not in the Guidebooks

Nymburk is a village that does not appear in any guidebook that I have read. There is information on the town on the Internet. That is how I found Nymburk completely by accident. I was checking the train schedule from Prague to Jicin where there are several very nice hiking tails. Last spring we enjoyed our hiking at Mala Skala and had planned on returning to the Cesky Raj for more hiking if we had the opportunity to do so. I saw there were hourly commuter trains to Jicin and that many stopped at Nymburk. “I wonder what Nymburk looks like,” I thought. I did a search and, wow, what a neat looking village came up on the screen and I decided at that moment, “I want to visit Nymburk.”

An Old Village

I read that Nymburk was founded in the middle of the 13th century at a strategic location on the Elbe River and soon became one of the more important royal towns. However, the Thirty Years War ended the prosperity and importance of Nymburk and it was not until the late 19th century with the advent

of the railroad that the town regained some of its importance. It was not the history that attracted me to visit Nymburk, though I am interested in history. It was how they have preserved a number of the ancient buildings, churches, and a section of the old wall. There are not many towns or villages that still have portions of their old medieval wall still standing, much less in good repair.

Why Are There So Many People Here Today?

The main train station in Prague was wall-to-wall people this morning. We had forgotten that Tuesday is a Czech national holiday and that most workers also have Monday off and the schools and universities also have a several day break. We noticed that the subway was very full, but had not thought about the holiday. The rail station is undergoing renovations and that compressed the travelers into much small spaces than normal. We nudged our way into the crowd in front of the electronic board to see from which track we were to board the train.

The trip on the train only takes about 45 minutes. Nymburk is on the northern edge of the flat plain that includes Prague. It was foggy, so we saw very little as we traveled northward. Being smart both of us had forgotten to pick up the map of the town I had printed from the Internet.

Are We Lost?

“How are we going to know which way to walk from the station,” Nancy wanted to know.

“We will guess,” I replied. I remembered from the map that the ancient church in the old historic section of town was not far from the station and I hoped we could see it when we walked out of the station. But, that was not so.

The Czech Republic, like other parts of Europe we have visited, has wonderful public transportation. Upon walking out of the train station we saw a large sign with a map of the town at a bus stop across the street. Walking there we oriented ourselves and saw that we were only about three blocks from the first of two medieval moats and the old historic section of town.

Many stores in the Czech Republic are open only to 11:00 or 12:00 on Saturday. We stopped in one of the stores as we walked toward the center of town and bought several post cards. Post cards are always a great fall-back if our photos do not turn out well. While we shopped in the store, several other customers entered and bought items. Everyone seemed in a good mood.

I noticed as we walked from the train station to the old town center that many people who were out and about were elderly. Later in the old town section we saw families and people of all ages, making purchases before the closing hour arrived. (Nancy- I loved all the enormous mums which were for sale on the street. They were the kind and size that are often sold for corsages for football games at home. People were selecting big handfuls of different flowers to carry home. It was a most pleasant sight.)

Old Town Nymburk

The church is ancient. It looks very old and that is understandable because it was built in the 13th century. The very age of the building makes it even more interesting. The front door was open, however the small door into the sanctuary was locked. Holding our cameras up to the glass we were able to take several photos of the altar area of the sanctuary. We would have liked to have gone into the sanctuary as the windows of the church certainly must be beautiful during the day with sunshine coming through into the building. From the outside we could see that the windows are blue and brown with very nice Christian symbols as part of the stained glass. There was one rose window which surely must be a lovely sight.

The square around the church is paved with cobblestones that appear to have been there since the 1200’s. I expect they were laid later, but I am sure they are old. I always wonder what stories they could tell if only they could talk.

There are two squares in the old town. The one with the church and another two blocks away. The second is larger and is shaped more like a large triangle. It is surrounded by stores, shops, restaurants and city government building. The center is framed by four streets and like so many Czech towns a statue in memory of the Black Plague stands in the center. I may be wrong, but I believe that every Czech town has a statue memorializing the terrible years of the Plague.

The information office is in one of the ancient buildings on the square. The exterior may look ancient, but the interior is very modern. Ancient artifacts are on display. I was surprised to see explanations in both Czech and English on the information cards. We picked up a number of maps and travel bulletins. Of interest to us, and to many travelers, the information office has clean restrooms. As I waited for Nancy I heard a loud CRASH of glass. Looking down a hallway I saw glass spread across the hallway from an open door. A lady, calmly and with dignity, stepped out into the aisle carrying a tray with four glasses filled with wine and carried them past me. I do not know what she dropped, but it certainly got my attention. (Mine too. I heard the glass break from inside the ladies room and thought “Oh dear, I hope Billy didn’t knock something over! I had noticed the archaeological displays and couldn’t imagine how he or anyone else could have broken anything since they were all in locked cabinets. But…….)

Two moats, that are about fifty feet apart, protected Nymburk from attack on the land side. The Elbe River and a defensive wall protected Nymburk on the river side. At one time the wall was 1600 meters long with many guard towers. A portion of the wall still stands and is kept in good repair. Outside the wall there is a small park with benches and a nice grassy area where people bring their dogs to play. The Czechs love their dogs and train them to be ‘good dogs’. We have noticed how well behaved the dogs are here in the Czech Republic. One did bark at us today when we walked between him and a woman and her grandson. (I had seen a ‘grandfather’ type go down the river bank with a small boy and soon we were walking past that section of the river. Suddenly this small dog came barking and running toward us. He had been walking with an older woman. I realized that the dog had noticed we were between him/grandma and the boy/grandpa. We spoke quietly to the dog. Grandma spoke to him. But he still watched our every move until we were far away from the little boy. Good watch dog.

