Mlýnská strouha / Mill Drain

(Plzeň) Plzeň Východní Předměstí
GPS: 49.747781N, 13.381894E

At present, the name Mlýnská strouha (a.k.a. Pilsen Venice) denotes an artificial pond and park in the ring gardens east of the historical centre of Pilsen, between Pražská Street and Štruncovy sady / Štrunc Park. The water is reminiscent of the original mill drain which used to flow through this area until the 1920s. 

It was a delta arm of the Radbuza River, branching off in the area in front of the present-day Museum of West Bohemia in Pilsen above the Royal Weir probably established in the year 1635, whose edge was located where these days a footbridge spans the Radbuza. The wooden Royal Bridge led across the drain in front of the present museum. The drain continued northwards constituting a divide between the historical centre, whose walls stood right by on the shore of the flow, and the Pražské Předměstí / Prague Suburb. Another bridge spanning Mlýnská Strouha, called the Red Bridge, was a direct extension of present-day Zbrojnická Street. The river section between these two bridges was straightened in 1862 and called Šafaříkovy sady / Šafařík Park even before the mill was buried. Probably the oldest bridging of the mill was the stone Prague Bridge from the year 1520. Beyond it, there was a slight bend, flowing around a fortification bastion still noticeable today, in front of which the Lords’ Weir used to stand. Approximately at the site of the present-day crossroads and parking house, the mill drain emptied into Soukenická valcha, a delta arm of the Mže River. On both sides the drain was lined by a still obvious alley of poplars and ashes. The river bed fulfilled a number of functions in the historical city – together with the water works on present-day Pražská Street it provided the supply of water for the city as well as for the mill with its laundry. 

The drain was filled in the years 1921–1923 in connection with regulation of the Radbuza River to strengthen the main flow of the river to enhance the performance of the hydropower plant (the weir which originally drove water into the mill was shifted upstream) and also to reduce the alleged litter connected with the slow flow of the drain. The Pilsen Circle of Friends of Antiquities and the Club for Old Prague objected to the fill-in, but their request to preserve the place in its original state was not met. Authorities also rejected the request to create a road by extending Mansfeld (present-day Dřevěná) Street in the northeast direction under the Prague Bridge, which would have made the newly-formed way continue the erstwhile direction of the mill. Instead, streets leading from the historical centre were simply straightened. However, the space thus created was not developed with housing blocks. The area of the filled-in drain was adapted into a park and became part of the ring gardens. The stone arches revealed in the north face of the Prague Bridge were there as a reminder of the original look and purpose of the place. 

Although the ring gardens were listed as immovable cultural heritage, the area of the former Mlýnská strouha was negatively affected by the installation of hot water collectors in the years 1973–1977, and most of all of the construction of the thoroughfare Tyršova Street in the year 1980. This high-capacity road disrupted the natural continuity between the park and Štruncovy sady at the confluence of the Radbuza and Mže Rivers with its bulky embankment and high traffic volume.

Revitalisation of a part of the former mill north of the Prague Bridge took place in the years 2008–2010. The creators of the adjustments were Dana Wilhelmová and Jiří Damec from the AWIDA studio. The newly-formed water area, evoking the original look of the place, makes for a charming corner together with the partly buried bridge. It is lined with footpaths paved with old granite boards from the streets of Pilsen. The park of the northern tip of the area is complemented by interactive sculptures by Tereza Damcová, who also created musical collages for them together with Pavel Pražák. The sculptures symbolise a mother – sorceress, a daughter – bird, and a son – fish. A bust of the composer Václav Trojan by the Pilsen sculptor Jaroslav Šindelář was placed near the fortification bastion. The reconstructed Mlýnská Strouha received the Park of the Year 2010 award.