Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Celebration 2 - Golden Path

A week after Cesky Krumlov had its Five-Petaled Rose festival , I went to a similar festival in Prachatice. This was a celebration of 1000 years of the old salt way - the Golden Path.

The Golden Path was one of those old trade routes which have crossed Europe for centuries. Along it salt was brought from the mines in the Alps (via Passau), over the Sumava to Bohemia. Salt, as the historians among you will know, was extremely valuable * - allowing people to preserve meat when there were no fridges and hence the path came to be known as the Golden Path. Prachatice grew up rich on this trade and the Golden Path.

The festival bore several similarities to the Five-Petaled Rose Celebration - historical processions, performances on the square and in the Parkan gardens, and a large (larger than in Krumlov) market. Prachatice clearly has ambitions as a tourist town, something it is very suited to. However this was above all a local community celebration, everyone was out enjoying themselves, including the local gypsy population which seemed to have set up camp in the middle of the square and were holding a celebration all of their own.

One of the highlights of the day was the arrival of a packhorse caravan, which I believe had traveled all the way from Passau. Another procession featured parties from other salt route towns, including ones in Austria and Germany, and other local Czech towns, which showed a certain generosity on the part of Prachatice.

I like Prachatice. The Tourist Information Centre was very helpful to me when I was organising the recent tour. Unlike the Cesky Krumlov TIC the Prachatice one is full of leaflets from attractions in the surrounding area and even further afield. I like the way Prachatice centre still feels like a real town, rather than a centre devoted to visitors, with the locals pushed out to the edge. I like the town's dynamism. And Prachatice is set in divine countryside - on the edge of the Sumava Forest. So, yes, it should be much better known as tourist destination. Cesky Krumlov watch out, there's a new kid on the block!

* The english word salary is derived from the latin from salt.

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