This week, we'll be visiting the town of Jihlava, which is located at the very border of Bohemia and Moravia, dividing the eastern and western parts of the Czech Republic. In fact, no-one knows which of the two regions it belongs to and town residents agree that it spreads over both of them. Jihlava has a population of 53,000 and its earliest written record dates back to the 12th century when it was founded thanks to the discovery of silver.
"According to legend, silver was discovered thanks to a pot maker who lived in a little settlement that was established above the ford that crossed the river Jihlava. No matter how much he tried, he could not prevent his pots from cracking whenever he put them into the furnace to be baked. One day, a merchant came by and found the problem when he inspected the broken pieces. The clay that the pot-maker had been using contained bits of silver ore. The merchant proceeded to buy the pot maker's land and that's why the settlement grew and the Church of John the Baptist was built."
However, Jihlava held an important position in judicial law as it was the first in Central Europe to codify its own municipal and mining laws, becoming the seat of the Supreme Mining Board for several centuries. Today, Jihlava's glorious period is remembered with a procession through the historic centre that's organised every two years in June. Jana Novotna again:
Following the decline of the silver mining era, Jihlava soon recovered thanks to the textile industry, eventually becoming the second largest textile producer in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. However, a fire, the Swedish occupation during the Thirty Year War and a number of other factors saw the town transformed several times over the centuries. Although mainly in Baroque style today, Jihlava had numerous houses surviving from the Renaissance with courtyards and large underground passages. One of its biggest attractions is the St. Ignatius Jesuit Church, built in early Baroque style in the last quarter of the seventeenth century.
Jihlava's catacombs - or underground passages - after those in Znojmo are the second largest in Moravia. Radka Pechova is a tour guide.
"The underground passages are 25 km long. There are three levels, the lowest 12m below ground. For quite a long time, historians believed the passages were galleries of ancient silver mines. However, the idea came about that they were built for military purposes. But it looks like they really came to being when the merchants moved here. Jihlava was established on an important crossroad of trade routes and when silver mining reduced, trading and crafting became popular. Traders started to widen their cellars to store products and that's how the passages came to being."
"This is the so-called shining corridor. It was discovered in 1978. The walls are covered with a milky coating. After they are exposed to light, they shine green. Specialists tried to determine how this coating came here. Some said it was phosphorous release d from the bones of monks who are buried above us. Then they said an unknown organic substance is behind it. The most likely explanation is that Nazi officials painted the walls to have some light while they were hiding underground."
After the freezing catacombs, my colleague suggested I try some of Jihlava's famous brew to get my body temperature back to normal. Back in the eighteenth century, of the 450 buildings in the city centre 112 of them were allowed to brew beer - that's every fourth house. The beer that prevails is called the Jihlavsky Jezek or the Jihlava Hedgehog. Why "hedgehog" ? Jana Novotna:
"The name of the city - Jihlava - most probably comes from the German word for hedgehog - Igel. According to legend, many hedgehogs were in the way when the town and its fortifications were built. The hedgehog has now become the symbol of our city."
And it's clearly visible. No matter where you go in Jihlava, you will always come across the hedgehog in various forms. The best however, is in its liquid form.