The Smallest Town in Central Europe
Rabštejn nad Střelou is the smallest town in Central Europe, and it would be first in the world if there were four more inhabitants there. However, this small area includes a large concentration of interesting stories and sites. The whole Manětín area, where this picturesque village is, offers a lot of adventures for tourists.
The legend says that an unknown knight had the Rabštejn Castle built for a prince who found and returned a magical gem, stolen from the knight’s room by a raven. The reality is not as poetic, but the history of Rabštejn is still interesting. The castle was first mentioned in writing in 1269 when it was owned by the Milhostice family, who in 1321 sold it to Oldřich Pluh, a royal vice-chamberlain to Jan of Luxembourg. Oldřich Rabštejn had the castle rebuilt to an important noble home and had a fortified town constructed below the castle, receiving the Prague municipal right for the town in September 1337.
However, Oldřich’s sons sold the castle to Charles IV in 1357. Rabštejn then changed owners many times until the 18th century. However, the best era was probably after Maxmilián Václav Lažanský, who also owned the nearby Manětín, purchased Rabštejn in 1748, and the Lažanský family transformed both municipalities into a jewel of Czech Baroque.
The name of Rabštejn nad Střelou is related to its position on the Střela River as well as the old legend about the raven and a recovered ring. Rabenstein means raven’s rock. The abandoned castle on the rock was replaced with a Baroque chateau built by the Pötting family at the beginning of the 18th century.
In 1748, Maxmilián Václav Lažanský, who also owned nearby Manětín, purchased the town and gradually transformed his estate into a jewel of Czech Baroque. However, the importance of Rabštejn was gradually decreasing. The distance from the centre of the estate as well as the confined position between rocks prevented the development of industry and further development. Inhabitants lived off unprofitable farming and crafts, namely weaving. In addition to regular crafts, there were also two workshops for painting playing cards.
The last noble owner was Terezie Seilern-Aspang, born Lažanská. In 1938, Rabštejn became a part of Sudeten and a part of the local Czech minority was forced to leave. Also, the last two Jewish families left the town at that time and ended the almost 300-year-old history of a Jewish community in Rabštejn. At the end of the war, German inhabitants were forced to leave and Rabštejn was never fully populated again. However, its scenic beauty predetermined its transformation as a resort.
To this day, Rabštejn nad Střelou bears traces of each historical epoch. Even though it might seem that the town with less than 30 inhabitants and 75 houses does not have much to offer, it is quite the opposite – there are many monuments on a small area: in addition to the ruins of Rabštejn and Sychrov, there is a beautiful church, cloister, Loreto chapel and a historic bridge, protected as a technological monument.
In the Manětín region, in addition to Baroque beauty and starry skies, you can also see rare animal species – there are many bat colonies and seven out of ten species of rare owls. The Manětín region has a lot to offer. It is a beautiful place for people who are interested in history, nature, hiking, cycling, horse-riding, river rafting, mushroom picking and climbing.
If you prefer nature to history, you will not be disappointed in Rabštejn. The town is surrounded by the scenic nature park of Horní Střela. You can take the Rabštejn-Střela loop trail, which is seven kilometres long and has 14 stops that will give you information about the most interesting places in Rabštejn and its surroundings. The Mlýnská (Mill) trail connecting Nečtiny and Manětín is also of interest: there are six mills and a water hammer mill along the three-kilometre trail, which leads through the beautiful countryside along Starý potok (creek) and its central theme is mills, the force of water energy and the beauty of Baroque in the landscape.
You should definitely check out the famous “Manětín darkness”: http://manetinskatma.cz/. The Manětín area of dark skies is one of the places with the smallest light pollution, which provides a unique experience to observers of the night sky. The Milky Way looks very close, August meteors will fall to your feet and you will see stars you cannot see anywhere else due to light pollution.
Manětín is a beautiful area with many natural and historical sites. Just like the neighbouring Rabštejn nad Střelou, Manětín also experienced a construction boom in the 18th century, paradoxically started by a large fire of the town in 1712. Half of the town burned down, including the chateau, church and school. The Lažanský family almost immediately had the chateau reconstructed in the Baroque style. Famous Baroque artists such as Petr Brandl, Jan Santini Aichel and others worked in Manětín.