The Czech Republic, despite its location on one of the most densely populated and fastest growing continents in the world, has managed to maintain its glorious primeval forests (pralesy). In fact Žofínský prales, founded in South Bohemia in 1838, is the oldest officially protected nature reserve in continental Europe.
With a little help from Karolína Šůlová of the Nature Conservation Agency of the Czech Republic we have chosen four of the most beautiful forests in the Czech Republic and one non-traditional, though no less stunning, “forest”.
National Nature Reserve Jizerskohorské bučiny
“Rocks” in a “sea of beech” can describe this national nature reserve located in northern Bohemia (map) in the foothills of the Jizera Mountains, near the villages of Hejnice and Bílý potok. It is the largest complex of mixed forest in the Czech Republic with a predominance of beech trees. The interiors of beech forests are typically a variety of granite rocks and boulders, as well as rock mushrooms, gates, or bowls. The whole area is very steep, so while the peaks remain brown-gray year-round, the forest below them turns beautifully yellow and red-brown in the fall. You can also look forward to encoungtering a stork, owl or falcon here.
National Nature Reserve Javorina
Javorina in the White Carpathian Mountains (map), is the oldest protected area in Moravia. In 1909 the owners, the royal Family of Liechtenstein, limited all forestry interventions and let the natural development take place. Because there is no one cultivating the trees, they often have bizarre shapes caused by uprooting and wind. Especially in the fog they create a mysterious atmosphere. The grass forms a dense and cooling carpet that creates the right conditions for rare orchids. On a meadow at the top of the reserve, you can catch a glimpse of the viviparous lizard!
National Nature Reserve Salajka
A fir and beech forest located about 500 meters from the mountain pass Bumbálka in the protected landscape area of Beskydy (map here). For over 70 years, the trees did not benefit anyone, so under the protection of old rotting trunks of beech and fir, between uprooted trees, breaks and dry lands, grows an extremely diverse forest. Some individual firs are even 400 years old and have a height of over 50 meters. There are also 250 kinds of mushrooms, but be careful: while as you know we Czechs love collecting them, mushrooms found here are off limits by penalty of law.
National Nature Reserve Vůznice
Vůznice (map) is not just the name of the local highlands forest, but also of the stream that forms the backbone axis of the reservation. The valley along the stream used to be an important trade route through the Middle Ages, as evidenced by the ruins of a mysterious castle Jenčová, probably from the 13th century. The stream gives life to a variety of fish including brown trout, and its lower part, was used as a fish pond until the 1990s. Hilly countries have diverse geological substrata, and thus their vegetation is very rich. Spring snowflakes or white cinquefoils blossom here in the spring. Fire salamander, alpine newt and yellow-bellied toad inhabit the umerous pools.
All of these areas are managed by the Nature Conservation Agency of the Czech Republic. The project “Strengthening visitor infrastructure in areas administered by NCA CR” provides information further explaining their uniqueness.
FOREST – The story of five trees
The last forest I want to introduce you to is not actually growing in the countryside. Rather, it brings nature into Sladovna gallery (“malthouse” in translation) in the South Bohemian town of Pisek. The interior spaces of Sladovna, as well as the courtyard or veranda have been transformed into nooks full of natural artifacts, mainly wood and paper. This is the material with which two New Yorkers Wade Kavanaugh and Stephen B. Nguyen for the first time in Europe formed their paper objects. Their statues now fill the entire exhibition room of Sladovna, creating a mysterious twisted paper environment posing as a forest from the roots to the crowns. A number of related activities are planned to run in association with the exhibition FOREST – the story of five trees, see their website for more information.
Do you have your own favorite Czech forest? Let us know in the comments below.