Sightseeing as well as cultural or business activities are the reasons prople visit Český Krumlov. Few people realize that this "South Bohemian gem" has fantastic surroundings, and that animals, trees and flowers can be found right in the centre of the town. The Town Park can serve as an example...
The place of the present-day location of the Town Park was used by the inhabitants of the town as a farming estate from time long since forgotten. The town's outbuildings were surrounded with meadows, little fields and gardens. From the end of the 16th century those premises served as a garden the where Jesuits rested. They lived in the college (today's hotel Růže) on the opposite bank of Vltava river and entered the garden across a suspended footbridge. In 1662, on the grounds of today's park, the Jesuits established a summer residence and decorative Baroque park with a dike to prevent flooding. While no further details on the park are known, the Jesuit residence has been partly preserved up till now, and nowadays the building accommodates hotel Gold Bohemia.
It must be said that the cemetery located near St. Vitus' Church was moved to the above mentioned premises as early as 1585. The cemetery of St. Martin's Chapel in Český Krumlov underwent many remodellings. In 1717 the original wooden building was replaced by a stone building which was again remodelled to today's appearance in 1737.
It was not until the turn of the 19th to 20th century that extensive adaptations were carried out and full use of the whole area was made. In 1885 the river baths were founded on the bank of Vltava river. In 1892 the cemetery near St. Martin's Chapel was removed and the so-called Jesuit park became public property. A playground, used as summer exercising area or even as a skating rink, was founded around the year 1900. The whole area was given the park design on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the rule of Emperor Franz Joseph in
Several memorials and monuments grew up by degrees in the premises of the park. The first memorial from 1910 was dedicated to Friedrich Ludwig Jahn, the founder of German physical education, from which was after 1945 removed the commemorative desk. The second memorial to victims of the First World War, unveiled in August 1930, came to a similar end. At the present time we are virtually unable to find any trace of those two memorials. At the end of the 1980's the third and newest monument, in project documentation known as the Monument to Battles and Victory over Fascism was erected. The location of this building in the park was a subject of discussion for many experts and the general public.
The wooden musical pavilion built before the First World War near the aforesaid Jahn's memorial also cannot be missed. The pavilion served its purpose up till the 1950's.
The development of a path network in the park is something different. An impressive element was represented by the oval with a connection that enabled access to all the important places. An ingenious path network also surrounded St. Martin's Chapel. Apart from the paths around the chapel the original system went to ruin during the construction of the Monument to Battles and Victory over Fascism. Only a very perceptive visitor of the park is capable of imagining of what the original path network was like.
Natural conditions :
The park spreads over an area of about 2.5 ha and is situated in the centre of Český Krumlov on the meander of the Vltava river on its left bank. The grounds are located on flat terrain except for the southern part which covers the artificial terrace rising gently to the South.
The river alluvium and soil cultivation during farming as well as the park's position, protected by surrounding buildings, created a suitable environment for tree planting. Unfortunately, information about the original assortment of trees and shrubs which were planted at the time of the foundation has not yet been found in archival documentation.
Since the end of 1970's there has been a significant change in the generic structure of the Town Park. While the list of trees and shrubs from 1978 includes 82 items, the present-day park has 65 varieties and cultivars of coniferous and deciduous trees and shrubs. The decrease in the number of species was caused not only by building activities carried out in the park and the near vicinity, but also by pollution of the atmosphere and poor care for park growth in the past.
Despite those critical facts, the present group of trees and shrubs attracts the interest of both experts and the general public. Another important factor is that the trees and shrubs create a suitable environment for vegetation of rare herbs (e.g. yellow star-of-Bethlehem, hollow corydalis, star of Bethlehem) and numerous populations of songbirds, especially titmouse species.
Now let's go back to the trees and shrubs which naturally represent the main and most conspicuous phenomenon of the Town Park. During a short excursion we can focus on at least some of more than sixty taxons of trees and shrubs. According to the botanic system we start with needle-leaved trees.
