Šance near Mosty u Jablunkova a medieval fortress visited by an emperor A ram with sheep and lambs, goats running about, this is the present crew of the medieval fortress of Šance near Mosty u Jablunkova, ecological lawn mowers in the place where the history of our land was made. It was the point-defence at Jablunkov Pass, an entrance through the natural gate in the range of the Beskyd Mountains of Těšín, with the crew of the emperor’s military unit. These days, anybody (that is, those not scared off by the sheep and goats) can walk through it. The sheep and goats are not only the living and ecologic “lawn mowers”, but also a tourist attraction. You may walk in a place with the most picturesque views. You can see the district of Těšín on one side and of Kysuce in Slovakia on the other. Cities spread out below with the noise and fuzz of all that urban life is. The endless rush is replaced with the monotonous sound of wildlife and the important, sometimes warning baa of the ram and high pitched bleats of the lambs. Can you imagine any better way to get your brain rebooted? However, this place did not always feel comforting. Quite the contrary, it much too often smelt of gun powder, of soldiers’ sweat, of bloodshed and a fight for lives. Mosty u Jablunkova has traditionally been a place of great strategic importance. Who would not carefully guard the border and entrance to their country? The corridor which merchant caravans walked in peace became the passage for armies to march in times of conflicts.
Defence Sconce Šance was built in this ideal location, looking over all the region in all directions to preclude the invasion of the Turks. It was repeatedly renewed and improved so as to resist newer and stronger weapons and military strategies. The layout resembled a star, as you can clearly see. Even though the fortress was always a stateof-art construction, it was conquered by Prussian armies a few times. In 1765, Joseph II, son of the empress Maria Theresa, visited this fortress in the east of the present Czech Republic. When he saw the poor condition of the construction, he ordered its renewal. The young man, who later became famous for his numerous reforms, also “reformed” the fortress, adding a post office and forest district office. This visit also explains a legend: do you know why the Gorols’ (Beskyd Highlander) waistcoat buttons are decorated with an Austrian eagle? It is the reminder of this visit of the heir to the throne at Šance. Whenever Joseph II went to a distant location of the empire, he was of course accompanied by a
caravan of hairdressers, assistants, hostlers, tailors and servants of various kinds. One of the tailors left a case in a local cottage. When the delegation left and the case was opened, people discovered it was full of buttons to fit and fix the emperor’s uniform. Just in case he lost a button-- very clever, wasn’t it? A case full of buttons which were not wasted. To honour the precious visitor, the Gorols decorated their best clothes with the emperor’s buttons and keep doing so even now. Nowadays, the place is no longer soaked with the sweat and blood of soldiers of fortune, yet the land speaks of the great stories of Jablunkov Pass where merchants in peace and armies in war ages passed through. A constant caravan of trucks and lorries down in the valley connecting the Czech and Slovak Republics contributes more chapters. The chapters which develop the book once started with horse-driven carriages loaded with amber, salt, spices and jewels, continue with truckloads of anything that a human being might wish for.
Mapa pevnosti Šance, Mosty u Jablunkova
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