River in the life of Prague
Just as the Thames for the Londoners, or Seine for Parisians, the Vltava river has always played an essential role in the life of the city of Prague: from being the source of drinking water (which still remains partially true nowadays) to serving as an important way of transportation, the life of Prague’s inhabitants is unimaginable without the river.
A history notion
The name Vltava comes most probably from the old German, in which Wilth-ahwa means wild water, as the river passes thorugh narrow canyons from its source in the mountains in Southern Bohemia. The Romans considered it only a part of the Elbe river, as it is depicted on the very first map of these areas – so called Ptolemaio map- dating to the half of the 2nd century A.D. It was much later that the German tribes, used to the life in the dense forests, differentiated the two rivers and gave Vltava its name.
The river nowadays
Vltava remains the important element of the city life even today, although its importance shifted from business and transport purposes rather towards passtime and leisure activities. Those are numerous and attract many locals as well as tourists.
So, what all can you do on the river?
You can go for a swim: swimming in Vltava became popular int the 1st half of the 19th century, when the river started to be lined with many beautiful swimming facilities (some of them in art nouveau style) – you can even visit some of those buildings today – for example so called Občanská plovárna (Civic swimming baths) was founded in 1809 (!) – and became the first facility of its kind in the whole Austro-Hungarian monarchy. It served as a large social and sport centre for almost 150 years till the period after WWII. Even Franz Kafka – as a small boy – used to swim here with his father. There is a restaurant today as well: sitting close to the river is especially pleasant within the hot summer days…
Other popular river activity is pedal boating, available on many different places along the river – e.g. on the Žofín island. Apart from those a bit funny vessels, you can certainly also hire boats: the image of Vltava river underneath the Prague Castle filled with boats is notoriously known.
If you are a fan of motor boats, you can hire one close to Rašínovo nábřeží and have your own way on the river. This alternative offers you a way against the stream to see some of the natural beauties out of the central Prague.
You can also remain conservative and just pay a boat ticket on one of the many boats sailing across the centre and through the system of canals called Prague Venice: uniformed „sailors“ are selling tickets anywhere possible: on bridges, embankments etc, so you will not miss them when walking close to the river…
There are also popular sport events held on the Vltava river: the Czech water sports teams such as kayakers, canoers, or white water sportsmen are training in the area of Troja channel, where you can not only rent all the equipment, but also get a private course in any of these sports, or a water rescue course.
Important sport events are being held there every year, largely enjoyed by local and international water sports fans, and the Czech Republic water sport representants – such as Jiří Prskavec in water slalom, or Vavřinec Hradílek, the silver prize Olympic winner from London. And believe it or not, watching these water sportsmen in action is a breathtaking experience!
Those who prefer the calm and peacefaul atmosphere of the river can definitely try fishing: it is allowed with a prepayed permit and you can buy one together with renting a boat in some places. Boat renting companies also offer different other services: you can rent a boat with a grill or BBQ and make a gourmet tour admiring the beauties of Prague, you can have a dance party on a boat, or have a seminary with your colleagues while sailing on the river.
And there is even more: apart from traditional rafts, modern sport device called Lift E-Foil is available in some rental companies along the river. It is a sort of board with an electric engine enabling you to move along and about 1 meter high above the water level in an adventurous ride with the historical coulisses, surely evoking attention of all people along the embankments…
The river also offers something for the fans of culture: each summer there is a theater boat of the Forman brothers (sons of the well known film director Miloš Forman), presenting splendid performances combined of lights, music and pantomime for adults and for children. In the marvelous setting between the Prague Castle and Vyšehrad castle, these performances have magical atmosphere. When planning a summer trip to Prague, be sure to include some of those river activities, as they will add colour and life into the days filled with sightseeing. And it is highly recommendable to stay in a place close to the river: among many hotels, the Rott hotel is to be emphasized, offering affordable historic background for all your Prague adventures, on the river and along it.