The Vltava River (/vəlˈtɑːvə/; Czech pronunciation: [ˈvl̩tava]; German: Moldau, IPA: [ˈmɔldaʊ]) is the longest river within the Czech Republic, running southeast along the Bohemian Forest and then north across Bohemia, through Český Krumlov, České Budějovice and Prague, and finally merging with the Elbe at Mělník. It is commonly referred to as the Czech national river.
The Vltava river is 430 kilometers (270 mi) long and drains an area about 28,090 square kilometers (10,850 sq mi) in size, over half of Bohemia and about a third of the Czech Republic's entire territory. As it runs through Prague, the river is crossed by 18 bridges (including the famous Charles Bridge, shown below) and covers 31 kilometers (19 mi) within the city. The water from the river was used for drinking until 1912, when the Vinohrady Water Tower ceased pumping operations. It is, however, the source of drinking water in case of failures/repairs to the water supply from the Želivka and Kárané sources. The Podolí water processing plant is on standby for such cases with the long section of the river upstream of the Podolí plant under the stricter, second degree of pollution prevention regulations.
Several dams were built on it in the 1950s. The Orlík Dam supports the largest reservoir on the Vltava by volume, while the Lipno Dam in the Bohemian Forest (Czech: Šumava) retains the largest reservoir by area. North of Prague the Štěchovice Reservoir has been built over the site of the St. John's Rapids. The river also features numerous locks and weirs that help mitigate its flow from 1,172 meters (3,845 ft) in elevation at its source near the German border to 155 meters (509 ft) at its mouth in Mělník.
The Vltava basin has flooded multiple times throughout recorded history. Markers have been created along the banks denoting the water line for notable floods in 1784, 1845, 1890, 1940, and the highest of all in 2002.
In August of that year, the basin was heavily affected by the 2002 European floods when the flooded river killed several people and caused massive damage and disruption along its length, including in Prague. It left the oldest bridge in Prague, Charles Bridge, seriously weakened, requiring years of work to repair.
Prague was again flooded in 2013. Many locations within the Vltava and Elbe basins were left under water, including the Prague Zoo, but metal barriers were erected along the banks of the Vltava to help protect the historic city center.
Nine hydroelectric dams have been built on the Vltava to regulate the water flow and generate hydroelectric power. Beginning at the headwaters, these are: Lipno, Lipno II, Hněvkovice, Kořensko, Orlík, Kamýk, Slapy, Štěchovice and Vrané.
The height difference from source to mouth is about 1,016 meters (3,333 ft) and the largest stream at the source is named Černý Potok (Black Brook, AKA Teplá Vltava). The Vltava itself originates by a confluence of two streams, the Warm Vltava (Teplá Vltava (cs)), which is longer, and the Cold Vltava (Studená Vltava), sourcing in Bavaria. Along its course, Vltava receives many tributaries, the biggest being Otava and Berounka from the left and Lužnice and Sázava from the right side. Its section around Český Krumlov (specifically from Vyšší Brod to Boršov nad Vltavou) is a very popular destination of water tourism.
Both the Czech name Vltava and the German name Moldau are believed to originate from the old Germanic words wilt ahwa ("wild water"; compare Latin aqua). In Annales Fuldenses (872 AD) it is called Fuldaha; from 1113 AD it is attested as Wultha. In Chronica Boemorum (1125 AD) it is attested for the first time in its Bohemian form as Wlitaua.
On the other side there is a river Ltava in Ukraine with no traces of Germanic origins. The name of a settlement on this river was mentioned in the Hypatian Chronicle in 1174, traditionally connected to the name of the city of Poltava, Ukraine. There are many theories describing etymology of Ltava.
One of the best-known works of classical music by a Czech composer is Bedřich Smetana's Vltava, usually called The Moldau in English. It is from the Romantic era of classical music and is a musical depiction of the river's course through Bohemia (listen).
A minor planet 2123 Vltava discovered in 1973 by Soviet astronomer Nikolai Stepanovich Chernykh is named after the river.
Smetana's symphonic poem also inspired a song of the same name by Bertolt Brecht. An English version of it, by John Willett, features the lyrics Deep down in the Moldau the pebbles are shifting / In Prague three dead emperors moulder away.
Though your ferry ride may require a small fee, everything to do on Kampa Island is free. It’s a charming little piece of land on the banks of the Vltava River, close to Charles Bridge. There are picturesque houses and parks to enjoy, including a string of houses right along the river, which has earned the island the nickname, “The Venice of Prague”.
Letná Park Overlooks the Vltava River
Letná Park (in Czech Letenské Sady) is a large park on Letná hill, built on a plateau above steep embankments along the Vltava River in Prague, Czech Republic. Letná's elevation and location afford commanding views of the Old Town (Staré Město).
