Many of you may have no idea that this park in Holešovice has its own reasons to celebrate another “fateful eight” year. The park dates back to 1268, founded by king Přemysl Otakar II to please himself and his Royal Court with a hunting-ground, and above it, a small Summer Palace. 750 years …
That’ quite a bit of history. But let’s begin at the beginning. The Royal hunting-ground’s heyday was during the Hapsburg dynasty in the 16th and early 17th century. Emperor Ferdinand I expanded it in 1536-1548 and joined it through to Prague Castle. A pond was excavated, new trees planted, and a pheasant farm and hunting lodge built, later followed-up with a fruit garden. At the western edge, an Imperial mill sprang up, with a late-Renaissance gate, there to this day. Under Emperor Rudolph II the old Summer Palace got a Renaissance facelift and the original pond was generously enlarged to 21 hectares (52 acres). An island was raised in the middle, its remnant today dubbed Oak hillock – a central rise with ancient oak trees. The large pond was fed from Rudolph’s water tunnel – a technical feature remarkable in its day, still in service. It brought water from the Vltava River a hundred meters away (from near today’s Štefánik Bridge) through Letná hill; the entrance has a fine Renaissance portal inscribed with 1583 and the monogram of Rudolf II. A less happy era for the Royal hunting-ground came in the 17th and 18th century, when numerous military conflicts left their destructive mark – it was picked as an ideal military encampment site, more than once.