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Bohemian Forest
Certovo Jezero

The Bohemian Forest, known in Czech as Šumava (pronounced [ˈʃʊmava]), is a low mountain range in Central Europe. Geographically, the mountains extend from Plzeň Region and South Bohemia in the Czech Republic to Austria and Bavaria in Germany, and form the highest truncated uplands of the Bohemian Massif, up to 50 km wide. They create a natural border between the Czech Republic on one side and Germany and Austria on the other.

For political reasons, the Bohemian and German sides have different names: in Czech, the Bohemian side is called Šumava and the Bavarian side Zadní Bavorský les (English: rear Bavarian Forest), while in German, the Bohemian side is called Böhmerwald (English: Bohemian Forest), and the Bavarian side Bayerischer Wald (English: Bavarian Forest). In Czech, Šumava is also used as a name for the entire adjacent region in Bohemia.

The Bohemian Forest comprises heavily forested mountains with average heights of 800–1,400 meters. The highest peak is Großer Arber (1,456 m) on the Bavarian side; the highest peak on the Bohemian and Austrian side is Plechý (Plöckenstein) (1,378 m). The most eastern peak is the Sternstein (1,125m). The range is one of the oldest in Europe, and its mountains are eroded into round forms with few rocky parts. Typical for the Bohemian Forest are plateaux at about 1,000–1,200 m with relatively harsh climates and many peat bogs.

The origin of the current name Bohemian Forest goes back to 400 BC. The Boii people spread across Europe between 400 BC and 8 BC. Boii is the Roman name of three ancient Celtic tribes, living in Transalpine Gaul (modern France), Cisalpine Gaul (northern Italy), and Bohemia, Moravia and western Slovakia. The European region of Bohemia owes its name to the Boii, who lived there until the were replaced by the Germanic Marcomanni. The Romans called it Boiohaemum, a Latinization of the Germanic name of the region, meaning "the home of the Boii". The mountain range has been traditionally identified with Γαβρήτα Ὕλη (Gabreta Forest), mentioned in Strabo's Geographica and Ptolemy's Geographia. In the 1st century AD, the forest was inhabited by Gallo-Romans as well as by Germanic tribes in its northern part. In the 6th century AD, the forefathers of the later Czech people emigrated to the area . From the 13th century AD until 1945–1946, most of the region was inhabited by Bohemian Germans, many of them woodcutters. The mountains are regionally known just as the Forest. The usage of its current Czech name Šumava has been attested in late 15th century Antonio Bonfini's work Rerum unganicarum decades. The origin of the name is not clear. Folk etymology connects it with Czech words šum, šumění, šumět denoting a noise of trees in the wind. The most accepted opinion among linguists derives Šumava from a theorized Proto-Slavic word *šuma = "dense forest", cf. Serbo-Croatian šuma.


Vydra River

The Bohemian Forest is the dividing range between the watersheds of the Black Sea and the North Sea, where water collected by the Vltava, Otava and Úhlava rivers flows. These rivers all spring from the Bohemian Forest. Owing to heavy precipitation (mostly snow), the peat bogs and the Lipno Dam, the Šumava region is an important water reservoir for Central Europe. More important for their aesthetic value than for holding water are several lakes of glacial origin.


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