Olšina Trail: A formerly off-limits military area offers a stunning glimpse of nature

A seven-kilometer walk around a pond lets you see some rare birds and plants in a setting that was undisturbed for decades.

Expats.cz Staff

Written by Expats.cz Staff Published on 25.08.2022 12:01:00 (updated on 25.08.2022) Reading time: 3 minutes

Several former military areas have just recently opened to the public, but they are only slowly gaining popularity. These areas due to decades of limited access allow for a glimpse of undisturbed nature.

One such hidden treasure is the Olšina trail in the military district of Boletice, between Český Krumlov and Horní Planá in the Šumava forest of South Bohemia.

Visitors first set foot on the seven-kilometer trail, officially called Naučná stezka Olšina, in 2020, about four years after the location was fully separated from the military district. The trail takes people on paths as well as on wooden walkways raised above the wetlands and around the Olšina pond.

Tourists usually start their walk around the 120-hectare Olšina pond at the visitor center, which also has parking. "The visitor center is designed in such a way that what we present in the exhibits inside is connected to what visitors can see on the trail," Růžena Heřmánková, an educator from state-owned forestry company Vojenské lesy a statky, told CNN Prima News.

Raised walkway over the wetlands on the  Olšina nature trail. Photo: VLS.
Raised walkway over the wetlands on the Olšina nature trail. Photo: VLS.

Children and others can learn about the wildlife they might see in the area. The Olšina pond is part of the Šumava protected landscape area and is also a protected bird area. In particular, it is home to rare birds including the white-tailed eagle and the Ural owl, which is seldom seen in Europe. The pond is also home to the mute swan and woodlark.

There are also protected plant species such as yellow coralroot, ligularia sibirica, and mountain tassel-flower.

It takes a little less than two hours to walk the trail, though at times it can be rugged so people should check in advance to see the condition. It is marked so people shouldn’t get lost, and because it is a protected area people should stick to the trail.

The markers also help people differentiate among various biotopes. The route leads through dry and wet forests, meadows, pastures, wetlands, and bogs. You can also go out onto the pond on a jetty.

The territory through which the trail passes was accessible to the public only in 2016. The trial opened in 2020 but quickly proved insufficient to meet the unexpectedly high demand. Some sections became muddy due to the high level of traffic, and people trampled vegetation to get around them. The trail was rebuilt and reopened in May 2021. The modifications both allow for greater comfort for visitors and better protection of nature.

Nest along the Olšina nature trail. Photo: VLS.
Nest along the Olšina nature trail. Photo: VLS.

Vojenské lesy a statky looked for new solutions that would fit in with the local nature and be an attraction for visitors. “The wooden path is supplemented with unconventional places to stop and viewpoints. … On the trail, visitors will encounter a floating pier, a bridge inspired by a beaver dam, a ferry that transports them to a pier in the middle of the pond, a lookout consisting only of a ladder, a child-sized birdhouse, and a giant bird's nest,” VLS said in a press release when the revised path reopened in 2021.

So as not to damage the nature area, construction materials were moved into place on a raft. Over 100 cubic meters of fir and acacia wood were used for covered walkways.

The trail was voted the wooden construction of the year in 2021 by the Wood for Life Foundation (Nadace dřevo pro život). "We greatly appreciate the award in this prestigious competition. We are all the more pleased with the public's victory, as it is a route intended specifically for visitors, [who can now see] Šumava’s nature, which has been inaccessible to the public for decades,” VLS director Petr Král said when the award was announced.

Walkway over Olšina pond. Photo: VLS.
Walkway over Olšina pond. Photo: VLS.

“The entire seven-kilometer circuit is extraordinary in that the construction is completely dominated by materials from sustainable renewable sources, especially oak and acacia wood, which were used in such a way that the construction harmonizes with the surrounding nature as much as possible,” Král added.

The trail is open year-round, and the blooming vegetation and also the animals one might encounter are constantly changing.

While parking is available at the visitor center, people who want to reduce their impact on the area might want to take the train. The pond is five kilometers from Horní Planá, and there is also a train stop at Hodňov, just a few meters from the visitor center. Accommodation is also available nearby.

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