Secrets of the Central Bohemian Uplands
You are holding a book called Secrets of the Central Bohemian Uplands (Czech title Tajemství Českého středohoří) by Jiří Svoboda. The author of this piece attempted to describe, in a comprehensive manner and at the same time in an accessible form, the unique beauty of this remarkable landscape. The book is the result of the author’s enthusiasm and efforts exerted for several years.
Given the extensive scope of the text in Czech, we would like to offer you this brief description of the main topics of the book.
The landscape of the Central Bohemian Uplands is a phenomenon mostly in terms of natural science. The Central Bohemian Uplands was declared by the state a protected area in 1976. The protection centres primarily on the uniqueness of the landscape formed as a result of late Tertiary volcanism and subsequent shaping by Quaternary erosion processes. The variety of geological structure is accompanied by the diversity of flora and fauna. The local profusion of rare plant species is especially famous. The great explorational potential of the Central Bohemian Uplands attracted and still attracts many eminent scientists. At least three famous names can be mentioned: Alexander von Humboldt, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Josef Emanuel Hibsch. Many scientific papers (especially dealing with geology), which have been created on the basis of the research of the Central Bohemian Uplands, have become the standard for similar studies across the globe. However, the Central Bohemian Uplands are remarkable from the historical point of view as well. It is made evident by a large number of archaeological finds and monuments from the times not only historical but also prehistoric.
The book titled Secrets of the Central Bohemian Uplands is divided into four main chapters: Landscape of Falling Waters, Landscape of Castles, Landscape of Treasures and Landscape or Secrets. These topics encompass the major phenomena of the Central Bohemian Uplands.
The chapter Landscape of Falling Waters describes the overwhelming majority of waterfalls within the natural protected area. The large number of waterfalls has primarily been the work of the Elbe river. The sinking rate of the Elbe river is higher than the erosive power of the Elbe tributaries. As a result, rocky steps – waterfall bases – have been formed on a number of these streams. The book describes waterfalls on a total of 25 watercourses. The most famous and most visited waterfall is Vaňovský waterfall on Podlešínský stream. Known waterfalls also include Moravanské waterfalls on the Moravanka stream in Mlýnský důl or Pekelský waterfall above Krásné Březno. Most of the waterfalls are hidden in hard-to-reach gorges and they are little visited. Among them is Výří waterfall above Průčelská rokle, its total height is 45 meters, usually with little water but it is one of the highest waterfalls in the Czech Republic.
The chapter Landscape of Castles is dedicated, as its name suggests, to the ‘medieval layer’ of the landscape. The strategic location of the Central Bohemian Uplands led to the construction of dozens of castles within a relatively small area. In fact, every part of the Central Bohemian Uplands was within the sight of a castle. Many of them were ephemeral in the troubled times of war and very little remains have been left of them; others have been preserved until today and have become attractive tourist destinations. This book describes all the castles – not only the well-known and frequently visited ones but also practically forgotten locations. Perhaps the most famous castle is Střekov located directly in Ústí nad Labem. The flat landscape to the south of the protected area is dominated by solitary Hazmburk castle with two distinctive towers; in the northwest, there is well-preserved Sukoslav castle (Kostomlaty pod Milešovkou); in the southeast, there is the Helfenburk castle (Hrádek) near Úštěk. The presence of ancient and early medieval settlements is also notable. Specially protected natural monuments and reservations can be found within the territory of a few of former castles and forts today.
The chapter Landscape of Treasures deals with the mineralogical wealth of the Central Bohemian Uplands. It describes the vast majority of significant mineralogical sites, many of which are world famous. Perhaps the best-known mineral of the Central Bohemian Uplands is high-quality red pyrope known as Czech garnet (Granato Bohemici), which is considered the Czech national gem. This gemstone is still mined at the southeast edge of the Central Bohemian Uplands. Other famous minerals include aragonite from the Číčov hill near Hořenec, natrolite from a site called Mariánská skála or, for example, augite and amphibole from Paškapole. Scientific teams from around the world examine fossils from the Turonian sea, whose deposits are uncovered while mining limestone rocks in Úpohlavy. A number of fossils have also been provided by diatomite sediments of Tertiary lakes whose surfaces once reflected the surrounding Tertiary volcanoes.
The chapter Landscape of Secrets describes a wide range of other natural and historical attractions – geological formations, botanical sites, human settlements, sacral monuments, folk architecture and palaces with visitor exhibitions.
The following short chapters write about haunted locations, especially ones where gallows once stood. It is followed by a selection of the most interesting memorial trees as well as a complete list of all specially protected sites within the natural protected area.
The final section of the book entitled Said about the Central Bohemian Uplands mentions several personalities who profess their admiration for the Central Bohemian Uplands through short commentaries. Finally, there are logos of the partners who supported the publication of the book, and also the names of individuals who have supported the publication of the book through a promise of purchasing it.
Although it is clear that this short text cannot replace a full-featured translation of the complete work into other languages, we hope that the numerous and splendid images contained in the book are able to say a lot. Perhaps we will see fully fledged translations of this book into other languages over time due to readers’ interest.
We thank all the readers for their favour and we invite them to the cosmic landscape of the Central Bohemian Uplands.
Jiří Svoboda, Martin Surý, David Surý
author and implementers of the book