Czech Paradise (Český ráj) is one of my favourite areas in the Czech Republic. Because I offer walking holidays there, I have the perfect excuse to visit every year - well, I have to check the walks don't I? And quite a few of those walks take me through some of the area's famous rock towns.
The rock towns are the reason Czech Paradise was included in the UNESCO list of European Geoparks. But what are they? They are collections of huge sandstone towers created by erosion by rain and ice over millenia. When I say huge, I mean the height of several storey buildings. Nothing can quite prepare you for the scale of them and no photo can really do them justice (although I have tried). In the photo below - the dark dot on the path is a man.
The most famous rock towns are the Prachovské Rocks (shown here) and the Hruba Skala Rocks, but there are several others. My husband and I first visited the Prachovské Rocks one early evening in September. The sun was low in the sky, turning the rocks a pinkish yellow and casting long shadows. Virtually alone, we followed the paths that wove through the area, climbing steep staircases, squeezing through cracks in the rocks, and standing on their summits to watch the setting sun.
It was a magical experience. No wonder that the rock towns are used by film production companies - for example for Disney's Narnia films and more recently for the BBC's Three Musketeers series. Nor is it a surprise that these natural labyrinths were once home to robbers.