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The Czech Republic is a magnificent destination in the heart of Europe that attracts travelers around the world with its numerous cities to visit, beers to taste, sophisticated architecture, and fabulous nature. As someone who has the chance to visit this beautiful country and many cities in it, I would like to utter my experiences in two destinations that have gone in a completely different direction, although they have many similarities in common.
After Prague, where almost everyone visited in the Czech Republic, I knew that there are places worth seeing in smaller cities and the countryside and prepared my route. I planned to visit a small town; Loket, a short distance from Karlovy Vary which is a dizzy getaway with its thermals and architecture. I traveled thinking that there wouldn't be much to do because it is a tiny place with a population of 3000 and at the same time, I was thinking about going directly to Cesky Krumlov, which I had planned next, and not waste my time in this small town. However, this was the best decision I made.
Loket and Cesky Krumlov are both settled by the river and very similar to each other. Both crown their natural beauty with their magnificent architecture and fairy-tale castle. But there are also big differences between them and this is mainly originated from Cesky Krumlov being heavily haunted by massive tourism.
Cesky Krumlov is a historical city with a population of 14.000, but it attracts around 57 times more of its population (average 800.000) of tourists every year. It is definitely a spectacular and magnificent city but it is not possible to see the harmful results of hosting so many tourists. If you visit Cesky Krumlov in the high season, even walking through the narrow streets of this beautiful city with history can become a challenge. You must expect long lines to get to the legendary castle or even to buy an authentic gift from a store. At this point, the real problem is based on mass tourism rather than travelers’ desire to discover. The number of big tour buses I saw in this small city was incredible. This mass tourism bustle probably constitutes the biggest percentage in creating excessive crowd and traffic to this town. The worst part of these tours is that these massive crowds are guided quickly through the same route without enjoying the city at all. The excursion is completed in a fast way, only for taking “best pictures”, and visitors are encouraged to shop at contracted outsourcing businesses at higher prices. So, what do the city and locals gain from that?
(A view from Cesky Krumlov Castle)
At another point, the trip I had experienced in the town of Loket was much more special and flawless, no matter how small the place was. This pretty destination was mostly visited by travelers who followed their special interests. On the one hand, those who love camping enjoy the unique nature of this beautiful town, while motocross enthusiasts experience adrenaline-filled memories on the trails in the forest. For those adrenaline seekers, "Loket MX" races are held every year. And there are lots of paths around this town and I can guarantee that you will not get tired while hiking. After an unforgettable hiking route, you can enjoy a feast in any restaurant or a pub that is run by the locals of the town and support them by rewarding yourself with a cold beer or a traditional meal. Also a small note for James Bond fans; Some scenes of the movie Casino Royale were also shot in Loket.
(Loket panorama from a hiking trail)
Consequently, the main point in this comparison is to show different results of the tourism approach rather than comparing these two beautiful destinations. Cesky Krumlov is a lovely place and definitely worth a visit. However, what I really want to emphasize based on my experience is that travelers, stakeholders, and governments should focus on more sustainable ways for tourism to conserve those beauties for the next generations without deterioration. As travelers, we should be more responsible when visiting a place, and this will help us to enjoy more than just restricting ourselves. If we look at the things from this point of view, we will see that tourism does not consist only of seeing a different place and taking a photo there buying a refrigerator magnet and rushing to another spot right after. We are all equally responsible for the preservation and carry these beauties into the future.
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