Common yew (Taxus baccata) is a shrub to tree which lives up to 300 years and grows as tall as 20 metres. Flat needle-leaves, dark green on the right side, split in two sides. Conspicuous are the bloody baccate cones. The whole plant (apart from the red episperm) is strongly poisonous. The yew lives to a great age. In the park there is a row of young yew-shrubs and one yew-tree specimen planted out. Who knows, perhaps this one remembers the foundation of Town Park.
Six tall trees of the white pine (Pinus strobus) are conspicuous among other pine species. This tree originates from eastern parts of North America. Thanks to its modesty it was planted in parks and woods of Europe as early as the beginning of the 18th century. Five conspicuous long green-grey needle-leaves create sheaves. The attribute "silky" was given to the pine for its unusually soft needles. The cones are also interesting, with long, wide open scales covered with resin.
Among the group of coniferous trees which are situated in the eastern part of the park, the yellow cypress (Chamaecyparis nootkatensis) cannot be missed. In its native country this beautiful closely pyramid-shaped tree grows up to 35 metres. The generic name reflects its original home near the Nootka bay in North America. The scale-leaves cling around the over-hanging twigs. Interesting round-shaped cones consist of 4-6 fertile sheaves with outgrowths.
The only representative of fir species also deserves attention. It is the white fir (Abies concolor). In North America this hardened tree grows as tall as 40 - 60 metres. It has a conic-shaped crown, light grey bark and long, sickle-shaped needles of a flat green-grey colour. The fir-cones of the white fir is difficult to find as they crumble when still on the tree, like other fir species.
And now we focus on deciduous trees. The only representative of the tulip magnolia (Liriodendron tulipifera) can be found in the central part of the park. It originates from North America. Conspicuous are the lyre-shaped light green leaves with long petiole. Large, separate blossoms are a yellow-green colour with orange stripes. The shape resembles a tulip blossom. The tulip magnolia is a popular park tree. In our country the tulip magnolia was planted for the first time in the Sychrov castle park in 1880.
Another interesting representative of deciduous trees in the Český Krumlov park is the paper birch (Betula papyrifera) . The generic name of this stately tree with white, smooth bark which originates from North America implies its ancient use. It has wide oval-shaped leaves, flowers in thick catkins which are twice as long as the catkins of the white birch. There is only one specimen of the paper birch in the park.
The Turkish filbert (Corylus colurna) is a representative of Asia. Naturally it can be found in the Balkans as well. This stately tree with a regularly-shaped beautiful crown grows up to 20 metres. It has conspicuously long catkins and large nuts with a strong shell. If you manage to crack the nut-shell you will undoubtedly find the kernels delicious. The tree is located together with other trees near the monument.
Scarlet oaks (Quercus rubra). surround St. Martin's Chapel. The generic name reflects the conspicuous autumnal scarlet colour of the leaves with tapering lobes. These stately trees, growing as tall as 35 metres, come from the eastern part of North America. The undemanding trees thrive even in our climatic conditions. The mightiest scarlet oak in the park is 235 cm in girth.
The next plant belongs among shrubs. The Chinese lilac (Syringa rothomagensis) is a result of interbreeding. The well-known common lilac is one of its parents. The hybrid was produced probably in France in 1777. The thin bow-like over-hanging branches have small tapering leaves. The blossoms, which create large inflorescence, are a beautiful pinkish-violet colour. There is only one specimen in the Town Park.
The selection of the ten above-mentioned species is only a modest example of trees and shrubs which can be found in the Český Krumlov park. Several labels with the names of species and cultivars enable orientation. We will be more than happy if the park will serve not only as a place where you can rest during your tour of our unique town but also as a place where you can acquire a knowledge of the plants people surround themselves to decorate their environments.
Further information :
Historical Gardens and Parks in Český Krumlov
Castle Gardens in Český Krumlov
Description of Nature Conditions in the Český Krumlov Region