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The Music of the Vltava

Prague from the Vltava at dusk

After five days in Berlin, we returned to Prague via the RejioJet. We then spent three days visiting Emily and her bunny, Scout, and having new adventures together as a family. One new adventure was a pedal boat ride on the famed Vltava River, the river running through the Czech Republic and right through the city of Prague.

The Vltava, known in German as the Moldau, is at 270 miles, the longest river in Czechia. It has its headwaters in the Bohemian forest, flowing southeast through the romantic Český Krumlov in South Bohemia before turning north where it flows through Prague, dividing the city. Beautiful, historic bridges connect the east and west sides of the city, creating the famed Prague cityscape seen in so many travel guides.

I first heard of the Moldau thanks to my dad’s love of classical music. One of the pieces on a record by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra that we’d listen to while working on homework was the symphonic poem of the same name by Czech composer Bedřich Smetana. The orchestral piece was written in the mid-1800s as a six-part set titled Má vlast, which translates to “My Country” and celebrates his love for his homeland. His work captures the flowing of this life-giving river through the Bohemian countryside, through the Czech Republic’s historic castles and it’s rich history. I grew up listening to Smetana’s work; now having seen the beauty of this nation and learned of its history, from medieval through the modern time, I can understand why he would write such a suite in honor of the land that he loved.

Our experience on the Vltava was perhaps not as deep or philosophical, but it was an adventure where we were able to create some new memories as a family. As the sun began to set over Prague on our last full day with Emily, we headed over to Praha 1 and what is called Žofín to Slovanka boat rentals on the bank of the river. We had originally wanted to rent a swan-shaped pedal boat, however it would only seat 4. We ended up renting a regular boat, which seated the five of us comfortably- or at least as comfortably as possible when the kids called our rented vessel the U.S.S. Sinking Swan. While excited for family fun time, I am usually a bit wary around water activities; we Haases tend to fall out of watercraft rather easily.

But there was not much for me to be concerned over. Once in the boat, we were able to stay in the boat, even when we switch off pedaling duties. We circled around the island and went between the Charles and Jirásek Bridges, being careful to avoid the waterfalls and any restricted areas. In addition to the many pedal boats on the water on a warm July evening, there was also a motorboat. As we sang along to Spotify sea shanties and enjoyed quality family time with crazy stories and much laughter, we were careful to avoid any obstacles.

Going under the Legion Bridge

Our hour rental passed by very quickly. The end of the day brought a really pretty sunset, and there was no better way to see the lights of Prague come on than while floating on the Vltava. For under $20 USD (400 CZK), we definitely made some priceless memories.

Prague Castle silhouetted in the evening light.

Some things to consider:

While pedal boats are generally safe and accidents are not too frequent, there is still an inherent danger being on the water. The boats can capsize, and as mentioned above, people can fall out. It is a good idea to wear a life vest, especially when boating with children or if in doubt about one’s swimming ability.

Be sure to follow all rules while on the water. There were areas where we were not allowed to float as there were potential dangers such as waterfalls or other watercraft traffic. In addition to the risk to life, there is also the financial risk as one would be held responsible for any damage to the boat.

We found out that Slovanka actually does not accept credit cards at this time, though Google says otherwise. It is cash only. What saved us was that in addition to Czech koruna, they did accept Euro and U.S. Dollars. We happened to have dollars on us. Please note that they will give change in koruna after working the conversion. It was fair, and they did not take any type of additional fee.

This was truly a fun experience for our family. Singing songs and laughing together while getting some fresh air in a magical city is a memory that I will cherish. And if water does indeed have memory as some scientific studies suggest and Frozen 2 puts forward, perhaps the Vltava will remember our songs and our joy.

References and notes:

Smetana’s The Moldau can be found on Spotify. The recording is from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and it is as pretty now as it was 30 years ago.

Vltava River. Vltava River in Prague – Czech Republic – Information. (n.d.). Retrieved August 1, 2022, from

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