The next time you are strolling from Charles Bridge to the square Na Kampě make your way across it>, and you will be pleasantly surprised by the view of a rather sweet petit park at the end of the square. In spite of its relatively small size, less than three ha, the park offers many attractions to restore both the body and soul. .
The park is divided by two main axes in a north-south direction: the first one leads alongside the Vltava and the second one follows the Čertovka. Both are verdantly flanked by mature broadleaved trees – horse-chestnuts, maples and other types. The path closer to the Vltava is dominated by an ancient sycamore which has established itself so well it has been declared a natural monument.
On the Vltava side, you can visit the Kampa Museum, alias Sova’s Mills, where in the 15th century a real mill was in full swing operated by Václav Sova of Liboslav. Four hundred years passed by until a well-known family of bakers called Odkolkovi took the building over, rebuilt it and worked in the place. These days, the modernised premises exhibit Czech modern art, including one of the most remarkable Czech modernist painters of the 20th century František Kupka - his work is presented in a form of a permanent exhibition.
The same building offers a tasty option to visit the restaurant or a café that boasts a prime view of the Vltava and the opposite embankment.
Mums with small kids will find the ideal spot a few steps further, either in the Community and Family Centre Kampa or in the playground that offers a variety of attractions. It is open from April until the end of October, between 8 a.m. and 7 p.m., and from November until the end of March, between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Public toilets are available close to the playground.
Another few steps further, visitors can sample fish specialities prepared by the Fish club, which operates a local restaurant. From here you can either carry on walking to Vítězna Street on the Smíchov side, or you can turn and walk in the opposite direction, alongside the artificial riverbed called Čertovka (Devil’s Stream). Originally it was called Rožmberská strouha (Rosenberg Race), according the owner of the local land Vilém of Rožmberk. The current name is derived from the house U Sedmi čertů (Seven Devils House).
Čertovka’s waters power a big wooden wheel, reminiscence of the local mill called Huť. Another part of story behind Kampa is that it was truly sealed into existence by the consolidation of several mill gardens. These were founded together with the mills which had been developed here since the beginning of the 15th century. Close to the wheel is a foot bridge. On crossing it, you can either enter the cosy café called Mlýnská or carry on walking across the bridge to breath in the more rarefied delights of the Nostic Garden. In the street of the same name stands the theatre called Malé Nosticovo divadlo which hosts the theatre ensemble Nablízko.
From here you can slowly saunter back to the square Na Kampě and stroll alongside Čertovka all the way up to Werich House which is an interesting building and has been home to several prominent personalities, the first one being Czech writer Josef Dobrovský, who in turn, was given the house by Earl Nostic. In front of the house stands a monument dedicated to Dobrovský using the design by prof. Tomáše Seidana.
In the course of the First Republic, the place was home to the academic Zdeněk Wirth, who was an author of the publication Zmizelá Praha (Lost Prague), describing the history of Prague as well as places that had been gradually disappearing in his time due to various reasons, especially building development. His likeness was immortalized in the bust that was installed on the house together with the bust of the second resident, the famous Czech actor, playwright and writer Jan Werich. He was so popular among people that they named the house after him. In the same period, the building sheltered another famous personage, Czech poet Vladimír Holan, who lived one floor lower.
The place has been empty for several years and various options regarding his future use are currently being considered. The park gained its characteristic landscape between 1947 and 1948, and is often host to various theatre performances and other events, such as open-air exhibitions presenting artwork that is in weather resistant condition of course. The grass area is amply used for picnics and the benches for relaxation.
The origins of the name Kampa are not entirely clear. It either comes from the word ‘campus’, alias a field or a plain, or from the word ‘zákampí’ which means a shady spot. Another option is that the name was derived from one of the owners, Tychon Gansgeb of Kampa.
Before the first building development started in the 15th century, the place had the form of an open space which was gradually filled by gardens. These are mentioned as late as in 1169, in the foundation charter of the church that belonged to the Maltese Order. The height of the area had been gradually rising due to sediments and backfill that was brought here from the Lesser Town and Hradčany; the process ended in the 17th century when the embankments were finally formed.
At this time, some parts of the land were already occupied by mills with adjunct plots (mill gardens), which were later on converted to aristocrat’s gardens. These days we can encounter names like Michnovská Garden, Nostic Garden, Odkolkovská Garden (by the Kampa weir). The latter one is linked to Kaiserstejn Garden, which surrounds Kaiserstejn Palace, currently called Lichtenštejn Palace.
In 1941 dividing walls were removed from the originally Baroque land that was at this time already rather neglected. This gave rise to one big square, which was, seven years later, adapted to its current landscaped style and appearance.
The park together with the adjacent square near Charles Bridge create one of the most significant areas called Kampa; it is famous because it became home to many prominent personalities and its old residents were known as an original community.
The place became famous in the times before November 1989, when the neighbouring Velkopřevor Square, respectively the so called Lennon Wall, became a secret meeting point for people protesting against the Communist regime. These meetings were officially secret and were of course monitored by the secret police with a result that many would be subversives were often persecuted.
Source: Gardens and parks in Bohemia, Moravia and Silesia, PIS.