Šumava National Park

Cultural heritage

The massive demographic changes in the border regions, as a result of the Post-War conditions and the following 40 years of the ‘Iron Curtain’, have significantly affected the cultural aspect of the Šumava Biosphere Reserve. Dozens of settlements along the state borders with Germany and Austria were violently disrupted after the Second World War and will clearly never be renewed. Although evidence of many of these settlements is still visible in the landscape today, neither people nor nature have managed to eliminate all evidence of hundreds of years of settlement in the region. Maybe the most valuable natural-cultural aspect of the whole Šumava BR is the mixture of evidence of long-term settlement in the area with various stages of succession on the extensive, former culturally forest-free areas.

Glassmaking, timber-cutting and agriculture have left their permanent marks on the landscape character, but also contributed to its variety and increased its biodiversity. Therefore the Biosphere Reserve cares for cultural aspects of the landscape such as settlement evidence, building, and technical monuments, but especially the general appearance of the whole landscape.

Many of the ruined, demolished or damaged historical buildings in Šumava BR have been renewed or rebuilt. Churches in Zvonková, St. Tomáš, Dobrá Voda and elsewhere have been rebuilt from their ruins. However many more churches and whole villages disappeared and their fate is only remembered today by crosses standing in the landscape. Many small cemeteries were also destroyed but some have been resurrected and a positive sign for visitors to Šumava is the sight of the cross and renewed cemetery at the former settlement of Knížecí pláně near Borová Lada.

As well as larger church buildings, a large number of smaller sacred structures such as calvaries, chapels, and religious inscriptions at path crossroads, or on rocks in the depths of the deep forests, have been returned to the Šumava landscape.

The renovated and functional log-floating canals – Schwarzenberský in the south of the BR near the hamlet of Jelení and the Vchynicko–tetovský near the village of Srní in the west – demonstrate the technical knowledge and ability of our ancestors. Displays of log-floating are given several times a year and enable us to relive the past fame of the Šumava forests as a natural resource which provided the local people with a living for hundreds of years in this remote area.

Although the area’s historic buildings are gradually being restored, it is much more difficult to maintain and renew the spiritual heritage – customs, traditions, crafts, local knowledge and abilities. But this renewal makes sense for a number of reasons: partly for commercial use in connection with tourism, but especially to strengthen the identity of the local inhabitants and to increase their feeling of self-realisation. A number of targeted regional programmes are working in this direction and it is again possible to find wood carvers, glass makers and painters, metal workers and basket makers in Šumava.

In contrast to the general trend of rural depopulation, the number of people in Šumava who are willing to find ways in which people can coexist with nature in their everyday lives is increasing. In this way we can naturally fulfil the main mission of the Biosphere reserve.