When you ask Czechs to describe the North Bohemian town of Most, the most common answer is a grey mining town that expelled its entire native German population after the Second World War and offers few things to do or see. But fact is that Most, with its population of over 68,000, is today a thriving place that offers several noteworthy sights and plenty to do.
"After the end of the Thirty Year War, Emperor Ferdinand II agreed to have the castle pulled down as no one was interested in the castle hill any longer. In fact, the lack of interest prevailed until the end of the 19th century, when someone came up with the idea to build a restaurant and look-out tower on the castle's site. In 1889, the carpenter Johann Franz made a copy of the Eiffel Tower that was 25 metres high and had three floors. It was opened in October 1889, only to be torn down by a strong wind in the following month of January. It was completely destroyed."
However, the people of Most did not give up. An association called Friends of Castle Hill was founded, with its main goal to build a look-out tower on the ruins of the castle. In 1898, a ten-metre high structure came to being, rising by another ten metres within two years. A restaurant and hotel were added later. Visitors, who see the castle today, often do not even realise that they are looking at a replica.
"He certainly was an adventurer. He came from England, where his ears were apparently cut off as punishment for forging a document. So, he let his hair grow to hide it. During his time in England, he learned the trade of the alchemist and ended up at the palace court of Rudolph II in Prague, who was known for believing in this sort of science. Kelly pretended to make gold. Of course, he was faking it, so Rudolph II lost his patience. However, Kelly thought he could fool the king. Rudolph II had no mercy on Kelly and had him thrown in jail."
As historian Petra Trojnova hinted earlier, Most lost much of its economical and political importance after the Thirty Year War and it was not until coal was discovered in the second half of the 19th century that the town developed into a modern city. A railway was introduced in 1870, paving the way for industrial development. Plants, factories, and institutions such as the sugar works, steel works, porcelain factory, brewery, and the town's first museum soon sprung up.
But in 1964, the people of Most were to witness a development that angered many and displaced thousands of residents. The historical, mostly Gothic, part of the town was destroyed, levelled completely, to access coal and construct modern high-rise buildings to accommodate mainly miners and their families.
Only one building was spared. The Early Gothic aisled Church of the Ascension of the Virgin Mary was considered too sacred to be torn down.
The town opted for the last possibility and proceeded to draw up a vast plan to move the church, while keeping it intact:
"The move was launched on September 30th 1975 and was completed within a month. 53 transport vehicles were used, driven by a special hydraulic mechanism. The church was moved very slowly by some 1-3 centimetres per minute."
The massive basilica weighed over ten thousand tonnes and was moved 841 metres. In real time, it was in motion for exactly 500 hours and one minute. After extensive reconstruction, it is now open to the public, serving as a venue for concerts and the annual Christmas Mass.
"This part of the hippodrome covers some 150 hectares of land. We are entering the seventh season and anyone interested in turf and horse-racing knows that we have come a long way in these seven years. We are now part of the top Czech turf triangle of Pardubice, Chuchle and Most."
The race course was built on the Velebudice land-fill on the outskirts of Most, where some 750 hectares of land were filled mainly in the 1950s and 1960s.
"After the fifty years that have passed, the land sinks about a centimetre every year. This makes the construction of buildings difficult. Foundations often reach seven metres into the ground in order to make buildings secure. Most of the land-fills that were done fifty years ago are stabilising but there are some parts that were filled as late as in the 1990s, where the ground is still very fresh."