While many Czech towns, cities and buildings are already on UNESCO's World Heritage List, the Cesky raj region in north-east Bohemia - famous for its sandstone formations - aims to be the first natural site in the Czech Republic on the list, and the application was made at UNESCO headquarters in Paris last week. Alena Skodova reports:
The Cesky raj region is a frequently visited spot, and a popular destination for both Czech and foreign tourists. It is comprised of 11 sandstone formations, which form a protected natural area. And as Jakub Kaspar from the Czech Ministry of the Environment told me, they really are unique:
"The protected area is unique not only in the Czech Republic, but in Europe and perhaps the world. It is formed by sandstone rocks, which are the remnants of Mesozoic era seas, in fact it is a seabed broken up by volcanic activities and chemical erosion. Something like that - on such a large area - cannot be seen elsewhere in Europe."
Cesky raj also includes historical monuments, such as a chateau in Hruba Skala, which provides a fantastic view of the rocks that surround it, and several ruins of medieval castles, which makes the landscape look romantic. Mr. Kaspar told me that thousands of Czech and foreign tourists visit Cesky raj every year. The most popular place is Prachovske skaly; sometimes, says Mr Kaspar, there are simply too many visitors there at the peak of the tourist season. Also, the rocks are popular among mountain climbers, but there are quite strict rules set for them - for instance they are not allowed to climb until three days after rain and they mustn't use magnesium on their hands.
The nomination will now be assessed by the UNESCO secretariat and if the application is accepted, they will ask for further materials. The deadline for filing applications is February 1st, 2003. If Cesky raj is accepted by UNESCO, it will be the 12th Czech site included in its list of cultural and natural heritage sites.
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