Useful Links - and not only for Visitors to the Pilsen Region
The scenery of the Plzeň region is extraordinarily varied. From the mountainous regions in the Šumava and the Český les forming the natural border with Bavaria to the highlands at the foot of the Šumava to the undulating inland expanses, everywhere the visitor will find a developed country with picturesque small towns and villages, large forests, waterways and lakes. A typical feature of the region is deep river valleys; in the Šumava that of the Úhlava river, further inland the canyons of the Střela near Rabštejn and the Berounka after Plzeň. The region also comprises parts of the scenic preserves of Křivoklátsko and Slavkovský les.
Of all regions within Czech Republic, the region of Plzeň boasts of most natural parks – 23, and 177 smaller protected areas. Scenic attractions can be found quite near Plzeň and other towns. With its 300 hectares, the Střela canyon is the largest natural reserve in the region. Small rivers and streams abound in romantic spots such as the Gutštejn castle in the Hadovka valley, or the meanders of the Kosí and Úterský streams. In more important locations, paths have been established with panels informing the visitors about the history and natural rarities of the location.
The declaration of the Šumava National Park and its inclusion among the UNESCO-protected biospheric reserves is a proof of the restored environment in the region, and so are various rare wild animals re-appearing in their original habitats. Thus in the Šumava you can meet with lynx, otter or wood-grouse, in the Český les with beaver. Some lakes have been declared bird preserves, and in the fishponds and streams you can see again crayfish who are noted for their sensitivity to water pollution.
Most of the woods and forests covering almost 40% of the region’s area are freely accessible to both tourists and the mushrooming and forest-fruit-picking public. Most of the woods are spruce or pine monocultures. The largest wooded tracts are found in the scarcely populated Brdy and around Radeč, or in the Manětín and Konstantinovy Lázně districts north of Plzeň. The mixed woods of the Ždánovská and Chudenická highlands are typical for the Klatovy district. Near Chudenice the tourists can see a rare collection of decorative bushes and trees including a huge specimen of Douglas fir tree. Some solitary leafy trees and groups of trees are government protected. The huge trees of the old alleys such as Kilometrovka in Plzeň, the alley leading to the former village of Ferdinandovo Údolí near Železná Ruda, or that from Tachov to Světce will dwarf any visitor. Locations with the original virginal forest vegetation are now protected areas, e.g. Čerchovské hvozdy, Tišina and Bučina near Žďár in the Český les, Chejlava and Chynínské buky south of Plzeň.
Even the briefest of reviews, highlighting some of the more interesting locations, should allow the reader to appreciate how varied the countryside of the Plzeň region is. The oldest national natural reserves are the Černé and Čertovo lakes in the Šumava. Then consider Hromnické lake north of Plzeň, the site of a former slate quarry where the slate was used in the production of sulphuric acid; Příšovská homolka, the southernmost volcano of the Czech massif, or the hill of Krasíkov which is also of volcanic origin. The rock formations of Andrejšky below the Radyně castle, Loupensko and the Tupadelské rocks have been declared protected natural sights. Rocks used as training grounds by mountaineers can be found on the sides of the Kozelka table mountain near Nečtiny and on the Polínský hill. Also worth seeing are the rocking stones and the huge granite blocks at the locations called U Báby and ULomu near Žihle. Interesting limestone formations are found in the Sušice and Klatovy districts at places including the romantic lake near Čepice, Strašínská cave (currently closed for the public) or the Loreta mine with bat colonies. Small lakes Skryjská jezírka on the Zbirožský stream near Rokycany are known as sites for trilobites, while the founding places for fossilised remains of Carboniferous flora and the ”Bašta” outcrop of a bituminous coal seam rank among the most popular sights of the Radnice district.
For many years, nature has been shaped by man. Some of man’s creations such as water canals and mill races are easy to recognise, others are hardly discernible. Old Celtic burial places, remains of Slavonic settlements and traces of medieval trading routes have almost been obliterated, just as many villages and farm houses mere scores of years ago still teeming with life were evacuated and destroyed by the cruel hand of man. The only reminders of these villages in the Šumava and the Český les are stone walls dividing the former fields, groups of old fruit trees, crosses at the places of former village churches, as well as renovated small chapels, wayside crosses or cemeteries.