Pravčice Gate – the biggest sandstone formation in Europe – makes it to the semifinals of the New7Wonders contest

Photo: CTK

It is one of nature’s marvels – a gate of sandstone created through millions of years of erosion. The Pravčice Gate near the Czech-Saxony border stands on the edge of a region of wondrous sandstone formations known as Bohemian Switzerland. It is one of 77 sites to get into the semi-finals of the New7Wonders, an international contest organized by a Swiss foundation which aims to support man-made and natural heritage sites

Photo: CTK
The history of the Pravčice Gate goes back to the Mesozoic era – approximately a hundred million years ago when the region known as Bohemian Switzerland lay at the bottom of an ocean. When the ocean receded, the layers of sandstone were broken up as a result of volcanic activity. Over millions of years, Nature created a world of wondrous sandstone formations – the most amazing of which is the Pravčice gate. The gate is 16 metres tall at its highest point and the arch spans over 26 metres, the surface area of the “bridge” is 21 metres. In the past hikers were allowed to cross the bridge, but that is no longer possible due to the damage done by human traffic.

Tourists first discovered this paradise in the 19th century when it was customary to organize a day’s excursion out with guides and mules. The only place of refreshment in the area back then was a wooden hut serving as a tavern. In 1881 a member of the nobility Prince Edmund Clary-Aldringen had a chateau built in the vicinity which today houses a restaurant and a museum and is known as the Falcon’s Nest.

Ever since it was discovered by two Swiss artists in 1776 – who gave it its present name – Bohemian Switzerland has attracted tourists from around the world – among them the Danish fairy tale writer Hans Christian Andersen who was so enchanted by the place in 1831 he returned for a second visit in 1851. Today Bohemian Switzerland is visited by thousands of tourists every year – and many people make the trip out especially to see the Pravčice gate – the biggest sandstone formation in Europe - with their own eyes. Even with special protection this marvel of nature will not be around forever – geologists say the erosive processes on the sandstone bridge are gradually thinning the structure and in several thousand years’ time the famous gate will no longer be there.