North Bohemia – a landscape of many faces
When we speak of “the North” and are referring not to a part of the world but a destination, the notion that comes to most people’s minds is one of cold, dampness, insufficient sunlight and a number of other predominantly unpleasant feelings. This certainly does not apply to North Bohemia because it is a land that is charming, ragged, flat and romantic, teeming with natural and architectonic wonders, and rich in history. It doesn’t take long to fall in love with this region. The Dutch, for instance, would probably give a lot to have such a parcel of land. And they certainly enjoy their time among the hills of North Bohemia.
The rural area of North Bohemia is part of the Liberec district and is divided further into four areas: Mácha’s Country, the Lusatian Mountains and Ještěd Ridge, Frýdlantsko and the Jizera Mountains. As we can see from this list, the area is obviously made up of attractive and abundantly visited mountain regions, as well as small almost forgotten corners, such Frýdlantsko, and the charming and romantic scenery of Mácha’s Country, a substantial part of which had been inaccessible until recently and is now just waiting to be rediscovered.
North Bohemia also has two protected landscape areas – the Jizera and Lusatian Mountains. The peaks of the Jizera Mountains characteristically stand at heights of around 1,000 metres above sea level, and the region’s peat bogs are easily accessible by means of interconnecting educational trails. The national nature reserve of the Jizera Mountain Beechwood Forest (Jizerskohorské bučiny) contains the largest beechwood-covered area in the Czech Republic - 27 km2.
The Jizera Mountains offer ideal conditions for winter sports, primarily for cross-country skiing. The Jizerská magistrála (the Jizera artery) has 75 kilometres of cross-country trails, and since 1968 the long-distance Jizera Fifty Run (Jizerská padesátka), one of the biggest races of its kind, has taken place here.
The Lusatian Mountains are typically conical and have cumulous peaks with steep slopes. The highest of these mountains is Luž, which is 793 metres high. There are several bike paths and forest trails in this area, which also boasts excellent conditions for cross-country skiers.
Quirky timber structures and stone observation towers have been preserved in many parts of the region. Well-maintained rustic architecture has given rise to numerous relic reserves, such as those in Janovice, Raná, Žďár and village monument zones in Bukovice, Kravaře, Tubož and Velenice.
Of course, attention should be given to the diverse quantity of castles and chateaux, such as the romantic Bezděz, Frýdlant, Frýdštejn, Grabštejn, Houska, Horní Branná and Sloup, the ruins of Ralsko Castle, the chateau and gardens in Zákupy, and the chateau in Lemberk.
The region’s towns have a rich glass-making tradition, dating all the way back to the Middle Ages. Today’s glass-making centre consists of the triangle of Chřibská (with the oldest glassworks in Europe still in operation), Nový Bor (with its glassworks museum) and Kamenický Šenov (home to the oldest glass-making school in Europe).
In addition to Mácha Lake and Holanský Pond, which are popular holiday destinations during summer, you can also check out other bodies of water in this region – for instance at the dams in Bedřichov, Naděje and Bílá Desna, the reservoir systems of Fojtka, Harcov and Mlýnice or at the famous Protržená Dam in the Jizera Mountains.
The most important towns in North Bohemia are Liberec and Jablonec nad Nisou. The dominant feature of Liberce is an atypical modern structure comprising a restaurant, transmission tower and lookout tower that forms a natural peak Ještěd Mountain. The tower’s architect, Karel Hubáček, received the Perret Prize for designing the Ještěd Tower in the form of a rotating hyperboloid. The Neo-Renaissance town hall and remains of a collection of medieval wood-framed burgher homes with a 17th century archway (known as Valdštejn homes) are also notable historical monuments situated in Liberec.
From an architectonic perspective, Jablonec nad Nisou is a Secessionist city (the town theatre, museum, residential buildings) although the town hall is a Functionalist building. This town is famous throughout the world for its glass and costume jewellery production.
The vast majority of this region has been popular among hikers and bikers for a very long time, so it has plenty of well-marked hiking trails and bike paths, along with a sufficient number of refreshment and accommodation options.
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