Vodník (Wassermann) The Water Goblin
In Slavic mythology, Vodník is a male water spirit. Vodník (hastrman, vodyanoy, vodyanoi) in Czech fairy tales is the same creature as the Wassermann or nix of German fairy tales. In many such languages the word is also used to mean the Aquarius zodiac sign.
Vodyanoy is said to appear as a naked old man with a frog-like face, greenish beard, and long hair, with his body covered in algae and muck, usually covered in black fish scales. He has webbed paws instead of hands, a fish's tail, and eyes that burn like red-hot coals. He usually rides along his river on a half-sunk log, making loud splashes. Consequently, he is often dubbed "grandfather" or "forefather" by the local people. Local drownings are said to be the work of the vodyanoy (or rusalkas).
When angered, the vodyanoy breaks dams, washes down water mills, and drowns people and animals. (Consequently, fishermen, millers, and also bee-keepers make sacrifices to appease him.) He would drag down people to his underwater dwelling to serve him as slaves.
In Czech, Slovene and Slovak folklore the features of the vodník are markedly different to the East-Slavic conception; he has a completely human constitution and habits, except for few differences – vodníci (plural of vodník) have gills, webbed membrane between their fingers and their skin is algae-green in colour (as well as their hair, which is typically of pale green tone). Their overall dress and appearance is weird, sometimes even resembling a vagrant; patchy shirts and (by modern standards) odd hats - often boaters with long speckled ribbons - are commonplace. They can withstand lingering for hours outside their ponds. When they do so, one can tell them unequivocally by their wet coat-tails from which water is dripping under all circumstances. The vodník's face is usually unshaven and it is not uncommon for a vodník to have a large, wet, tangled beard.
Czech, Slovenian and Slovak tales have both evil and good vodníci (relative to human beings) who do (or don't, respectively) try to drown people when they happen to swim in their territory. Vodníci would store the souls of the drowned in porcelain lid-covered cups. They consider their cups as the most valuable heritage and display their "work", and number these cups they see as proportional to their wealth and/or status among other vodníci. When the lid of such a cup is removed, the soul within (in a form of a bubble) will escape and be liberated. Except for fish (or perhaps fish spirits), they do not have servants. Otherwise, vodníci spend their time by running their territory or – in their spare time – playing cards, smoking pipes or just sitting at the water surface (on rocks, willows nearby) and loitering. Fishermen ask the vodník for help by placing a pinch of tobacco in the water and saying, "Here's your tobacco, Lord Vodník, now give me a fish." In Czech, Slovak and Slovene tales vodníci live in ponds or rivers; there is no mention of a particular dwelling and the "half-sunken log" is unapparent. There are almost no references to vodníci in connection with sea water, which it is supposed would be dangerous, even deadly for them.
The German Nix and Nixe (and Nixie) are types of river merman and mermaid who may lure men to drown, like the Scandinavian type, akin to the Celtic Melusine and similar to the Greek Siren. The German epic Nibelungenlied mentions the Nix in connection with the Danube, as early as 1180 to 1210. Nixes in folklore became water sprites who try to lure people into the water. The males can assume many different shapes, including that of a human, fish, and snake. The females with the tail of a fish. When they are in human forms, they can be recognised by the wet hem of their clothes.
The Nixes are portrayed as malicious in some stories but harmless and friendly in others. By the 19th century Jacob Grimm mentions the Nixie to be among the "water-sprites" who love music, song and dancing, and says "Like the sirens, the Nixie by her song draws listening youth to herself, and then into the deep." According to Grimm, they can appear human but have the barest hint of animal features: the nix had "a slit ear", and the Nixie "a wet skirt". Grimm thinks these could symbolise they are "higher beings" who could shapeshift to animal form.
In the English county of Sussex, there are said to dwell "water-wyrms" called knuckers. The Word knucker is derived from the Old English nicor. English folklore contains many creatures with similarities to the Nix or Näck. These Necks include Jenny Greenteeth, the Shellycoat, Peg Powler, the Bäckahäst-like Brag, and the Grindylow.
Moldavite (Vltavín) Meteorite Tektite "Chrysolites"
Moldavite (Czech: Vltavín) is an olive-green or dull greenish vitreous substance possibly formed by a meteorite impact in southern Germany (Nördlinger Ries), which would make it one kind of tektite. They were introduced to the scientific public for the first time in 1786 as “chrysolites” from Týn nad Vltavou in a lecture by professor Josef Mayer of Prague University, read at a meeting of the Bohemian Scientific Society (Mayer 1788). Zippe (1836) first used the term “moldavite” derived from the town of Moldauthein (Czech: Týn nad Vltavou) - now in Bohemia (the Czech Republic), from where the first described pieces came.
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