Czech Town Zatec Receives UNESCO World Heritage Certificate Honouring Its Brewing Traditions

Zatec becomes the 17th UNESCO site in the country. 13 are currently on the “tentative list”. Credit: 

Zatec, Nov 20 (CTK) – The Czech town of Zatec received the certificate of inscription on the UNESCO World Heritage List on Saturday, two months after the organisation’s committee decided to inaugurate the town and its surrounding hop-growing landscape.

Zatec Mayor Radim Laibl (ANO) said he sees the UNESCO listing as an opportunity to bring the shine back to the town. He said he must also convince some of the town’s inhabitants about the importance of the listing.

Interest in the hop-growing landscape increased this year, with more tourists visiting the information centre and the nearby Steknik Castle, located in the middle of the hop-growing area. Over 14,000 had visited the area this year up to the end of October.

Zatec and its surrounding landscape represent a centuries-old tradition of hop growing. The new UNESCO site consists of two parts. The first is the landscape, with its hop farms and the villages of Trnovany and Steknik, including the castle. The second part is the historic centre of Zatec and its 19th century industrial quarter, which has the highest concentration of buildings connected with hop processing and trade. The two parts are connected by the Ohre River. It is the first hop-growing landscape in the world to be awarded UNESCO status.

The road to the prestigious UNESCO nomination took many years, and was the brainchild of proud locals and hop enthusiasts who wanted to preserve the local culture for future generations. 

“The idea of ​​preserving the authenticity of the hop warehouses came from the local Chmelobrana association,” said Jaroslav Spicka, director of the Hop and Beer Temple in Zatec. He said the town and the monuments associated with hop processing were included on the Czech Republic’s tentative list in 2007, and the preparation of documentation began after that. 

Representatives from Chmelobrana were on stage at the Zatec Theatre on Saturday when Culture Minister Martin Baxa (ODS) handed over the certificate to the mayor.

“This is undoubtedly a huge success for the Czech Republic, for our cultural heritage,” Baxa said. “The conditions have become very strict in recent years. We have achieved another registration, and a unique one at that. Zatec now finds itself in the company of Stonehenge or the Acropolis.” Zatec is the 17th UNESCO site in the country.

Usti Region Governor Jan Schiller (ANO) said the listing of Zatec and the hop-growing landscape is prestigious. The Ministry of Culture and the region say they are ready to help the town financially in connection with the registration, which was also welcomed by hop growers.

“For us, this is a confirmation of the exceptional quality of the hops we grow here,” Michal Kovarik, secretary of the Czech Hop Growers Association, told CTK. The Zatec district is where most of the hops in the country are grown, comprising 3,744 hectares, or 77% of the total area. “This year’s harvest has been good, with around 7,000 tonnes harvested, of which 5,500 tonnes are from Zatec hops,” said Kovarik.

The National Heritage Institute helped Zatec, a town with around 20,000 inhabitants, with the registration. “It’s an extremely long process,” the institute’s Lucie Radova told CTK. “At the time when they started thinking about it, there was no heritage protection area. During that time, the town has risen up, a lot of monuments and buildings that were not in good condition have been restored.” She said she appreciated the town’s efforts to help owners of unprotected buildings with repairs.

“We are targeting tourists to come for a longer period of time. We need to sit down together and say who can do what in this regard,” said Laibl. The town’s main concern is business with poverty, he said, referring to the misuse of welfare benefits by some hostel owners who have poor tenants and demand high rents for poor accommodation.

“So far, the UNESCO inscription is perceived and appreciated abroad more than at home,” Laibl noted. “We have to show that UNESCO will clearly be of benefit. Together, we will fight so that business with poverty is not here. Among other things, we want to buy properties where people on welfare live,” he said.

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