Every year the Association of Historic Towns and Villages in the Czech Republic holds a competition, to award the town it feels has done most to preserve its architectural heritage. Dozens of towns traditionally take part but only one can win the prize which includes a cheque for 1,000, 000 crowns (around 43,000 US dollars). This year the award went to north Bohemia's Ceska Kamenice.
Ceska Kamenice may have just 5,500 inhabitants but it is a town with a fascinating history. Found in the rolling hills of North Bohemia, the area features 34 officially recognised historic sites, including a Renaissance-era town hall, a stunning 14th century church, and a famous Baroque fountain. Since the 90s the town has made preservation a priority - and well-deserved this year's award. Miroslav Weiss is the mayor:
"The award, in our case, recognises our town's efforts to preserve not only our official cultural heritage sites but also to revitalize Ceska Kamenice in general. I think our overall approach and success in preserving sites was appreciated. Historically, Ceska Kamenice's most significant building is probably the gothic church of St James, which last saw major changes four hundred years ago, or the Chapel of the Virgin Mary from 1736. Otherwise, Ceska Kamenice saw its greatest boom at the turn of the 19th and 20th century."
Ceska Kamenice will now hope to take full advantage of its prestigious award to draw new visitors. Regarding preservation, the town will continue to rely on some money from the culture ministry, the church - which owns some of the main sites, and grants from the Ministry for Regional Development, which have so far been used, for example, to renovate the town's pretty main square. And Mayor Weiss says the town's winning the award should boost the local tourist industry as well as local businesses.
"Of course we're going to try and 'sell' the fact that we won the best way possible. We've already registered a .eu internet domain and aim to promote our town as much as possible on the internet, through printed materials and billboards. Some local businesses may now be interested in getting involved in additional projects, including local traditional cultural events like our Dvorak music festival. And, the services industry - especially restaurants, hotels and bed-and breakfasts - will want to make use of the award logo. Ideally, initiative for promoting the town will come not only from the public but also from the private sector."
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