Former home to radicals deserves to attract visitors
Tábor's quiet and charming Old Town offers a fascinating glimpse into the past
Posted: September 11, 2013
The decades of communist rule in the Czech Republic tend not to be remembered fondly, but bizarre though it may seem, this period was not the first time a collectivist philosophy held sway in the country.
In the 15th century, some of the most radical Hussites created a communal society in Tábor in southern Bohemia. For a while, under the Táborites, as they became known, property was communal and everyone was considered equal in real life just as they were believed to be before God. While this period, like communist rule, was destined not to last - defeat in battle in 1434 largely put paid to the supposed idyll - it remains the defining period of Tábor's history.
It is also on show to tourists who visit the town, not least in the old town square, which must rank as among the most attractive in the country.
The statue of the Táborites leader Jan Žižka occupies a prominent place on one side of the square, standing atop a plinth and depicted as blind in one eye. Žižka's figure, proud and defiant, is close to the Děkanský kostel or Dean Church, which dates from the early 16th century, after Tábor had put its radical tendencies behind it and become a royal town. Characterized by its three gables, the church has one of the town's chief attractions - a tower that offers spectacular views over the surrounding countryside.
While climbing the nearly 200 steps to the top can be tiring, the views on all sides are certainly reward enough, with the picture postcard Old Town's narrow streets and tangle of red roofs radiating from the town square. There are a dozen of them leading from the náměstí and a few of them run down to the Lužnice river, beside which the town sits. Beyond the town are vistas of gently rolling hills, some of them heavily forested, and the less aesthetically pleasing sight of communist-era high-rise buildings, although these have cheerily been repainted in blue, orange, yellow, green and pink.
While the church tower gives visitors the chance to climb high above Tábor, the nearby Town Hall, which has neo-Gothic influences, affords the opportunity to do just the opposite: to clamber far beneath the old town's labyrinthine cobbled streets. The museum housed within the Town Hall runs regular tours of the hundreds of meters of underground passages that contain former prisons and cellars.
Aside from enjoying the town square, one of the chief pleasures of visiting Tábor is simply walking through the winding and largely traffic-free streets of the Old Town. Many of the buildings sport attractive gables and sgraffito, and there are street cafés where visitors can relax with a coffee and rest their feet after the long climb up the church tower.
Tábor attracts enough visitors that it could not be described as an undiscovered gem, but it is clear from a weekend stroll through the old center that the numbers of tourists are small considering how attractive and historically interesting the town is.
After visiting the Old Town's center, tourists can head to the southwest, passing through a beautiful gateway that traces its history back to the early 15th century, even if its immaculate red roof is clearly a 21st century effort.
Further on, a pleasant hike past streams and along quiet lanes- although some of them are rather steep in places - leads to Klokoty, a delightful baroque church and monastery in a tranquil location.
The church, sitting beside a quiet village skirted by wheat fields, has a colorful mosaic on the outside and a ceiling with beautiful frescoes inside. There are also well-kept gardens and a small café that offers another chance to rest tired legs.
While Tábor's narrow cobbled Old Town streets rank among the town's main attractions, the new district, which visitors coming by train or bus will arrive in, is far from lacking in charm. There are a number of interesting Art Nouveau buildings, the elaborate figures, faces and impressive detailing on the upper floors contrasting with the sometimes brash shop frontages below.
Like the old town, the new district also has another reminder of religious free thinking, with the small garden in the center being home to a statue of Jan Hus, the Czech national hero after whom Hussitism was named. Sadly, the garden attracts some of the town's more troubled residents and their bottles of alcohol.
Located about 90 kilometers south of Prague, Tábor has more than enough to make it worth visiting on a day trip, and for those looking for a relaxing, unhurried weekend, it would be a fine place for an overnight stay. There are direct trains from Prague and bus services by operators including Arriva.
Daniel Bardsley can be reached at
Tags: travel, Tabor, South Bohemia.
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