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Visiting villages western Bohemia

I will be in the Czech Republic for 7 days/8 nights. I plan to visit 4 ancestral villages in western Bohemia, 2 are about 10 KM east of Domazlice and the other 2 about 10 km east of Plzen. These are places with 50-150 population and no shops, just houses clustered at Y intersections.

How is a visit best approached? Assuming 20 minutes spent in each village, is it best to rent a car for the day and drive down from Prague, or spend the night in either Domazlice or Plzen, or even train to Plzen and rent a car there. If I spend the night with a car does it make sense to visit Karlovy Vary or even Český Krumlov on the way back to Prague? Or am I lucky to be off the tourist track and should I make the most of this area and spend 2 nights? Another option is to train to Domazlice and then hire a driver for half a day.

Posted by
552 posts

Tom, I don't have any logistic insights but was wondering about your ancestors. The areas in question look like they were right around the historic language frontier where German ended and Czech began. Do you know if they were German or Czech speakers? I've been fascinated studying Bohemian history and identity from the pre-1945 era and its interesting how some people identified as culturally Czech, others German Austrian etc within Bohemia, which historically of course was around 1/3 German speaking. Being ethnically myself both German and Czech I find it personally interesting.

Posted by
4416 posts

Having done similar trips to ancestral villages in other countries, I would rent your own car and "make the most of [the] area and spend 2 nights" ! That will give you flexibility to follow unexpected paths - stop in at churches where ancestors may have been married; drive through the countryside; stop for a coffee in any nearby town and talk with any English speaking locals.

I think your ability to make an emotional connection will be improved with more time spent wandering the area.

Posted by
4481 posts

Hi CW: I like your advice, but not sure my wife will buy in.

Hi Rob: it’s an interesting subject for me also. I am unaware of much German language in my 4 families. The gravestones (Wisconsin) are all in Czech and I never heard that they spoke German. Curiously Czech speaking Bohemians in America seem to favor the German forms of their first names, eg Wenzel for Vaclav and Adalbert for Vojtech, for everyday use but their gravestones reverted to Czech. I’ve noticed that the German ship captains recorded German first names into the manifests and then the immigration cards are derived directly from these, misspellings and all (I don’t think most immigrants could write). So maybe they just kept using the German forms, or maybe Czechs in German speaking Austria just were used to one first name in their community then the German form with outsiders and the government, so kept using the same system here.

Czech speakers in this part of Bohemia went nearly all the way to the current German border.

Most 19th century Bohemian immigrants embarked from Bremen and arrived at either Baltimore or Galveston. I’m a temporary expert at finding the Baltimore ship manifests so pm me if you want help finding them in the archives. It’s remarkable to scan down a manifest of 275 people, half list origin Bohemia and half list various German states, and all the Bohemians list Wisconsin as their destination and all the Germans list Cincinnati.

If you’re doing genealogy research remember that Catholic baptism and marriage records use the Latin forms of first names even in the United States until very recently. You really need a chart with the Czech, German, Latin, and English forms of the same first name to have any hope of keeping people straight.

Last comment: I believe the countries that had the largest % of people emigrate are Ireland, Norway, Sweden, and Bohemia/Moravia in that order.

Posted by
14444 posts

@ rob in cal....I suggest consulting the Anglo-German historian Elisabeth Wiskemann's, "The Czechs and the Germans." for her insight and historical competence. Keep in mind too the location of the Sudetenland and the German minority in Moravia (Mähren), with its province capital, Brünn (Brno)

Posted by
4481 posts

Note about Fred’s comment: The historical region Sudetenland is where he says, an extension of German Silesia into northern Moravia. The large ring of territory referred to as part of the Sudetenland in the Munich Agreement of 1938 to include the majority German speaking parts of Bohemia is not an accurate term and should be put to bed.

Posted by
14444 posts

Parts of Moravia were also included. Check Wiskemann's book.

Posted by
868 posts

Both Domazlice and Plzen weren't part of the German settlement area. Domazlice was always a Czech town, while the German population of Plzen decreased over time to a small, but important, minority (that's why the beer is called Pilsner Urquell, and not Plzeňský Prazdroj).
Domazlice was actually not only a firmly Czech town, but also the "capital" of the Chodove, a small Slavic ethnic group (interestingly the most extensive Wiki article about them is in German (use Google Translate).
The German article also lists some Chodove villages.... maybe the ancestors of the OP were Chodove?

Definitely rent a car. Try to find a rental station in the west of Prague, so that you don't have to cross the city by car... that's really no fun. After you left Prague driving is easy, since the region between the capital and the Bavarian border is sparsely populated.
I don't know how much you are interested in the history of your family, but Plzen + Domazlice + the two villages are good for two days of sightseeing. Plzen deserves a full day, Domazlice a few hours, and maybe you want to visit the cemeteries in the village to see if you can find your name there.

Apart from that there isn't that much to see in this area. On your way back you could see Krivoklat (nice) and Karlstejn castle (great!), or maybe Kladruby monastery (which can't compete with the churches and monasteries of Prague).
The Spa triangle around Karlovy Vary and Cesky Krumlov are detours. And the Spa triangle is more than just Karlovy Vary. If you are there you should visit at least Loket and Cheb or Marianske Lazne too.
Also keep in mind that these places were once firmly German. They were turned upside down after the war and are probably not the best places to imagine how your ancestors once lived. But as a Czech Disneyland CK is great, lol.

Posted by
315 posts

Thanks to the ancestral experts. Grew up being told 1/2 (really 1/8) Bohemia. Teased, as a child, I could not possibly be a hippy! Father's mother is from a small community south of Prague. Her maiden names is the second most common last name in Russia. She ended up in North Dakota in the early 1900's. I have search census data for her as a child without recovery. DNA results includes German. My hubby and I joke we could be blood relatives. He and his family are from a small community south of Dresden.

Posted by
4481 posts

As to car rentals, either origin Prague or Plzen, there’s not much available for under $85/day, unless I’m missing something. I’ve never paid that much for a car.