The Meadow Chalet is not only the largest and oldest mountain hut in the Giant Mountains, but also has a restaurant in the highest altitude 1410 m above sea level. Wiesenbaude, The Old Czech-, White or The Renner old shed, with all these names was the oldest Giant Mountain Chalet – the Meadow Chalet – called.
It lies at the crossroads of several ancient routes in the height of 1410 m above sea level, near the border with Poland, in the middle of the White meadow and first of all near the most famous Silesian path. The Silesian path was since the late 15th century an important link between emerging mining centers on both sides of the mountains. It was often used by tourists during their trips around the Giant Mountains and especially for trips on the Sněžka. There used to be a a bell attached at the Entrance to the Meadow chalet to wake the travelers, so that they wouldn’t miss the unique sunrise on Sněžka. After the construction of the cableway to our highest mountain emerged a diversion for tourists.
The origins of the Meadow Chalet
Opinions on the origins of the Meadow Chalet vary. According to legend, whose roots date back to the border disputes about Sedmidolí before the Thirty Years’ War, the Chalet was established by one of the Count’s two sons, who because of an argument over inheritance hid before his stronger brother. He waited in a small shelter of branches sick and weak for death. His older brother found him like that, took pity on him and took him to the safety. As a monument to reconciliation, he built a wooden shed, which should further serve as a resting place for travelers. Another version states that the lodge was founded by a young married couple, as their love nest. But these are just rumors. During reconstruction in 1869 was discovered a carved mill stone with a craved date 1623, and thus the previously considered year of establishment 1625 moved another few years back. According to all current evidence, the Meadow Chalet had to be in this place since the second half of 16 century.
Meadow Chalet since its establishment until 1938
The Meadow Chalet was an important center of economy with 100 hectares of grassland and meadows, with several dozen cattle and goats. During the summer, the herd was grazing on the surrounding Devil and White Plains along with cattle from Renner and Scharf’s Chalet. On the broad plains was also harvested hay, on which, stored in the attic, tourists slept. The Chalet was also famous for their agricultural products, especially the mountain herb cheese.
During its 400 years of history, the Meadow Chalet has undergone many changes. Since its establishment until 1857, it has been owned by the famous Renner family, who were hereditary mayors of the Vrchlabí domain.
The Chalet was rebuilt after the fire in 1625, in 1809 the so-called “summer house” was built in addition. From his father in law, Vaclav Hollmann took over the lodge in 1857, and thanks to him, the Chalet expanded for the needs of tourism. Since 1868, the Meadow Chalet used the flow of the White River Elbe, to drive the water wheel, that provided energy for a variety of home appliances, the churn and cradle. In 1876 the Chalet came to the possession of Christopher Haering, a conservationist, who had operated a meteorological observation. In the fifties of the 19th century came out a commemorative book for naturalists observation records, relying on the Meadow Chalet, published by a botanist Josefina Kablíková. The Meadow Chalet has not only become a meeting place of various scientists but she was visited by a number of artists and writers, such as Karel Hynek Macha, Vítězslav Hálek, Guido Manes and others.
Since 1886 until 1945 it was owned by brothers Bönsch. They also bought Scharf’s Chalet, where the cattle were kept and a bakery was established.
In 1914, the Meadow Chalet was rebuilt into the largest Chalet in the Giant Mounatin with 100 rooms.
The Meadow Chalet during the Second World War
2nd October 1938, after the Munich Agreement, during the retreat of the Czechoslovak army from the frontiers, the Chalet burned down. According to Czech, the German troops, which occupied the chalet, were to blame. On the other side, the Germans claimed that the Chalet burned down during the retreat of the Czech troops from the Czech border. This version has been recognized as official and the owners Wiley and Wincenzz Bönsch received 1.56 million Reichsmarks (13 million Czech crowns) as a compensation. The strategic location of Meadow Chalet decided the immediate renovation and restoration. The construction project was designed by the famous architect Ludwig Stigler, a graduate engineer from Berlin. All plans are stored in the Regional Archives in Vrchlabí.
Back in 1938 bigger reparations were made, the central heating was installed, the roof was repaired and a kitchen was built. Within a short time, carpenters built an emergency hostel accommodation for staff and workers. Because German workers were drafted to fight, several dozen of French and Russian workers were deployed. Czech workers also worked here.
The building was a pride of the German Empire and its completion in 1940 at Easter was celebrated throughout the region. Even the Nazi functionary Konrad Henlein came to see the building for himself.
The chalet was luxuriously equipped for German tourists and provided them with excellent facilities. Besides the well-equipped rooms, there was a reading room, a playroom, a ski repair, laundry, drying room – which is still well preserved in the Chalet.
A great emphasis was placed on the economic wing. There were stables for cattle, a slaughter room, smokehouse, blacksmith shop, refrigerator and more.
Until the end of the war, it was used as a training center of the Wehrmacht Army, training courses for the German Air Force took place here and the Hitler Youth children were accommodated here. The end of the war and the liberation of the Czechoslovak troops on 15 May 1945 marked the end of this era.
Meadow Chalet after 1945
After the confiscation of German property after the Second World War, the Meadow Chalet was managed by different organizations; one of them was the former CSTV. During this time, hundreds of children came here on school holidays or ski courses. In 1991, the Chalet became a property of the Czech Hiking Club, which organized their events here. The saddest years in the modern history of the Meadow Chalet were 2002-03, when it was owned by a private businessman and the situation has come to such an extent that the Chalet had to close for two years. Winter, time and lack of care caused that the Meadow Chalet was in very poor condition.
In 2004 bought the quite devastated Chalet the AEZZ company, and since then they are trying to return this beautiful Chalet its former glow and make it again available to the lovers and admirers of the mountains. It continues the long glory and tradition renews the former glow according to the current ecological criteria. Ecological heating, domestic production of bread in the traditional way, that all fulfils the owners ideas of life in a rare environment, such as the Meadow Chalet and its surroundings.