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Published: August 4th 2011
The Village of Elbow
The village is named "Elbow" if you would translate it into English from the real Czech name which is "Loket" because it is surrounded on three sides by the Ohře River. Loket is located about ten miles from Karlovy Vary, the famed town of hot springs. The village is well worth a visit on its own merits. The village is beautiful and to add frosting to the cake there is a 12th century Gothic castle standing high above the village. This is one of the oldest castles in the Czech Republic with a long and varied history.
Legend says that while hunting in the forest Charles IV found a hot spring. From that discovery the now famous city of Karlovy Vary or in German, Karlsbad was founded. In 1319 Charles his father, King John of Luxembourg, imprisoned poor number IV and his mother, Eliška Přemyslovna, here in Loket's castle for two months. This did not sour Charles' opinion of the castle and he frequently stayed here after he became the emperor of the Holy Roman Empire. Later his son, Wenceslas IV, carried out a restoration project of the castle. After the Thirty Years
War the castle gradually declined as a strategic fortress. In the 19th century it was transformed into a prison. The prison was closed after the middle of the 20th century. The village acquired title to the castle in the 1992, the second time in its history the town owned the property. Happily for Nancy and me the town has restored the castle.
Portions of the James Bond movie Casino Royale were filmed in this Loket castle. Perhaps you have seen the film. If so you have seen portions of the one of our favorite Czech locations.
We really enjoyed our visit. We were not a part of a tour group being hurried from room to room. Instead we could visit at our own pace, lingering long at spots that interested us ... and everything interested us.
The dungeon, with its quite graphic displays of men inflicting torture on their prisoners gives a good idea of man’s inhumanity to man. I told Nancy, “If I had lived back then, I would have tried to be a very good boy.” What to us would be minor offenses today were considered serious in days
And this was one of the more gentle punishments.
past and the punishments were severe. It was not just men who received these punishments. Women also received harsh treatment. Being buried alive to just above the waist and left to die was not an uncommon punishment. No food, no water were given, folks were just buried to the waist and left until death took away the suffering.
Torture tools are also on display. Nice toys like thumbscrews, the rack and such tools as the specialized knife to cut out a prisoner's tongue are on display. It really did make me thankful that I did not live in that bygone day.
The day was sunny and warm. The dungeon was cold and I mean cold. Nancy quickly came to the conclusion that she would not have lasted long as a prisoner here. I agreed! Indeed I do not believe I would have lasted even a day or two, especially in the winter. Life in the dungeon would have been most miserable and, I expect, short. I did see a few small fireplaces. They looked to me to be places to warm the guards and not for warming the cells of the prisoners.
Stone catapult balls
The stone catapult balls fascinated me. I believe these were the first I had ever seen and in my mind's eye I saw them flying through the air toward the castle. There must have been good reason to go to all the work of forming them into round balls. It had to be a lot of work to take a large piece of granite and turn it into a ball. Why not just get big rocks and sling them against a castle wall? Perhaps round balls fly a truer course. Perhaps a round ball does more damage. One thing that was obvious to me was that you did not want a catapult ball to hit you, round, square or otherwise, it would have been a very unhealthy event.
From Prague, if you are not driving, the easiest way to get there is to go by bus of which there are a number each day. We left from the Florenc bus station. I believe each bus goes through Karlovy Vary and then on to Loket. The Loket stop is near the bridge connecting Loket with the highway. It is a short,
beautiful walk through a park on the top of the hill and then over another park on the river level. You see the castle from three sides as the bus drives around the loop of the river and climbs to the village level. As we approached I had the feeling that we were going to have to climb the hill to the village, but thankfully I was proved wrong.Return times to Karlovy Vary are posted on the board by the bus stop so if you go, don't worry about writing down the bus schedule.
The bus makes two stops in Karlovy Vary and it is a bit confusing. The first stop our bus made did not seem like a stop. How is this possible? Simply because this stop was only about thirty yards from the bus station. Our bus stopped, the driver opened the door and in a minute or two closed the door and moved to his designated stop at the station. Why were two stops made so close together? I have no idea.
There was a couple sitting beside us and they did not get off at the station.
I thought, "I wonder if they are also going to Loket." But I was pretty sure they would get off at the 'second stop' which I assumed would be the same stop we had used two years ago on a trip to Karlovy Vary.The spas and the casino there are very popular vacation with Russian tourists. It is one city in the Czech Republic were signs in shop windows are in both Czech and Russian. When the bus reached the outskirts of Karlovy Vary and we were heading into the countryside it became quite apparent that they, like I, had not realized that the bus station was the second stop and now there were going to who knows where. The husband made his way forward and talked with the bus driver. When he returned to his seat he explained something to his wife.
They, like Nancy and I, got off at Loket. Across the street was a service station. We all went to the gas station right across the road, but for different reasons. They needed information on how to return to Karlovy Vary and
we wanted the key to the rest room. I guess they felt stressed and bought two bottles of beer and a small airline size bottle of vodka. Their English was as good as our Russian (almost non-existent). They said over and over 'Where buy ticket?" The station attendant answered, "On bus". Then they said, 'Where bus?" I knew as I had checked this out as soon as I got off the bus. It is good to know where the return bus stop is finding it before heading into the village had seemed a good idea to me. I walked with them and showed them where to wait and pointed out the bus schedule for buses heading back to Karlovy Vary and Prague. They thanked me and I can only assume they successfully made their way there.
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