Settlement

 

The landscape as a home

The first humans - hunters and collectors looking for a sufficient supply of food and finding shelter under the overhanging rocks - entered Bohemian Switzerland 11,000 years ago. Permanent settlement, however, is a much more recent matter; we find traces of the settlements by the people of the Lusatian Culture and evidence of the presence of Celtic, Germanic and finally Slavic tribes.

In the 13th and 14th century, colonisation by German settlers invited by Czech nobility began, new villages and future towns started to grow and rock fortresses were built, often occupied by robbers (Šaunštejn, Falkenštejn). In addition to timber production, glass manufacture and pitch production, there were also attempts to mine precious metals, mainly silver, as we can see from the numerous traces in the rocks and remnants of several mine tunnels.

The landscape as a destination

The romantic name of the area is a product of the modern era, when the region became a destination rather than a home. In the late 18th century, this virtually unexplored world was visited by Swiss artists Adrian Zingg and Anton Graff, who were amazed to discover a new Switzerland, which was later named Saxon and Bohemian Switzerland.

More and more visitors started arriving to admire and reveal the mysteries of Bohemian Switzerland. The demand for adventure was met by the owners of the land and by the local businessmen, and lookout pavilions were established in the most attractive lookout spots, such as  Maria’s Rock (Mariina skála) and Rudolph’s Stone (Rudolfův kámen), restaurants, boarding houses and promenade trails such as Gabrielle’s Trail (Gabrielina stezka) leading to the Pravčice Gate (Pravčická brána). Public access to the Kamenice River Canyons, the subsequent introduction of boat trips and the construction of the stylish “Falcon's Eye” restaurant near Pravčice Gate (Pravčická brána) in the late 19th century represented an important milestone in the landscape utilisation for tourism.

The landscape as a shelter

The sinister events before and after World War II were a severe blow to the region’s once promising development. The expulsion of first the Czech and then the German inhabitants, the perished border villages (Zadní Doubice, Zadní Jetřichovice), the collectivisation of agriculture and the lost identification with the region left a noticeable trace on the landscape’s face for many decades. Amplified by the declaration of the Bohemian Switzerland National Park, the recent gradual rehabilitation is returning in the landscape the harmony of human and natural co-existence.