Steamboats celebrate 200 years on Prague’s Vltava
Two hundred years ago today on June 1, 1817, the first steamboat took to the waters of the Vltava in Prague. The attempt to launch steamboat transport did not meet with immediate success for their pioneer, but they later grew to be an important and continuing feature of the Czech capital’s transport and tourist scene.
The audacious experiment was not a success – not because of any problems with the steamboat itself but because someone ran off with the collection box containing the admission fees. Božek’s ambitions were holed, he was in debt, and he destroyed the steam engine and gave up experiments with the new power source for the rest of his life. But although the idea of steamboat transport on the Vltava did not immediately float, it did return with force around two decades later and steam soon became a power to be reckoned with.
As Hamza recounts, the Vyšehrad, dating from 1938, and the Vltava, launched two years later, both arrived in an era when the steamboat heyday was already drawing to a close.
"The biggest success was in 1921 when there were transported on the Vltava, and partly on the Elbe as well because the routes were quite long and went up all the way till Děčín, 2.1 million customers during the steamboat season.ʺ
ʺThanks to the arrangement of the Vltava, we can offer the most beautiful scenes that Prague has to offer right from a pleasure boat on the river. Our customers can go right through the historic centre of the city, they go past the National Theatre, by Prague Castle, and of course under Charles Bridge. With smaller boats we can also go on Čertovka, the so-called Prague Little Venice. We go through the centre and past some of the most beautiful monuments Prague has to offer.ʺ
ʺWe have seen a resurgance in the last two years. That’s largely thanks to the tourist industry and popularity of Prague, we are talking here about foreign visitors. So we are transporting now around 400,000 people during the season. Together with our sister company, Prague Boats, we operate 20 boats including the historic steamship Vltava of which we are proud because it dates from 1940 and is still steam powered.ʺ