Prague Streets – Ovocný Trh (the Fruit Market)
Trh is an easy word to recognise in Czech as it means “market”. So the word in front of it should give the game away i.e. ovocný means “fruit”. So Ovocný Trh means Fruit Market but historically this area of the Old Town was much more than that. To say this correctly in Czech it sounds like “Ovots-nee-tr”.
Going Way Back
The history of Ovocný Trh goes back to the early 13th Century and a decision by the King Wenceslas I (this is not Good King Wenceslas) to give this area of land to a courtier called Eberhard and also award him licence to have his own town which he called Havels Town. On the Havelska Street Market post I showed you what area that market once covered and the market you see today is just a fraction of what it used to be.
Getting your Bearings
Nowadays if you stand at the narrow end (Celetna) of Ovocný Trh and you look back in the direction of the Havelska Street market your view will be obstructed first by the Estates Theatre and then by a large bank. You have to try and imagine that before 1780 the buildings on the left and right of you extended all the way to a place called Uhelny Trh (coal market) about 400 metres away and except for the ST Havel church there was nothing but market in between.
From the 13th Century to Today
The market was divided. At one end was the Fruit Market (what will eventually be called Ovocný Trh). At the other end was Uhelny Trh, the Coal Market. In between them was an Egg Market, a Goose Market and a Bakers Market. Collectively all these markets were just known as the “New Market”.
The market square lost about 10% of it’s area when the Estates Theatre opened in 1783 and on German maps of the period the square was referred to as either Theatreplatz or Konigs Gasse (Kings Street). It’s not until the 1860s that German maps show “Obstmarkt” with the “Ovocný Trh” Czech equivalent for fruit market. Market trading was still going on here until World War One despite wholesale redevelopment of the area. The advent of electricity in the 1890’s meant the end for this place as a large open-air market.
Why Would you be in Ovocný Trh?
It’s not a place to aim for but you are highly likely to walk through it. If you have visited the Cubism Museum then you are at the far end of the market square. Or if you walk around the Estates Theatre you find this square at the back. If you are looking for the entry to the Karolinum then that is accessed via Ovocný Trh. If you have walked from the New Town to the Old Town via the Panska Passage then you arrive on Ovocný Trh and the rear side of the Myslbek shopping centre is on Ovocný Trh. Ovocný Trh is no longer a functioning market. Your closest market for fruit and veg is the Havelska Street Market.
Weird Trivia in Ovocný Trh
To the right of Ovocný Trh number 7 is a memorial to Ernst Mach. You may never have heard of him but he was born in the present-day Czech Republic and is famous for his work on relative speed in fluid dynamics which he did at this location 1867-1879. The phrase “Mach 1” is synonymous with flying at supersonic speed and the term is used in honour of Ernst Mach’s discoveries. His work challenged Newton’s laws of gravity and later influenced a certain Albert Einstein as he developed his own Theory of Relativity.