Autumn in Southern Bohemia: Faith, Love, and Hope in Třeboň and a narrow-gauge railway leading to Jára Cimrman’s back print

This year is quite unusual in many ways, and from a traveller’s point of view, it is no less strange. However, we can still enjoy world class tourist experiences. Czech woods and meadows still have a lot to offer, and South Bohemian woods and meadows are no exception. After all, when you look at the billboards of a certain Czech railway company, you will find slogans such as: “You don’t need beaches by the sea, Tábor has more for you to see.” So, to stay on topic, we’ll just add: “Forget the aliens in Nevada; look for Cimrman in Czech Canada.”

Cross Czech Canada: on a narrow-gauge railway, by bike, or on foot

Czech Canada is a border region situated between South Bohemia and Moravia, surrounded by the towns of Slavonice, Kunžak, and Nová Bystřice. The Renaissance town of Slavonice, with its charming, well-preserved centre, is sometimes compared to the much larger Telč, and it serves as a popular tourist destination, as well as a good starting point for a number of trips in the area. You can for example try out one of Grasel’s Trails, to explore the former hunting grounds of the cheerful outlaw Johann Georg Grasel. Slavonice serves as the starting point for the oldest, 23-kilometer trail, which will lead you in a loop through Grasel’s Cave; the water-powered sawmill in Penikov, the only preserved water-powered sawmill with its original equipment in Czechia; the so called Dog Cemetery, a site close to Český Rudolec, where the local lord Knight van Pichioni used to bury his hunting dogs; the French Rock, a granite rock with a declaration of love carved into it at the behest of a local lord’s wife, as a memento for her deceased husband; a castle in Český Rudolec; and a former steelworks in Dolní Bolíkov.

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The little town of Kunžak is a major attraction not only for architecture lovers, but also for all the fans of the Czech genius, Jára Cimrman. The nearby village of Kaproun is home to one of the most romantic railway stops in Czechia. The trains are not operated by the above-mentioned rhyming railroad company since the area is surrounded by unique narrow-gauge railway. The village also has an absolutely singular statue of the leading Czech inventor. It shows a reconstructed imprint of Cimrman’s body, or more specifically a cast of the genius “plunging into the pine needles”, after he got off the train in the middle of the woods, in a rather involuntary fashion. Apart from Cimrman’s imprint, the site also has a cairn built by the visitors, who bring stones from all the corners of Czechia to commemorate the unsung hero. Close to Kunžak, you can also find another major tourist attraction: The Devil's Ass. The aptly named rock formation is hidden in the woods close to the Zvůle pond. Granite rock formations are a typical feature of Czech Canada, but Kunžak is surrounded by the most beautiful ones (including the bottom-shaped one).

For a number of ponds and woods that will start wrapping themselves in golden hues in September, you can go to Nová Bystřice. If you have a bike, take it with you: you can go from Nová Bystřice all the way to Slavonice on the cycling trail Greenway Prague-Vienna. Hikers can also enjoy a number of thematic trails, for example a textile trail focused on the region’s history of weaving and draping. To learn more about the region’s history in general, you can follow the Czech-Austrian cross-border nature trail. Both the shorter (19 km) and longer (30km) loops start at the square in Nová Bystřice. When travelling into this border town, you can do it in style: it’s the last stop on a 33 km-long narrow-gauge railway starting in Jindřichův Hradec. A ride on this railway is a truly unforgettable experience: even today, the trains are used both for personal and cargo transport and the railway is the only one of its kind in Czechia.

Onwards to Třeboň

South Bohemia is famous for its ponds, so it is no wonder that the summer here is full of swimming. The time of summer holidays and vacations is coming to an end, but at least in the beginning of September, on the Sunday 6th of September 2020, you can go to Třeboň for the end of the 2020 swimming season: the Striped Swimsuit Festival. Before the festival, you can watch the sunrise at the naturist beach, which is the only part of the programme you won’t need a striped swimsuit for. The festival will take place at the Ostende beach by the famous Svět pond. It will also be accessible by train, Třeboňáček, and the Petr Vok steamboat.

Don’t worry, though: even when the weather gets less swimmer-friendly, you won’t be bored around Třeboň. The swimming season is followed by the fishing season, which opens the fisheries craft to the public. So far, no fishing out dates have been given, but at least on Saturday the 12th of September, you can go to the traditional Kaprobraní, carp festival in Lomnice nad Lužnicí (just a short swim from Třeboň). It takes place in the Farská louka park and it is bound to satisfy all fish lovers with its all-day programme, including a carp processing championship, the Lomnický kapr race, competitions and games for children, and countless carp specialties.

If you go to Lomnice nad Lužnicí, don’t forget to see the Naděje pond system, which contains three ponds with very poetic names: Naděje (Hope), Láska (Love), and Víra (Faith). You will find a plethora of other waterworks in the area. Some smaller ponds in the woods are only interrupted by narrow dams and oak avenues, and especially if you need a specific goal for your nature walks, you will be happy to hear that the locals were very creative in naming them. You will find ponds named Měkký (Soft), Strakatý (Spotted), but also Dobrá vůle (Goodwill), Pešák (Pawn), or Překvapil (Surprised).

The (green) treasure of South Bohemia

The South Bohemian Region is not famous only for its ponds: the region’s greatest gem is surely the green moldavite. The natural glass is millions of years old and can only be found around the Vltava river. Their typical green colour is actually quite unique in the world, setting them apart from other tektites - bodies formed from molten and cooled down debris from meteorite impacts. The biggest moldavite deposit lies between Protivín and Písek, but the largest number of these “gems” was found around České Budějovice. Not long ago, searching for moldavites was a popular (and profitable) pastime for local adventurers, but today, the best way to get a look at these unique trinkets in all their glory is to visit the Moldavite Museum in Český Krumlov.

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You can end your tour through South Bohemia in České Budějovice, the cultural capital of the region. You are bound to find a lot of things to do: admire the historical centre or take a guided tour through the Budweiser brewery museum. The upcoming weekend (28th - 29th August 2020) will be even busier than usual, as the streets come alive thanks to the multi-genre festival Město Lidem – Lidé Městu (City for the People, People for the City). The centre will be full of singers, actors, acrobats, painters, as well as chefs, baristas, and so on: the summer will end with a lot of cultural programme and excellent food.

For more information about interesting destinations and practical tips for your travels in South Bohemia, go to www.jiznicechy.cz (in english).