Lunch -- Walking Makes Us Hungry!

We ate lunch at a Chinese restaurant on the square. Once inside we looked around and Nancy said, “You can go anywhere in the world and once inside a Chinese restaurant you can tell it is definitely a Chinese restaurant.”

I agreed. Chinese lanterns hung from the ceiling and typical paints hung on the wall. The chairs had beautiful brocade and the table was covered by a tablecloth with placemats with beautiful traditionally dressed Chinese women that always make me think of the women in the Chinese classic, “Dream of the Red Chamber.”

Nancy took a bite of her kung pao chicken and exclaimed, “too much sugar.”

I knew immediately what Nancy was thinking, “The owners of the restaurant were from Shanghai.”

Also we know that Czechs, in general, do not like spicy food. Later when the waitress came to our table Nancy asked in Chinese, “Where are you from?”

“Shanghai,” she replied.

“I knew it,” Nancy said.

“How?” the waitress wanted to know.

“The food is sweet, not spicy.”

The lady smiled, “The Czechs do not like it spicy,” she replied.

“I do,” Nancy said.

“Oh no, you should have told me. We could have made it spicy.”

Going Home ... An Adventure

We got on the train to return to Prague and settled down for the 45 minute ride. This was a really nice train, one that is called the “City Elefant”. The City Elefants are very nice, double decked commuter trains. They are new, stylish, and the seats are plush and comfortable. We were enjoying watching the Czech countryside roll past in the fading light of evening when the conductor, a Czech lady, walked through the car. She stopped a number of times and made an announcement. Nancy turned and said to me, I don't know what she said but I have a funny feeling she just announced everyone is to get off the train. Of course we really had understood nothing she said. Strangely, she did not check anyone’s ticket. In a few minutes the train pulled into a station and everyone got up and got off the train. .The conductor was in our car, so I pulled out my ticket and showed it to her. She pointed to the door of the car indicating that we were to get out also.

Well, this wasn’t Prague and it was to Prague we wanted to go, but what could we do other than get off the train. We exited and joined the crowd standing on the platform. A man began yelling at the conductor, in Czech of course, and she returned the favor. Finally he walked off in a huff. Nancy and I still had not a clue of why we were required to exit the train.

The conductor called someone on her cell phone. When she finished her call there was a lull in people asking her questions, so I showed her my ticket again. She took a look at it and pointed at the car we had just gotten exited, indicating that I should get back on the train.

Once we were on the train walking back saying something to each other about not knowing what was going on, a young Czech woman saw our expressions and said in wonderful English, “ Did you understand?" We indicated "No" and she said, "There has been an accident ahead and we will have to change trains. I will tell you what to do.”

“Oh, thank you,” Nancy replied quickly.

“We are to go back to Nymburk and transfer to another train there,” the young woman said. She was accompanied by her daughter who we learned later was named Anna Marie. Anna Marie is a beautiful, bright, vivacious four year old, one of those children who steal your heard in about 2 and ½ seconds.

We got back on the train and off we went back in the direction we had just come. Once back at Nymburk we got off the train. Some of the people moved to another track obviously to get on a train to go somewhere we hadn't planned to go. But we stuck like glue to Yana and her daughter Anna. Soon another train came into the station. “This is the one we get on,” the woman said. We are to go to another town and transfer again and then go to Prague.

This train was an older one, not nearly so nice as the City Elefant. Off we went and in about twenty minutes the train stopped at a station.

“This is where we transfer,” our 'guide' said. So we all got off the train. I looked at the station and saw the name of the town was Poricany. This simply meant I knew the name of the town, but had no idea where we really were or how long we were to be there. In fact, no one seemed to know how long our wait was going to be. We walked through the tunnel to the station and on their electronic board saw that a train to Prague was scheduled to arrive in about twenty minutes.

Twenty minutes later another City Elefant pulled into the station. “This is our train,” our guide said. We boarded the train and sat in seats facing each other. Soon we were on our way to Prague. During the 40 to 50 minute ride we got to know this kind lady and her daughter, Anna Marie. Anna Marie speaks a bit of English. Her pronunciation is excellent.

“Her pronunciation is better in English than in Czech,” her mother told us. “She is in speech therapy because she cannot roll the r’s as is necessary in Czech. In English she does not need to roll the r’s.”

When we arrived in Prague and started to get off the train, we found that the two who had been our guardian angels actually needed to catch the same subway as we did and would ride to the same stop. Anna Maria caught my hand (Nancy) and had me walk with her all the way to the subway. Her mom looked over her head at me and said, "She never does that!". I felt quite honored to have made friends with a dear little girl. What a nice surprise! She and I had played with her cat and had laughed and enjoyed each other all the way on the train. She often told her mom she had no idea what her mom was saying to us. But she sang the little songs to us that she had learned in kindergarten in English and played back and forth with both of us. What fun!

Arriving in Prague the four of us got on the subway and rode together to Dejvice. There the Green subway line ends. This is where we catch the bus to the seminary and it was there that this kind lady and her daughter caught a different bus to their home. We won't forget Yana and Anna Marie and we hope you enjoy seeing their pictures here.

Additional photos below
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Anna Marie and her mom YanaAnna Marie and her mom Yana
Anna Marie and her mom Yana

These two were absolute God sends to guide us home safely. See how silly Anna Marie got after hours and hours of delay getting home. But she never acted bad!

5th December 2008

thanks for all detailed info/blogs about your trips across CZ, thanks agian
3rd January 2012

You found a jewel. My studio is between Prague and Nymburk. I am an American. 20 year resident in CR, and my wife (Czech) and I continue to find places like this. Police, in Moravia still has all of its walls. Thank you for getting off of the beaten track. Norman

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