Žofín Forest and Hojná voda
Boubín Forest in Šumava is perhaps more famous, but not the oldest. The oldest nature reserve in the Czech Republic and Central Europe is located in the Novohradské Mountains near the Czech-Austrian border. It includes the Žofín Forest National Nature Reserve and the Hojná voda National Natural Landmark.
Europe’s oldest protected forests
Europe’s first nature reserve, Hojnovoda and Žofín Forest, was declared in 1838. The owner of the Novohradské domains, Count Jiří František August Buquoy, is credited with establishing it. This learned nobleman once took an inspection tour in the forest district around the sources of the Lužnice and was so enchanted by the untouched parts of the forest that by a special decree of 28 August 1838 the Žofín Forest reserve was founded near the village of Žofín. Just two days later followed the establishment of the forest reserve Hojná voda.
By bike or on foot?
The Žofín Forest National Nature Reserve with an area of 100 ha is located on the gentle northern slopes of Silver Hill, southeast of the village of Žofín at an altitude of 735-825 meters. Like Boubín in Šumava, Žofín Forest is fenced in and taking a look inside is only possible with a guide or from the paved forest roads lining the fence. You can take your car as far as the former Žofín hunting lodge with guesthouse and restaurant, but then you have to continue on foot or on bike, which is preferred given the long distances and very difficult terrain. The trail running along Žofín Forest will lead you to the former Terčí huť, and from there you can continue, for example, to the former settlement of Stříbrné Huť or to Pohoří in Šumava.
Smaller, closer to civilization and more accessible is the Hojná voda National Natural Monument. Although its official name does not include forest and its wild character suffered during the World Wars, when the strongest firs were harvested for shipbuilding, you can still discover here remnants of ancient beech forests with spruce, fir, elm and maple trees. This reserve with an area of 8.56 hectares is located on the slope of Mount Vysoká (1034 meters) and it is easy to get to along the paved forest roads from the village of Hojná voda. A 3 km long nature trail lines the forest. A commemorative plaque inserted in 1988 in one of the stones along the way celebrates 150 years since the declaration of the reserve.