“Not all who wander are lost”
J. R. R. Tolkien
There are so many places to explore, there are so many places to adore. Yet again, I have failed time and time again to discover a part of the world which instills a greater sense of tranquility in me than the Šumava National Park.
Located in the Czech Republic and basically residing on the German border, Šumava National Park is the largest National Park in the Czech Republic, covering exactly 68 064 ha most of which is taken up by forests (80%). Apart from being a naturalist’s wonderland, the whole region is packed with a history which has left behind awe-inspiring castles, incredible anecdotes, old trading routes which are now hiking trails, and many more.
I am tempted to say that the number of reasons why all hiking enthusiasts should visit the Šumava National Park is innumerable, but I have to control my enthrallment. Instead, it would be better to pick out a few most prominent reasons, wouldn’t it?
Even though there is an abundance of hiking trails throughout the whole Šumava region, two of them emerge as the most exciting ones.
The Bear Trail (Medvedí stezka)
Don’t get scared! There are absolutely no bears to worry about! 1856. was the year when the killing of the last bear was witnessed in Šumava. That’s where the name comes from. The Bear trail is almost 14 km long and is the oldest instructional trail in the Šumava mountains. The track itself is remarkably well marked because it is often used for cross-country skiing. Some of the most fascinating landmarks you’ll encounter during your hike are:
- Bärenstein – The last Šumava bear commemorative place.
- Schwarzenbersky plavební kanál – A canal used to transport wood to the Danube.
The Golden Trail
The Golden trail consists of three remaining hiking trails. Throughout history, these trails were used to transport grain from Germany to Bohemia. Tradesman up until the 10th century, whilst using these trails, spent a lot of money in the villages along the way, thus bringing prosperity to these small communities. Hence, the Golden Trail. The last three remaining trails are the lower Prachatice route, the center Vimperk route, and the upper Kašperské Hory route. Apart from their historical significance, these trails are running through some of the most beautiful Bohemian forests as well as passing by some breathtaking castles.
If you ask me, the most stupendous looking, natural, glacially originated lakes are to be found in the heart of Šumava. Granted, you would need to put some effort into reaching them because they are hidden deep in the thick of the forest over one thousand meters above sea level. However, it is worth it.
Two of the most popular and biggest lakes are the Devil’s (Čertovo jezero) and the Black Lake (Černé jezero). The Black Lake is the largest glacial lake in Bohemia. It is 40 m deep and covers the area of 18,4 ha. How high is it? It is 1008 m above the sea level. Should we mention that the oldest pumped-storage hydroelectric plant is located here?
The Devil’s lake is a bit smaller (10 ha) and shallower (37 m), but not less pretty. It has a stream (Jezerní Potok) running out of it. Both lakes are a part of the Black and Devil’s lakes nature reserve aimed towards protecting Šumava’s glacially formed gems.
Towns and Villages
When I embark on a hiking journey, getting exposed to some historically significant architecture is something I welcome with arms wide open. Luckily for me, in this regard, Šumava gave me more than I could have ever hoped for. Klatovy, Prachatice, Tachov, Český Krumlov, and many other small towns are basically the gatekeepers of Bohemian history. Let me tell you what just one of these towns (Klatovy) hides within its limits:
- Bílá Strž is an astonishing waterfall which lies in a valley whose walls are covered by the remains of the primeval forest.
- Prášily is a well-kept archaeological village which gives you an insight into the lives of Bohemia’s original inhabitants, the Celts.
- The Black Lake is a part of the Klatovy municipality.
- Castle Velhartice is truly a sight to behold. Built in the 13th century, surrounded by and overlooking the Bohemian forest, Castle Velhartice will wake up a level of romance in you, you never knew existed!
Should I Stay or Should I Go?
Instead of being confined to the city limits, every now and again we have to do ourselves a favor by breaking out of them. To me personally, there isn’t a better place to escape to than the Bohemian fairy tale better known as Šumava.
Therefore, I implore you to grab your passport, put that backpack on your back, and head straight to Bohemia!
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