The small, picturesque town of Ceska Kamenice is situated in northern Bohemia, about 105 km away from Prague. It is a late gothic town on the river Kamenice, where three protected landscapes - the Lusatian Mountains, Czech Switzerland and the Bohemian Central Highlands - meet. Despite its modest population of 5,500, the town has 34 monuments, the care of which earned it the title "Historic Town of the Year" for 2005.
"In today's world, town councils make resolutions that are then recorded and must be followed. Back then, the situation was similar and all state administration decisions, town privileges, official promotions to higher ranks, and so on, were recorded in the Town Book. The book is now preserved in the archives at the local chateau. Only a few other such books that are this old exist in the Czech Republic. It was started in 1380 and the records end in the middle of the 16th century. So, it is certainly a very interesting artefact."
"There is a crypt under the church with eight copper coffins. It is not open to the public, though. The crypt was opened last year, when anthropologists and Decin Museum researchers explored parts of the crypt. But now it is closed with a large stone lid. The church is in itself an interesting architectural monument because it still has a gothic foundation. It has three naves. The tower is connected to the château by a covered above-ground corridor. The tower now houses a permanent exhibition of the town's history. The whole building has Saxony renaissance elements with jagged gables.
Walking along the town square, which is adorned with two gabled gothic houses, a renaissance fountain and the Town Hall, you stumble across a horseshoe that is paved with flint. Livestock used to be sold at a market on this square and the horseshoe marks the point up to which the livestock was allowed to be taken.
Close to the vicarage a protected red yew tree stands. They say it is four metres in perimeter, eleven metres tall, and up to 400 years old.
One of the most renowned Czechs of all time, Antonin Dvorak, spent much of his youth here. He used to play the local organ at the Church of St. Jacob. Besides him, a number of other interesting personalities have resided here. Historian Mirek Hlavnicka:
Well, luckily for the world's classical music lovers, that school year in Ceska Kamenice made little impact on Antonin Dvorak.
Ceska Kamenice was named "Historic Town of the Year" for 2005. It earned the title for its devoted care for its historical monuments. Ceska Kamenice had fought for the title several times and, in the last five years, managed to get to the final three times...
"It worked after the third try. We gained the title and have the plaque, but also received the financial donation of one million crowns that is part of it."
...says deputy mayor Jaromir Adamcik. One million Czech crowns is a little under 45,000 US dollars.
"We've already reconstructed the town square. That cost us 20 million crowns and now we plan to work on the other square in the town. It should cost us the same. We want the town's protected historic centre to stand out."
Ceska Kamenice used to be a predominantly ethnic German town. The nearby Rabstein complex used to be a wash house. Its German owner went bankrupt and the followers of the Sudeten German leader Konrad Henlein used it in 1938 as an example of the economic suppression of the Czech government.
After the end of the war, captured SS officers were interned at Rabstein. Following the Benes Decrees, which sanctioned the expulsion of the ethnic Germans from Czechoslovakia, most of the German community in Ceska Kamenice and its surroundings were made to gather at Rabstein and then forced to leave the Czech lands.
"It is a problem that is hardly ever talked about. I am also pretty much a 'foreigner'. I was born close to the town of Opava and came here in 1965. The people who came here after WWII, have always considered their home to be somewhere else. They were mainly from the areas around Kutna Hora, Hradec Kralove, and the Vysocina region. It is only those who were born here who feel that Ceska Kamenice is their home and are willing and able to do something for this town, because it is really theirs."