The Šumava is a low mountain range in Central Europe. Geographically, the mountains extend from South Bohemia in the Czech Republic to Austria and Bavaria in Germany. They create a natural border between the Czech Republic on one side and Germany and Austria. For historical reasons, the Bohemian and German sides have different names: in Czech, the Bohemian side is called Šumava and the Bavarian side Bavorský les, while in German, the Bohemian side is called Bohmerwald (literally, 'Bohemian forest'), and the Bavarian side Bayerischer Wald (literally, 'Bavarian Forest'). In Czech, Šumava is also used as a name for the entire adjacent region in Bohemia.
This article deals primarily with the Bohemian side of the Šumava; for additional information on the Bavarian side see Bavarian Forest.
Geography and climate
The Šumava are heavily forested mountains with average heights of 800-1400m. The highest peak is Großer Arber (1456 m) on the Bavarian side; the highest peak on the Bohemian side is Plechý (1378m). The range is one of the oldest in Europe, and its mountains are eroded into round forms with few rocky parts. Typical for the Šumava are plateaus at about 1000-1200m with relatively harsh climates and many peat bogs. Jezerní slať (literally: Lake moor) holds the record for the lowest average and absolute temperature in Bohemia, with a 2°C annual average and a record low of -42°C in 1987.
The Šumava is the dividing range between the watersheds of the Black Sea and the North Sea, where water collected by the Vltava, Otava and Úhlava rivers flows. These rivers all spring from the Šumava. Owing to heavy precipitation (mostly snow), the peat bogs and the Lipno water dam, the Šumava region is an important water reservoir for Central Europe. More important for their aesthetic value than for holding water are several lakes of glacial orgin.
Nature and history
As a border region, the Šumava has had a complicated history. In the 20th century it was part of the Iron Curtain, and large areas of its were stripped of human settlement. Even before that, settlement was sparse and for centuries forests dominated over human dwellings and pathways. These unique circumstances led to the preservation of unspoilt nature and forest ecosystems relatively unaffected by human activity. On the other hand, many habitats dependant on farming activity are slowly turning into forrest.
In the Czech Republic, the most valuable area is protected in the Šumava National Park and Protected Landscape and the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. Part of the German section is protected as the Bavarian Forest National Park. The Šumava is a popular holiday destination because it is excellent hiking country. Most interesting natural and cultural sights are connected with more than 500 km of summer marked trails and many bike trails. However, park administration is not always successful in its task, and many believe the rapid growth of tourist accommodation and services is destroying the former calm of the Šumava region. Šumava National Park is also suffering various problems connected with bark beetles and there is heated debate about how to deal with it.
Towns of Šumava region
- Vyšší Brod (CZ)
- Volary (CZ)
- Vimperk (CZ) Wimberg
- Prachatice (CZ)
- Kašperské hory (CZ)
- Strakonice (CZ)
- Železná ruda (CZ) Eisenstein
- Bayerische Eisenstein (DE) Bavorská Železná ruda
- Regensburg (DE)
National Park administration (http://www.npsumava.cz)