The south Bohemian town of Slavonice, which is known mainly for its uniquely preserved Gothic and Renaissance town houses, has been named Czech Historical Town of the year for 2017. The prize, which comes with a one-million cheque for further preservation works, honours towns and cities in the Czech Republic that have excelled in preserving and renewing their cultural and architectural heritage.
The picturesque town of Slavonice is located in South Bohemia, just a few kilometres away from the Austrian border. Thanks to its beautifully preserved historical centre, it has been dubbed “little Telč” or “pearl of west Moravian Renaissance.”
Slavonice, which has a population of about 2,700 people and boasts a total of 59 officially recognised historical sites, has been selected Historical Town of the Year in competition with more than 30 other Czech and Moravian towns.
Speaking at the award-giving ceremony in the Spanish Hall of Prague Castle, Slavonice mayor Hynek Blažek said he regarded the prize as an acknowledgment of their long-time effort to preserve the town’s historical value:
“We have been systematically working on maintaining the unique historical town centre for the next generations. The fact that I am standing here with you, sharing this special moment with you, is a proof that we have been successful.”
Slavonice has been sought out by tourists not only for its well-preserved town centre but also for the historical town wall or the underground tunnel system dating back to the 12th century. The town and the surrounding undulating countryside, largely unspoiled by industry, is also popular with cyclists. People can also decorate their own mug in the nearby village of Maříž, which has become famous for colourful ceramics, produced by one of the local artists.
However, Slavonice has not always been a popular tourist target. Located so close to the Austrian border, the town was very much neglected during the Communist era. Libor Karásek is one of the representatives at the Town Hall:
“The historical facades were revealed only after the Second World War. Until then, they had been hidden behind sloppily applied plaster. And even then, they were not well restored. Today, however, we have completely renovated the town houses, including their sgraffitos.”
After the fall of Communism, Slavonice quickly became a popular destination not only for tourists, but also for artists. Just recently, it was selected as a location for the film Barefoot, made by Czech director Jan Svěrák. This is how he explained his choice to Czech Television:
“We were looking for a location that is still pretty much untouched. The town of Slavonice had been forgotten for decades due to its proximity to the border, so we could easily re-recreate the atmosphere of the war there, with just a few minor changes.”
The Historic Town of the Year competition is organised annually by the Association of Historic Settlements in Bohemia, Moravia and Silesia along with the Ministry of Regional Development. Among others, the award recognises towns’ exemplary use of funds dedicated to preservation work.