The Czech composer Antonin Dvořák was born on 8 September 1841 in Nelahozeves, a village by the Vlatava river about 30km north-west of Prague. His parents' house, which they ran as a pub, was opened as a Dvořák memorial in 1951; it was updated in 1971, and again on the 150th anniversary in 1991. For me, a day trip (actually a morning trip) by train from Prague.

Antonin was the first of nine children. Live music was always around him – his father was an amateur zither player, his uncle Jan played violin, uncle Josef played violin and trumpet – and he was soon playing second violin from time to time in an ensemble in the pub. As a youngster he performed with the Nelahozeves church choir as both singer and violinist, as well as playing violin in the Štěpán Benda band from the neighbouring village of Vepřek. So he grew up with a good understanding both of formal church music, and of the folk music that later featured so strongly in his own compositions... / more

Nelahozeves highlights

Dvořák Museum

Dvořák's birthplace, at No 12, is exactly opposite the now decrepit station; an underpass to cross the line, then a road, and the house is on the other side. The house was built originally in the 17th century as a pub, but was rebuilt after a serious fire which occurred when Dvořák was about a year old, so most of it is not original. The museum is mainly the usual collection of documents and photos, but is interesting and well laid out. A big 'dance room' with a pillar in the middle, is preserved from the earlier pub. The Dvořák family lived in part of the ground floor while other families lived upstairs...

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The Railway

Throughout his life, Dvořák was known for his interest in trains – keeping track of rail schedules, and watching the trains arrive and depart. His fascination surely came from watching the railway line being built right outside his house when he was a young boy in the 1840s. Now the station is a mess – the ticket office hasn't sold a ticket in years. Antonin Dvořák would be disappointed by its condition. I took few photos of the station as I waited for the train back to Prague.

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Edited from notes on display in the Dvořák Museum: Nelahozeves probably came into being in the 10th century as a family village, named after the family of Nelahoda, a miller (hence the village's German name 'Mülhausen', from the German 'Mühle', meaning 'miller'). It belonged to the St Vitus chapter of the Catholic church in Prague... It was evidently in 1553 that the new owner of the Nelahozeves domain, Florian Griespek von Griespach, from Innsbruck, began to build a fortress-like stately home in the Renaissance style... In 1623 it was sold to Polyxena Lobkowicz. At the time of Dvořák's birth the village had 46 registered buildings and 438 residents.

Train interiorI'd travelled to Nelahozeves from Prague's Masarykovo station, a 48-minute journey, in a double-decker train with a strikingly mauve interior, which filled right up and left dead on time at 09:37. The weather was grey, overcast and cold. My notes contained important directions from the Rough Guide to The Czech and Slovak Republics: "Shortly after pulling out of Kralupy, the train passes through a short tunnel and comes to rest at Nelahozeves Zámek, the first of two stations in the village, and the one to get off at." Four English bodgers near me on the train talked endlessly about their dormer windows and their children's home extensions, so I didn't let on I was English; I think the Czech lady opposite me understood the bodger problem, when I raised my eyes in despair! They got off with me at Nelahozeves when we arrived at 10:25, but headed for the Lobkovicz Palace as I walked the few metres to Dvořák's house.

I went up to the Lobkowicz Palace myself when I came out of the house. There were buses parked in front of it and (another) noisy wedding going on. Whether to go in? The description in the foyer suggested it was mainly paintings of the Lobkowicz family and of their horses and dogs, so I decided not, though the rooms are no doubt sumptuous. The gift shop looked as if they were selling the family silver, and was priced accordingly, so I made use of the princely loo and headed back to the station. The wedding guests were driving round the village like loonies and blowing their horns, as is the custom.

My plan had been to stay longer in Nelahozeves, making it a rest day and sitting in the sun sipping beer by the Vltava, but the weather was cold and miserable and there wasn't much chance of that today! I knew there were trains back to Prague at 14:27 and 16:27, so I assumed there would be one at 12:27, which there was.

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