Žižkovo náměstí from Tábor, Czech Republik

One one side of this square is a statue of Jan Žižka, leader of the Hussite movement, and one of the few military commanders in history to have never lost a single battle. Today, his name is found in this square in Tábor. Situated on a hilltop, with the square at its peak, and near Lake Jordan, named after the Biblical river, this city was founded in the spring of 1420 as a centre of the Hussite revolutionary movement. At first carefully planned, it later developed organically, and the shape of its square points to this tendency. Its streets were intentionally designed in zigzag formation, so that enemies would have difficulty reaching the centre. Although it is hard to see in the photograph, the square is sloped, which gives it an additional spatial dimension.

Náměstí Zachariáše z Hradce from Telč, Czech Republic

Founded in 1354, in a thick forest, on the spot where two roads crossed next to waterways at the border between Moravia, Bohemia and Austria, Telč (or Teltsch in German), had the misfortune of experiencing a great fire two centuries later. The city was quickly rebuilt following the original plan, but with modifications which took into account the evolution of building styles and techniques. The Gothic castle was remade in the Renaissance style and lofts were built for the houses in the square. The houses received painted façades, which were later replaced in the 18th century with rococo and baroque ones. The medieval Gothic arch on the ground floor remained unchanged. It is continuous, uniting all the houses in the square. Two churches were built and a plague column was dedicated to Saint John Nepomuk, flanked by two fountains. Towards the end of the 18thcentury, time suddenly stopped in Telč, with the end of its age of glory and economic development. The city reached our times without further changes, unaffected by industrialisation and, through some miracle, without socialist blocks. It is straight out of a book of folk tales. The map of the city is practically synonymous with the triangular square. One step outside of it carries you to the yellow canola fields of the Bohemian hills.

Masarykovo náměstí from Třeboň, Czech Republic

Třeboň, or Wittingau in German, has one of the best-preserved medieval squares in Bohemia. In fact, only its shape dates from medieval times, since its current form, with its Renaissance and Baroque houses, resulted from the flourishing fish trade of the 14th century. Beginning in the mid-14th century, the natural landscapes around the city were gradually transformed by human intervention. The marshlands gave way to a dense network of over 500 lakes, grouped into 16 aquatic systems, today a paradise returned to the wilderness and populated with rare species of plants and animals. The largest of these lakes is located right near the city and is tied to the Rosenberg family, owners of the medieval burg. Like all historical cities in Bohemia and Moravia, this square contains a plague column; a Renaissance fountain; and a tower building belonging to the City Hall.

Náměstí from Štramberk, Czech Republic

Similar to many other small, out-of-the-way places, this square is simply called “Square,” or Náměstí in Czech. Štramberk is yet another example of a place where the entire town is condensed into its square. Aside from the row of houses that line its perimeter, only two or three additional streets complete the map. Trúba, a cylindrical tower consisting of the remains of a castle about which few things are known, dominates this settlement, perched on a nearby wooded hillside. Everything here reminds one of a fairy tale, from the forests to the castle to the square. A large number of wooden houses from the 18th and 19th centuries also add to the local cultural heritage. The land where Štramberk is located is called Valašsko, from the name of the populace who migrated here in waves, along the Carpathians from Transylvania and, perhaps, from Bukovina. Though the language of the Vlachs was lost along the way, and these people were slavicised, some customs did survive, such as the traditional building techniques that were adapted by local Czech and German craftsmen. The wooden houses clearly bring to mind the wooden Romanian architecture from Transylvania. A number of local settlements had such centres, but the wooden houses have been replaced by stone ones, usually Baroque in style. Štramberk has the greatest number of Vlach-style wooden houses, as they are called here, creating an interesting architectural reservation. Its square is also linked to the preparation of local cakes called “Štramberk ears,” which legally can only be made here. It is said that they have this name because the people of medieval Štramberk thought they resembled the ears of captured Tatar soldiers, during the time of the Tatar raids.

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