Friendship on the Gold Trail

From the 13th century, the Vimperk region was connected with the neighbouring Passau bishopric along a branch of the Gold Trail, on which peaceful caravans of pack animals, loaded with goods, travelled in both directions.

People on both sides of the border were brought closer together, learning their neighbours’ language and establishing new personal and family relationships. This exchange survived even the end of the Passau bishopric as an independent state in the early 19th century and its inclusion into Bavaria.

NatuVision 2005

It was only after WW II that a major change occurred. Following the transfer of the Germans, the region became partly depopulated, and further devastation was brought about by the years of communist rule and the "iron curtain. The Gold Trail ceased to exist in the minds of the Czech inhabitants of the Vimperk region and communication with Bavaria was next to nothing.

The year 1989 brought change to this picturesque corner of the Šumava. The history of cooperation has been revived, and its symbol has once again become the Gold Trail. The name, scented with salt and the magic of times long gone, has come back home, ceased to be a mere word, and has become a basis for a number of jointly organised events and partnerships. The return to the ancient tradition was marked by a Czech-German re-enactment of a caravan carrying salt along the Vimperk branch of the Gold Trail from Röhrnbach to Vimperk, complete with horses and historical costumes.

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Cross-border cooperation is becoming more intensive, schools in Vimperk and in Bavaria send their pupils on exchange programmes (the long-term partnership of the grammar schools in Vimperk and in Waldkirchen may serve as an example of this trend; in addition, there is a programme running since 1996 under the Euroregion Šumava – Bayerischer Wald project, allowing several students from Vimperk to spend a year at a grammar school in Bavaria). In 2003, Vimperk and Freyung, long-time natural partners on the Gold Trail, became twin towns. Many a cultural or social event is now jointly organised by them, with new projects arising. One of these is the International Festival of Animal Films – NaturVision. The year 2004 already saw the third year of this event, with shows in Vimperk, as well as in Freyung and Neuschönau in Bavaria. This major event is accompanied by other programmes, such as film-making and photography workshops, exhibitions and a picture contest, bringing people on both sides of the border closer together and attracting a number of visitors from the Czech Republic and from abroad. The number of joint events in the region is growing and the traditional friendship on the Gold Trail, interrupted for a historically insignificant period of time, is becoming reality again.

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