From Prague with Borjomi

Cheb — City of the Headless Horseman

In fact, the theme of «Headless Horseman» is being lingered by European and other cultures for more than one hundred years. Perhaps since the time when the riding was invented. But usually the rider has neither name, nor surname. And there is no article in the encyclopedia about him. And then our Czech friends made a stir. There is town in Czech Republic with its own ghost cavalryman. This town is Cheb.

It is not easy to find Cheb on a map of the Czech Republic. It is not far from Carlsbad. Cheb is western city of Czech Republic, in fact it is a typical medieval German town, lost in the dense forests of western Moravia. It is a piece of cake to go round it three times! It seems that there is nothing interesting to do here.


 

Almost all “historic centers” of Czech provincial towns are monotonous: a long narrow square surrounded by colored houses tightly sticky to one another, a plague column and a fountain. So boring!

 

The only difference of Cheb is its Špalíček. Tourist comes here to see it. First and foremost, of course, it is a German tourist, no matter how it is strange. Špalíček is 11 houses of 13th century, which stand tightly to each other and they may seem to crash down because of their weakness.

It is told that once Cheb was called Eger by Germans, but soon the Czechs kicked out Germans of the land. The whole German suburb was destroyed, but for some reason these houses were unspoiled. On one hand, they don’t fit into architectural style of the town, but on the other hand, they help to identify tourist photos. I do not really understand the Germans, who lounge about this Špalíček all day. As if they do not have such houses in their Fatherland, so they have to travel across the border! You can get into the town’s museum after passing this junk.

 

 

Visiting the provincial local history museums is improper waste of time, but today the museum of Cheb is the purpose of our trip. Otherwise, how do we know about the dastardly murder of Albrecht Wallenstein? Wallenstein was murdered in this local history museum. Albrecht Wallenstein was a big shot — field marshal of Habsburg Emperor Ferdinand II. He had a great horse, which now stands as a stuffed animal in one of the halls of the museum. On another floor there is a room where there is a canopy bed, on which a famous commander liked to sleep. In this room he was murdered according to the secret order of the emperor. Ferdinand did not like the palace, which was built in the capital by a rich and proud Wallenstein.

Those who have been to Prague and from the windows of a modest royal palace at Prague could have seen the enormous Wallenstein palace with its huge balcony a la Florence, these gardens with statues, fountains and peacocks could easily understand the Emperor Ferdinand.

 

As the saying goes: don’t teach your grandmother to suck eggs! But Wallenstein didn’t know this saying and he paid for it. But not in Prague. In Cheb. Late in the evening on Feb. 25, 1634 the envoys of Ferdinand entered his bedroom.

 

 

Wallenstein met them with calm and dignity at the open window. «What do you want, gentlemen?» — He asked haughtily. However, history is silent about the question of Wallenstein: I reconstructed the events of that sad night by my own, having a good look at the old engraving on the wall of the room. «Die, wretch!» — Exclaimed sneaky English hireling, who wormed himself into confidence of Field Marshal. This hireling with a force pierced with a halberd the chest of honored warrior, a hero of the Thirty Years War and the winner of the Battle of White Mountain. Field Marshal swayed, but remained standing. «The time hasn’t come!» — He laughed, remembering about the horoscope made by famous Johannes Kepler. The commander carried this horoscope in a secret pocket of his waistcoat for almost quarter of a century.

 

 

The famous mathematician J. Kepler (by the way, the pupil of Tycho Brahe, of which I have already written) in 1608 predicted that Wallenstein will die as a result of the insidious treachery at the beginning of March 1634, but it was the end of February. Poor Wallenstein did not know that Kepler’s horoscope was based on complex mathematical calculations, the location of Jupiter and Mercury in relation to each other. But Kepler completely lost sight of Uranus, because this planet had not been discovered yet at those times. If Kepler had known about Uranus, he wouldn’t have made a mistake and predicted the February date.

 

Kepler’s ignorance is excusable, Wallenstein’s carelessness is stupid. The field marshal made a ridiculous test to Fate instead of jumping out the window, jumping on a horse and running away, or calling for his loyal supporters. «It is not my time to die!» — He laughed haughtily. «Ah, really? I don’t think so!” – smiled the second English recruitment and slashed with his sword. A sharp hiss of air, a sharp metal razor cut the neck of the noble, the head of the great commander flew out of the open window, then it flew a dozen meters and crashed into the corner of one of the houses. The blow was so powerful that the head knocked out a big piece of the building, forming a large hole. By some miracle it caught on a sharp rock and the flow of blood, bubbling and boiling up, flowing slowly and soaking into the stone and plaster.

 

Wallenstein’s head for some time was gazing at the killers and trying to tell something to them, and then crashed down on the ground and disrupted into two parts. With a wild cry “The Englishmen killed Field Marshal!” little page of commander jumped out of the door of the house, grabbed the head of Wallenstein and ran.

 

 

No one had seen the page after that. The head was not found. The body of the commander was buried. And since then there is no peace at night for the people of Cheb. According to local legend, at midnight the spirit of the killed rises from the grave, jumps up on his favorite horse, and wanders through the old town looking for his head. It happens every night. It’s scary.

 

Another local legend tells that one unbelieving inhabitant of Cheb named Menger laughed at the superstitious townspeople. One day after having a large portion of alcohol he went to see the spirit of Wallenstein. Only in the morning friends found him lying unconscious. He woke up just to tell the friends about the experienced nightmare, then he fell into delirium and died because of dry fever.

 

There is also a special story about the house, against of which the head of Wallenstein stroke. The people of Cheb, of course, stopped up a hole and painted the house in perky orange colour. The only thing is that every year on the evening of February 25 from the stopped up hole field marshal’s blood exudes.

 

They say nowadays the blood still exudes, but modern Cheb authorities solved the problem in easy way — the house is now painted in dark red colour, so it is hard to see the blood. I have been looking carefully, but haven’t noticed whether it was blood or just a Finnish paint …

 

Of course, these are only local stories, but you can see Wallenstein’s head with your own eyes. The people of Cheb made it in bronze ant set it in that ill-fated hole. Now everyone can see it. I have a strong suspicion that there is something behind that bronze head. Apparently, it was made in order to calm the spirit of otherworld. But just in case, there is a local policeman-control near.

 

So, that was the scaring story.

And now, my friends, I advise you not to lose your head and I say farewell until next week.

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