Vltava trail/former Saint John’s Currents

Surprisingly, this location (the Vltava valley between Třebenice and Štěchovice) has been significant for local events over the past 150 years. Nowadays, the area is known as a holiday destination and a place where many Prague inhabitants spend their weekends or take their one-day trips. It is all due to this wild, yet romantic, river canyon between the Třebenice and Štěchovice villages. In this location, the Vltava river drops by almost 20 metres in 7 kilometres, forming wild rapids in the deep inaccessible valley full of stones and rocks. These rapids have always been known as Štěchovické proudy (Štěchovice Currents); since 1722 known as Svatojanské proudy (St. John’s Currents). It used to be a remote inaccessible place in the vicinity of Prague. It all changed in 1865 when the first steamboat arrived making the region accessible to the public; until then, there was no easy way to travel here. Steamboats started to bring an increasing number of excursionists and summer guests and at the turn of the 19th and 20th century, the Saint John’s Currents became probably the best known tourist attraction in Prague’s proximity. It was right here, on the trail leading from the Štěchovice village to Saint John’s Currents, where the Czech Tourist Club marked its first tourist mark ever in 1889. Thus, the belief that people started to seek recreation at Slapy only when the Slapy dam was built is completely wrong; this happened much earlier.

The Saint John’s Currents used to begin with Horní slap (Upper Rapid), the biggest rapid, which used to be located in the place of the last meander of Vltava before the Slapy dam. The rapid was formed by a massive rocky shelf reaching into the middle of the river, creating a kind of a “neck” through which the river would force its way for thousands of years. This site used to be dominated by a rock called Sedlo (the Saddle) where a several metres high sandstone column called Ferdinand’s Column was erected in 1643. Until 1918, there was a metal Austrian spread eagle on the top of it. The column was erected to commemorate the completion of a vast treatment of the riverbed aimed at increasing the safety of navigating the Saint John’s Currents. This work was initiated and organized by Kryšpín Fuk, a Strahov abbot, residing in a manor in the nearby Hradištko village. In 1722, on the occasion of beatification of Saint Jan Nepomucký, a stone statue of Saint Jan (John) was placed next to the rock. In 1890, the statue had to be restored due to its poor condition, but it had to be replaced completely by a new statue in 1908. The Upper Rapid used to be the biggest rapid, but not the only one. Some 100 metres down the stream there used to be Dolní slap (the Lower Rapid) and further down the stream as far as Štěchovice, there used to be many more rocks and boulders forming rapids. In a fine weather, literally crowds of visitors would flow in. Pražská paroplavební společnost (the Prague Steamboat Company) would organize the sought after cruises called the Currents on Faltboats. Accommodating up to 200 people, the boats used to be dubbed the “cinema”, since on the cruise the scenery would pass by like in a cinema.  What’s more, the pilots would usually make funny comments during the cruise, telling stories to the passengers about the individual rocks. After their arrival in Štěchovice, the excursionists would stop for refreshment in one of the numerous taverns and then continue to Prague on a steamboat. In the 20’s and 30’s, the Currents became a popular tramping destination. A number of tramps’ settlements existing to this day have popped up around here.

The Saint John’s Currents ceased to exist in 1943 due to the construction of the dam in Štěchovice. The rising water hid the rapids and even though visitors the continued to come to the Currents, the destination lost its main attraction. In 1949, the commencement of the construction of the Slapy dam finished the job, since the construction site lay exactly in the location of the Upper Rapid and the Sedlo rock. This location, too, ended up inundated by the water of the Vltava river in 1954. During the construction of the dam, Ferdinand’s Column along with Saint John Nepomucký’s statue was relocated to a new site under the dam where it has remained up to date. Today, the Vltava trail is leading through the valley where the famous St. John’s Currents once forced their way. They keep their romantic nature, although you will no longer hear them roaring.

Route and transport to the site

The Vltava trail is not exactly a single destination; rather, it is an interesting route. You can start this route either in Třebenice, or Štěchovice. In describing the route, we chose Třebenice as our starting point.

Walking (approx. 15 km):

From the starting point, you will have to make your way to the Slapy village square. Join the red-marked hiking trail in the direction of Rovínek. Going by the magic spring, you will reach the Rovínek Chapel. From here, continue on the red-marked hiking trail ascending moderately up to the road leading from Slapy to Třebenice. Leave the red-marked hiking trail and go to the right on the road. After some 2 kilometres you will reach the dam and a moment later, you will come to Třebenice. Take the green-marked hiking trail descending into the valley under the dam. You will pass by St. John Nepomucký’s statue. Under the dam, you can have a look at Ferdinand’s column. The green-marked hiking trail will lead you on a path along the river. You will walk through settlements, the forest, past looming rocks. There even are two pedestrian tunnels on the way. After some 7 kilometres, you will come to a tourist finger-post both located at and called Pod strání, where you will take the blue-marked hiking trail in the direction of Štěchovice, which will lead you to your destination. Since it is an all-day trip, wear sensible footwear and outfit. However, it is a track that all average hikers will enjoy.

cykling:

Please be aware that it is prohibited to go cycling on the Vltava trail! The route is not fit for cyclists. It is leading partly across rocky trails dangerous for cyclists.

By car (approx. 15 km):

You cannot go by car on the Vltava trail. You can come to Třebenice by car, but from there, you will have to go on foot. If you do want to go by car, you will have to get to Slapy to a crossroads at the transport café and turn right in the direction of the dam and Nová Rabyně. After a few kilometres, the road will lead you to the dam and then as far as Třebenice. You will have to park your car at the car park of the restaurant and continue on foot taking the green-marked hiking trail. The rest of the route is described in the instructions for walkers.

GPS coordinates

www.mapy.cz - 49°49'29.29"N, 14°26'25.107"E (rozcestí Třebenice) / 49°50'46.731"N, 14°27'3.32"E (osada Ztracenka) / 49°51'6.922"N, 14°24'22.888"E (rozcestí Štěchovice)

Map

Map No. 38/A5, 6/B5, 6, KČT (Czech Tourist Club) series

Mapa 08

To view the route in more detail, open the file in a new window.

Info: www.svatojanske-proudy.cz