The ruins of Rabí Castle dominate the town of Rábí (8 km from Sušice, Klatovy district) above the Otava River, 529 meters above sea level. It belongs to the most famous castles in Bohemia and is even mentioned in school history textbooks. It is the place where Jan Žižka – the most famous Czech Hussite military leader and warrior – lost his eye.
Rabí is the most extensive castle ruin in Bohemia with one of the most advanced defence systems of its time in Europe. If you were to measure the length of all the castle buildings and walls, it would be up to 3 kilometers.
The original Romanesque castle was built here in the first half of the 13th century, probably by German counts as, at that time, this territory belonged to Bavaria; only at the end of the 13th century, it returned to the Czech kingdom. The most important owners were the lords from Rýzmberk, this family had owned the castle for almost 200 years and had it built to its present form. Limestone which was mined in the places where the castle moats were being created was used for the construction.
We started our tour in the central courtyard. It was originally used for defence, and later for living, then a kitchen, a warehouse, and a cellar with a constant temperature of 6°C were added. In the winter, pieces of ice were brought here from the Otava River, so the cellar served as a period refrigerator. There is also a 60-meter-deep well in the courtyard; one of the deepest that can be found in Czech castles.
We ascended the original uneven stairs from the 15th century to the oldest part.
The dominant building of the entire castle is the residential tower, 26 meters high (but once higher by one floor and a roof) – a massive construction with dimensions of 13 x 18 meters.
We climbed the wooden stairs to the individual floors. The lowest floor housed the cellars, on the second floor, there was the second castle kitchen, rooms for staff and guards, on the third floor – representative chambers, and the fourth floor was occupied by the family of the lord of the castle. So I thought to myself, how often did the lady of the castle go down to the courtyard or for a walk outside the castle, only to climb again the stairs to a height of 26 meters?
However, for us, visitors to the castle, the climb was worth it. Only when you stand on the highest step you can experience the massiveness of this building. Such a tower – residential, with a square or rectangular floor plan, which could serve as a last refuge in the event of an attack – is called donjon or keep. In its heyday, the castle had an area of almost 10,000 m² and its keep was the second largest in Bohemia (after Karlštejn).
Unfortunately, not many written documents have been preserved about the castle. It is a pity that those walls cannot talk… Grass and small flowers grow from between the cracks, and instead of a roof, a huge window opened to the sky above our heads.
The castle changed its owners several times, some heirs quarrelled with each other, others neglected maintenance, the castle was looted by soldiers, it burned down at the beginning of the 18th century, and thus began to decay and became uninhabitable. The people from the town below the castle took the stones from the crumbling walls to build their own houses.
In the middle of the 19th century – in the period of romanticism when interest in everything related to the Middle Ages grew, Prince Gustav Jáchym from the Lamberg family tried to turn the castle into a place for living again, but the reconstruction turned out to be too expensive and beyond his financial capabilities. So at the very least he prohibited the further dismantling of the walls as building material and set up a lookout at the highest point, which has become a popular trip destination. And the view is still amazing today!
In front of us, we could see the Czech part of the Šumava (Bohemian Forest), but in the distance on the horizon, the German part as well.
The beautiful view of the town of Rábí, the Church of St. Trinity and lots of different-sized red roofs…
…and also to the guard tower and the strongest defensive walls with a thickness of up to 6 meters.
In the preserved cellars, where dripstones are already forming, you can try to throw a coin into the hole in the wall for luck or weigh balls in your hand (7 – 40 kg!) for the bombards that the Hussites brought here after the attack on Pilsen. The Hussites attacked the castle Rabí twice – in 1420 and 1421. And it was in 1421 that we can put it bluntly that Rabí Castle was the last thing Jan Žižka could see.
In some paintings or sculptures, Žižka has only one eye covered, in others both eyes are covered. So how was it with his eyes? It was long assumed that he had lost his left eye in battle. According to research on his skull, discovered in 1910, he had lost this eye when he was about eleven years old after a sword strike. It is absolutely a miracle that at such an age he survived such a wound that cut his face up to his mouth. And what about his right eye? He lost it during the siege of Rabí Castle. It happened in July 1421, when Žižka was resting under an old pear tree. An arrow fired from a crossbow dug into the tree trunk and split off a splinter that flew into Žižka’s healthy eye. Žižka was immediately taken to Prague for surgery, but it was unsuccessful and the famous warrior lost his sight completely.
The castle offers two guided tours:
* Tower – castle area, the oldest part and the keep
* Palace – history and construction development of the castle, video projection about the conquest of the castle by the Hussites
In addition, it is also possible to tour the large castle courtyard without a guide (small entrance fee).
* opening hours – the castle is closed on Mondays!
More information on the website: Rabí
You can leave your car in the paid parking lot under the castle.
In addition, we enjoyed the lavender scent on the way to the castle. We found a unique lavender machine here – if you put your hands into the hole on the left, the machine will spray your hands with an antibacterial gel. In the middle part, you get the body lotion and on the right, lavender perfume. And so our hands smelled of lavender for a long time.
The most beautiful panoramic view of the castle – you have to go back to the square. Do not forget to notice the picturesque houses of folk architecture…
…then go towards Sušice and turn into the first street on the right. This will lead you to the cultural center (yellow building). You can take a photo like this from here:
The castle is extremely photogenic. The ruin served as a backdrop for the filming of several Czech films and fairy tales. We visited the exhibition of photos from the filming at the castle at the former stable which is currently used for weddings as well.
Where to eat:
I definitely recommend the restaurant right at the square, the name of which is based on typical Czech humor: Vystřelený vočko (The Shot-Off Eye). Even their Wi-Fi password is related to Žižka! From the menu of traditional Czech dishes, most of our group chose the roasted duck leg with cabbage and two types of dumplings. Delicious!
The prices are acceptable, as evidenced by the fact that the garden part was soon completely filled with tourists and cyclists.
Read also about the other castles from this region:
Text: © Copyright Ingrid, Travelpotpourri
Fotos: © Copyright Ingrid, Travelpotpourri