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The Legend of Divoka Sarka

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Divoka Sarka1 is now a picturesque valley located on the outskirts of Prague, but it is also named after one of the pivotal figures in Czech mythology. While there is much uncertainty surrounding the historical accuracy of the legend, most believe the events are meant to have taken place in either the 6th or 7th Century. Prague as it is known today did not exist; what is now the city centre was completely unsettled, but the largest of the newly created Slavic settlements is believed to have been located in what is now the Divoka Sarka valley.

The Death of Libussa

Libussa was, as legend has it, the last in a long line of female rulers in what was a matriarchal society. When she died many of the men saw this as an opportunity and under Prince Premsyl, her former husband, they succeeded in their bid for power. This was not ideal for many of the women, who were now confronted with the situation of having to bow to the new patriarchy. For the women in Libussa's court, who had enjoyed much privilege and freedom, this was unimaginable and under the leadership of a woman called Vlasta they set up a rival colony on the opposite bank of the river.

The War of the Sexes

While there is meant to have been much bloodshed on both sides, most believe that it was the women who had the upper hand for the majority of the time. However, a complete victory was prevented by the efforts of the young Ctirad, who had been appointed by Premsyl to lead the men into battle. Vlasta decided that a trap should be laid in order to kill Ctriad, and Sarka, Vlasta's right-hand woman, volunteered for the task.

Accounts differ as to how exactly Sarka persuaded Ctriad to meet her at what is now the Divoka Sarka valley. One telling is that she used her feminine charms, in conjunction with large amounts of mead, and then killed him when he had drunk himself out of consciousness. Another is that she tied herself naked to a tree, knowing that he would aid a maiden in distress. The other women, who had been lying in wait, then captured him and he was subsequently tortured and killed. While the death of Ctriad may have set back Premsyl's cause, there is not a feminist ending to this legend as he then went on to win the war and kill all the women that had rebelled against him.

While it is generally agreed that Sarka committed suicide by jumping off one of the cliffs that is now named after her, the reasons for this are also uncertain. Some say that in her brief meeting with Ctriad she fell madly in love with him and could not live with her part in his death, while others believe that she saw it as a preferable alternative to surrender.

Divoka Sarka Today

Easily reachable by taking either tram 20 or 26 to the end of the line2 Divoka Sarka is a popular location for people wishing to escape the heavily touristed centre of Prague. From the cliffs that Sarka is alleged to have thrown herself off, there are stunning views of the largely forested valley. There is also a lake complete with numerous sunbathing areas, picnic spots and a heavy metal bar. Other attractions in the area are all reachable by the numerous footpaths through what is surprisingly remote landscape, and include other bars (lacking the heavy metal sounds of the lakeside bar) and caf├ęs3, a swimming pool and a camping site.

More Information

There is another version of the Divoka Sarka legend on the Radio Praha website.

Want to go and see for yourself? Find useful information at the Official Travel Site of Czech Tourism.

1Pronounced 'Shar-ka'. For more on Czech pronunciation, visit this great entry.2This information could change at any time. Readers planning on a visit should check out the latest on the IDOS Prague Public Transport website.3If you need to know more about what you're drinking, you could do worse than check out this entry on Czech beer.

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