Unless you’re a passionate fan of spelunking, you may think that caves are boring. After all, they’re dark, wet, narrow, and probably full of bats – who are known carriers of dangerous diseases, among other things – and that’s pretty much it, right? No? If you are one of those people who agree with that statement, then let me try to change your mind because there is one area in the Czech Republic that is known for its fascinating caves. It lies in the middle of beautiful forests that look like from brothers Grimms’ fairy tales. But don’t worry – there are no evil old witches lurking within!
What is the Moravian Karst?
Moravian Karst is an area located north of Brno near the town of Blansko. There are over 1 000 caverns and gorges, five of the cave systems are open to the public. If you enjoy picturesque landscapes and aren’t afraid of heights, you can ride a cable car to the top of the Macocha Abyss. My personal tip: Wait for the fall to come and you’ll get to see the woods “dressed” in the combination of yellow, orange, and red and covered by the veil of mist.
Macocha Abyss and the tale of an evil step-mother
Even though I wrote that there are no evil old witches living in the nearby forests, it doesn’t mean there are no folk tales and legends related to this place. After all, the name Macocha derives from the Czech word “macecha”, which stands for “stepmother”. And at this point, you probably already know where the story is headed since there is no shortage of evil stepmothers and their poor stepchildren in fairy tales.
Once upon a time a young farmer lost his wife and was left alone with his little son. As the loneliness became unbearable, he decided to remarry so he wouldn’t stay alone with his son. He found himself a new wife and life seemed to be good again. That was until the farmer’s new wife gave birth to her own son and realized that the baby boy would never inherit her and her husband’s possessions. It was her stepson, who would inherit everything and for this reason, he immediately became a nuisance.
And as it usually goes in such tales, she decided to get rid of her stepson. One summer day she got the opportunity to do so when her husband took their little son to the market and left his older son at home with her. She ordered the stepson to go pick wild strawberries to the nearby forest with her. They were walking in the forest picking strawberries and eventually strayed to a place only very few people from the village dared to visit. They’ve come to a deep dark abyss with a green little pond at its bottom; a pond so deep that it was said to be bottomless. They decided to go back home when all of a sudden the stepmother noticed there were huge wild strawberries growing on a cliff of the abyss.
She got a horrible idea. Once she made sure there was nobody watching them, she told her stepson to go get the strawberries. He was scared to do so but he was more scared to disobey his stepmother, so he leaned towards them. As he was trying to get closer to them his stepmother pushed him so hard he staggered and then… Then he fell off the cliff.
As soon as that happened the stepmother started running away as if she were hunted by a pack of wolves but her conscience soon turned her back to the abyss. Then the stepmother tortured by her horrible deed jumped off the very same cliff.
When the farmer returned back home, it was already quite late but his wife and son were nowhere to be found. He asked their neighbors where they’ve gone and learned that they went to pick wild strawberries to the nearby forest. The farmer didn’t even hesitate and went to look for them. Soon he came to the abyss where he found his son hanging on a branch – fortunately still alive. He then ran back to the village for some ropes and ladders and together with a couple of neighbors returned for his son. The boy was scared, dirty, hungry, exhausted, and wet from rain but he survived – unlike the stepmother.
Another version of the tale says that the stepmother returned to the village as if nothing happened. Later the boy was saved by other people from the village who then pushed the stepmother off the cliff as a punishment.
As for the Macocha Abyss itself, it is 138,4 meters deep which makes it the deepest gorge of its kind in Central Europe. And there is indeed a little pond at its bottom – in fact, there are two of them! The upper pond is 11 meters deep and the lower pond is at least 50 meters deep – its actual bottom hasn’t been discovered yet. So who knows – maybe it is indeed bottomless.
The five caves
If you are not a fan of heights, you might prefer visiting one of the five caves that are open to public tours and explorations. These five caves are:
- Punkva Caves
- Kateřinská Cave
- Balcarka Cave
- Sloupsko-šošůvské Caves
- Výpustek Cave
The most popular and perhaps most fascinating of them are the Punkva caves which can only be explored on boats as the Punkva river flows through it. By the way, the boats will actually bring you to the bottom of the abyss during your tour. And yes, you’ll get to see the two ponds. Remember, however, that to be able to visit the cave you need to make a reservation. And be careful once you’re there – the ceilings are very low in some parts of the cave!
Another interesting cave is the Kateřinská cave. You don’t need to make any reservations, nor will you be exploring it on a boat as there is no underground river flowing through it. Instead of the river, you can find Moravian Karst’s biggest dome here and it’s truly magnificent!
There is also a tale related to this cave and its name. Legend has it that a young girl called Kateřina once hid there with her flock of sheep from a thunderstorm. One of these sheep strayed away from Kateřina and her flock and so Kateřina decided to search for it. She went deeper and deeper into the cave, following the echo of the bell that her sheep had tied around its neck. But the cave was too dark and poor Kateřina got lost – her body was later found by other villagers who then went to look for her. That kind of makes me wonder how these people learned what happened considering that there were just a couple of sheep left and sheep can’t speak…
And if you still aren’t tired after visiting these two caves, you can also visit the rest. Just remember that all of them are fascinating in some way and all of them are big, so it might take you a lot of time to explore them. And one still needs to eat so keep this in mind when preparing your schedule!
Once you’re visiting Moravian Karst you might also consider visiting Býčí skála (the Bull’s Rock Cave) named after an ancient bronze statue of a bull that was found there. In its part called “Předsíň” the archaeologist Jindřich Wankel discovered a Palaeolithic settlement from around 100,000 – 10,000 BC, which is also where the bronze statue was found, among other interesting things. It’s also said that mysterious pagan rituals used to take place here!
If you’d like to explore this cave, you need to make a reservation, though. But believe me, you will not regret it!
Other places to visit
Of course, caves are not the only places you can explore when visiting the area of Blansko. If you are curious and have also enough time to see other places located nearby, you can for example visit one of the nearby castle ruins, windmills, churches, and lookout towers. And the town of Blansko is worth seeing too!
There are still many interesting places in the Czech Republic that are waiting for your visit, so keep an eye on our blog to learn more about these interesting places! If you don’t want to check the blog for more tips for trips, just subscribe to our special newsletter or follow us on Facebook and Instagram!