Beethoven, or Napoleon in Czechia? Of course! They were here

Beethoven, or Napoleon in Czechia? Of course! They were here

Across Czechia in search of the stories of world-famous figures

Beethoven, or Napoleon in Czechia? Of course! They were here
Beethoven, Goethe, or Napoleon, are just a few of the world’s great names to have visited Czechia on their travels. Join us on a small excursion to the places where they left their mark. And do you happen to know where the father of psychoanalysis, the famous Sigmund Freud, was born?

Wolfgang A. Mozart: A genius who loved Prague and was loved by the city's people

The genius composer spent most of his life on the road. He visited Bohemia and Moravia five times. In the autumn 1767, the Mozart family arrived at the gates of the fortified town of Olomouc. They sought peace and safety from the chickenpox epidemic that had broken out in Vienna and that eventually caught up with young Wolfgang. They found accommodation in the U černého orla Inn at the Lower Square (today’s Hanácká Restaurant), but they soon moved to the Archbishop’s Palace near St. Wenceslas. Mozart's stay in Olomouc is commemorated by the exposition in the Archdiocese Museum.

On their way back to Vienna, the Mozarts spend Christmas in Brno. Mozart showed his art to Schrattenbach, the land governor, in whose house in Kobližná Street they stayed. The concert took place in today’s Reduta Theatre

Mozart arrived in Prague for the first time in 1786, at the age of thirty, when he came to conduct his famous Marriage of Figaro. The people of Prague immediately grew fond of him, and he fell in love with Prague. And so it is no wonder he returned to Prague again. During his second visit, he stayed at the U tří lvů inn near the Old Town Square. However, his favourite place was the sunlit Bertramka with adjacent vineyards. He allegedly fell in love with his host’s wife, for whom he even composed several concert arias. He also finished the score for the famous Giovanni at Bertramka.

TOP SECRET: We know where the unique Mozart’s piano is! You can see the only Mozart’s piano from the famous workshop of F. X. Christoph at the permanent exposition of the Czech Museum of Music. Mozart played the piano during his first visit to Prague.

Ludwig van Beethoven: Was Czechia his fateful destination?

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Less than an hour from Ostrava you’ll find one of North Moravia’s most impressive architectural gems - Hradec nad Moravicí Chateau. By far the most famous guest to have stayed here was the phenomenal composer Ludwig van Beethoven. His stay is still commemorated by the priceless Beethoven’s piano as well as the legend according to which he refused to give a concert for Napoleon’s generals, departed in haste for nearby Opava, and there allegedly knocked on the door of a house in Ostrožná Street in the famous rhythm of the Fate Symphony.

In Czechia, however, the genius composer left his biggest mark in the Teplice spa near the border with Germany, where he also met Goethe. He is said to have found the place so inspiring that he composed the opening bars of his most famous 9th Symphony there. The Beethoven Spa House pays homage to the time this giant of world music spent in Teplice, and you can even sleep over in the room he stayed in. And also the House of the Golden Sun, where he lost his heart to his Immortal Beloved. At the Beethoven Café Restaurant, you can admire the composer’s original manuscripts on the walls while enjoying a cup of fine coffee or a glass of beer special, brewed as in Beethoven's time. Teplice plays host to the Ludwig van Beethoven Music Festival every year.

Johann W. Goethe: The story of a besotted geologist

A famous poet, philosopher and, it must be said, also an erudite geologist and passionate mineral collector, Goethe stayed in Czechia a total of seventeen times. Most of all in Karlovy Vary, which he considered the most beautiful place in the world after Weimar and Rome. He believed that the local spa springs were beneficial, and wrote his famous Faust during one of his stays. Places he stayed at included what is now the White Hare House, Madrid House, and the Hotel Mozart.

When Goethe was staying in Františkovy Lázně, he described the town as “heaven on earth”. As an outstanding geologist, one thing he was particularly interested in near this renowned spa town was the magical Komorní hůrka volcano. He also visited the rock towns in Adršpach and Czechia’s highest peak, Sněžka in the Giant Mountains, where he enjoyed a stunning sunrise.

Goethe loved Mariánské Lázně, the backdrop for his story of platonic love with the young Ulrika. The former house known as 'The Golden Grape,' where the renowned poet stayed alongside figures such as Goethe, is now the location of the Municipal Museum. The building in which Goethe dreamed about his unfulfilled love, is the oldest in the city and there you can learn in a fun way about the history of the picturesque spa as well as about famous visitors and their fates.

One of the last places Goethe stayed in Czechia was Loket, where he proposed to his beloved Ulrika and was rejected during a festive lunch on the terrace of what is now the U Bílého koně Hotel

Franz Kafka: Genius from Prague

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Franz Kafka is one of Prague’s most notable literary figures, spending most of his life in the city and creating masterpieces such as The Trial and The Metamorphosis.

