The town of Žatec in the Loune region is brimming with anticipation as it seeks inclusion in the UNESCO World Heritage List. The final decision is set to be made in just a week at a committee meeting in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The creators of the nomination, which they had to refine, believe that Žatec’s hop story is a unique gem on a global scale, leading to the nomination of Žatec and its hop landscape.
The city is banking on a potential surge in tourists, with preparations already in place, such as a dedicated parking lot for tour buses near the Temple of Hops and Beer. Awareness of the area’s hop heritage is steadily growing among the locals.
The journey towards this prestigious nomination has spanned several years and was ignited by passionate patriots and enthusiasts keen on preserving hop-related landmarks for future generations.
Jaroslav Špička, director of the Temple of Hops and Beer, explained, “The local association, Chmelobrana, conceived the idea of safeguarding the authenticity of hop storehouses. In 2007, the city, along with monuments associated with hop processing, were included in the Czech Republic’s Indicative List, marking the beginning of documentation preparation.”
The Nomination was submitted long ago. The committee recognized its intriguing subject matter, previously absent from the list, but returned it to the Czech Republic for revisions. Olga Bukovičová, the preparation coordinator, who will be present at the Riyadh meeting, said, “The task was to comprehensively depict the entire story of hops in the documentation, encompassing not just its processing but also its cultivation within the surrounding landscape.”
The exceptional global value lies within the landscape molded by hop cultivation, the urbanism embracing Žatec’s urban conservation reserve, Prague’s suburbs, and the village with the Stekník castle, nestled amidst the hop fields.
In January 2021, the Czech Republic submitted a refined nomination. Mayor Radim Laibl (ANO) expressed his enthusiasm, saying, “Now, we are poised to add the final touch, which will enhance the prestige, not only of Žatec and the Ústí Region but also the entire Czech Republic. We are eager and hopeful. After the years we’ve dedicated to this endeavor, we believe it will yield positive results.”
He added, “On the flip side, we are already addressing practical matters, such as parking facilities, accommodations, and restaurants. Some doubts linger about whether the city is fully prepared for the potential influx of tourists,” the mayor admitted.
Despite the challenges, locals believe that the benefits of potential UNESCO recognition far outweigh any drawbacks. In recent weeks, several long-closed restaurants in the city have reopened. “This may be linked to the impending decision,” the mayor pointed out.
According to Špička, there are already visible signs of gradual adaptation by local entrepreneurs, which is benefiting both the city and its residents. Mayor Laibl emphasized the need for businesses to adapt, especially in terms of accepting card payments, and the city is already planning workshops to showcase available projects related to registration.
The town hall remains committed to supporting the owners of historic buildings. Through a special fund, they contribute to the restoration of properties, some of which may not even be considered cultural monuments.
“The gradual success in convincing property owners is evident. Today, as I look out of the town hall window onto the square, all the properties have undergone repairs,” remarked the mayor of Žatec, a city that has served as the backdrop for numerous historical films. The cityscape, once dotted with dilapidated buildings, has significantly improved in recent years in its pursuit of UNESCO recognition.