Czech Canada - a vast, barren landscape in miniature
Czech Canada is the name of an area in south-eastern Bohemia within the Jindřichův Hradec region. Spanning around 250 square kilometres, it is characterized by a terrain of gently rolling hills, pine forests, and an atmosphere of infinite vastness and very few people. It serves as something of a reminder about the sheer number of quaint corners offered by a relatively small country such as the Czech Republic: there’s also a Czech Siberia, and a Czech Grand Canyon – but more about those some other time.
Today’s Česká Kanada Nature Park runs along the Austrian border in the south, stretching about 25 kilometres from the town of Nová Bystřice in the west to the town of Slavonice in the east. It extends northwards about the same distance to the towns of Kunžak and Český Rudolec. In winter, the area's rolling terrain makes it an ideal place for cross-country skiing – and there are countless tracks to this end all across Czech Canada. In the summer, the area’s pine forests are a blueberry-picker’s paradise – those curious green little bushes that dot the forest floor suddenly filled with the cherished fruit.
Walking from Slavonice towards Nová Bystřice one comes across countless concrete World War II-era bunkers hidden in the forest, built from 1935-38 in reaction to the growing Nazi menace. Today these bunkers have been preserved and feature a museum. Every Saturday in August, there are also staged recreations of the “mobilization” in the run up to the Nazi occupation of this area in October 1938 – the shows include the staging of a fictional battle between the Wehrmacht and Czechoslovak forces based upon the premise of a rejection of the infamous Munich Agreement.
A little further north-west, one comes across Landštejn Castle. Originally built in the early 13th century by Přemysl Otakar I. Like the bunkers, the castle was also designed as a defence system against neighbouring Austria. Today, the castle itself is a stone ruin sitting on a small hill, offering a unique example of Romanesque architecture. The castle was abandoned after a fire in the late 18th century, with preservation work undertaken throughout the 20th century.
Czech Canada offers a chance to lose oneself in at least the illusion of a vast, barren landscape akin to those found in Canada. Well worth visiting.