A walk around the places that Franz Kafka used to visit is an unforgettable experience, not only for admirers of his work. Kafka, who was a practicing Jew, often used to visit the Old-New Synagogue, loved walking across Charles Bridge and felt an inextricable affinity for the Clementinum, where he attended lectures and went to the library as a student. He and his parents lived right next to the Old Town Hall, from where it was a short walk to the grammar school, situated in what is now the Kinsky Palace, today home to the National Gallery. From time to time, Kafka and his friends would also go for a coffee at the Café Savoy near Petřín or to the Café Louvre by the National Theatre.

You could visit the Franz Kafka Museum, where you can see some of the personal effects of this literary genius. This remarkable exhibition was created as the third in a series of exhibitions on the cities of world-class writers, after James Joyce's Dublin and Fernando Pessoa's Lisbon. You’ll find it in the Herget Brickworks in Malá Strana, just a few steps from Charles Bridge. The museum includes a shop offering the full range of Kafka’s work and biographies. And don’t forget to visit the Quadrio shopping centre by the National Theatre, where you’ll find an imposing sculpture of Franz Kafka’s head by artist David Černý.

Kafka liked to go on trips to places around Prague, such as taking the train to Roztoky and then walking in the surrounding countryside. In 1902 he visited Liběchov, which became his favourite summer residence. He also stayed at the Štýdl guest house in the village of Želízy, where it is said that he liked their approach and a vegetarian diet.

Thomas A. Edison: The famous inventor was captivated by Prague’s Astronomical Clock

Photo by Shutterstock: Thomas A. Edison in New Jersey (1901)

The famous inventor, who perfected the light bulb and the telephone, stayed in Czechia’s two largest cities, Prague and Brno. In the latter, he checked the lighting in what is now the Mahen Theatre, the first electrified theatre in Europe. He stayed at the Grandhotel and received a stormy welcome from the locals. He apparently said it was an honour for him to provide lighting to such a magnificent building.

During his visit to Prague with his family, he admired the Old Town Hall and strolled through the courtyard of St. Vitus Cathedral and Golden Lane. He was most impressed by the mechanics of Prague’s Astronomical Clock. Edison liked to sit in the café in what is now the Dům Na Můstku building, where he used to watch the throngs of people on the busy Wenceslas Square in the city centre.

Napoleon Bonaparte: After his victory at Slavkov, he slept in his boots

Joaquin Phoenix as Napoleon in a movie directed by Ridley Scott (2023). Photo: Falcon

A visit to Slavkov u Brna (Austerlitz) is an absolute must for any history and battle buff! The famous Battle of the Three Emperors took place nearby in 1805, where Napoleon Bonaparte celebrated his most glorious victory. His triumph over the emperors of Austria and Russia is commemorated by the Cairn of Peace. At the local château, you can see the famous balcony from which Napoleon gave his victorious speech. The famous battle is commemorated every year by Austerlitz, a spectacular military event.

Few people know that before the battle, the French emperor stayed in the Governor's Palace in Brno (which now houses the Moravian Gallery) and visited St. James’ Church, where a mass was held for his general. His La Grande Armée took a ceremonious procession around Náměstí Svobody.

After the Battle of the Three Emperors at Slavkov he literally swept through Mikulov, slept over in the town château, and is said to have been so tired that he didn’t even take off his boots. So his spurs left the luxurious classical sofa in shreds by morning. Jablonné v Podještědí in North Bohemia is one of the last places to bear the imperial bootprint of the great Napoleon. He went there as a decoy to lure the Austrian emperor's army to fight a great battle. And apparently, "Waterloo" was almost fought in Czechia.

Giacomo Casanova: the Italian libertine was a Czech librarian

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Probably the most famous place to stay of the famous seducer and globetrotter is Duchcov Chateau, which is situated in North Bohemia near the spa town of Teplice. It was here where world-renowned lover Giacomo Casanova worked as a librarian, wrote his memoirs, and later died in 1798.

The château hosts a unique exhibition dedicated to the life of Casanova. It is the only one of its kind in the world, you won't find anything like it even in his native Venice. You’ll be able to walk through rooms furnished exactly how they looked when the famous Lothario stayed there.

Albert Einstein: Was the theory of relativity born in Prague?

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The man behind the famous theory of relativity came to Czechia in 1911, when he was offered the post as professor of physics at the German University in Prague. He lived with his family in the Smíchov district of Prague and taught at the Klementinum. He was a popular guest at gatherings of intellectuals such as Franz Kafka, Max Brod, and Rudolf Steiner, held at the U Jednorožce house on Old Town Square. If you were to go back in time, you could also meet him at the Café Louvre. He loved Prague, where he made significant progress in outlining his general theory of relativity. 

Sigmund Freud was a Czech native

The father of psychoanalysis was born in Příbor in Moravia.  The house in which this world-famous neurologist was born stands just a stone’s throw from the square. Nowadays it houses a small interactive exhibition that takes you through the life of Freud. He left the town with his parents at the age of three, spent the holidays here as a grammar school student, and fell in love with his hosts’ daughter, Gisela Fluss. These were just some of the reasons he felt such a deep and warm affinity for the town.