Ancient fortified towns: New tourist phenomenon of the Czech Republic?


Since the fall of communism in 1989 the Czech Republic has enjoyed an inflow of tourists from all over the world. Even so, it has taken the country a long time to develop a unified concept on promoting tourism. The Ministry for Regional Development is now trying to improve the situation. On Wednesday, the Ministry's Czech Tourist Authority helped nine Czech towns to introduce their brand new project luring tourists to visit fortified towns.

There are about hundred towns in the Czech Republic where you can find remainders of ancient fortifications. On Wednesday nine of these Czech and Moravian towns presented their newly emerged initiative which is aimed at supporting "fortification tourism". Medieval walls create a very romantic atmosphere with many dark corners, towers, bastions and other unusual architectonic elements. Atypical rooms inside of the walls or towers offer space for various exhibitions or music concerts. The walls are also unique witnesses of the gradual development of the town. The leader of the whole idea is the East Bohemian city of Policka. It is the only Czech member of the Walled Towns Friendship Circle, an association of hundred and forty mostly European fortified towns. This organisation reflects the new branch within the European tourism focusing not on castles or chateaux but on fortifications. Mr Jan Matous, director of the Information centre of the city of Policka, explains that several towns from this association are seeking support from the European Union.

"We asking for support from the program Culture 2000. We have formed a group with Spain, Netherlands, Italy, Poland and England and together we prepared a request for money to support the tourism in these towns."

The history of most Czech fortifications goes back to the fourteenth century, when wooden barriers were replaced by stone walls. Within the eighteenth century walls lost their importance, some parts were gradually destroyed and other grew into the town architecture. During the communist era, many of these walls were reconstructed - but not always to their original form. It was often the case, that construction companies made them wider and higher in order to get more money for their contracts. Nowadays most Czech specialists prefer simply preservation of the currently existing parts of the walls. But even that can be a problem, as Mr Matous explains.

"I see the biggest problem in the relations between the owners and the municipality. For example if we want to make some part of the fortification accessible, we have to talk to the landowner and agree on this."