The oldest archaeological findings show that the area along the rivers Vltava, Malše and Otava were settled as early as the Neolithic (about 6,000 B.C.) period. Preserved cairn graves from the Bronze Age (about 1,400 B.C.) are a typical sign of early agricultural cultures passing though this area. The Iron Age was the time when the Celts came to the region (5th century B.C.). At this time, the Celtic cairn burial grounds began to be accompanied by characteristic fortified settlements called oppida, whose remnants can be found in many places in South Bohemia. At the time of the Migration Period (4th to 6th century), our region was settled by various Germanic tribes, such as the Marcomanni, who later also settled in the area of nearby Bavaria. In the 5th and 6th centuries, Slavs began to arrive to our region and the settlement of South Bohemia continued as much as the forested and often impassable landscape allowed. Paths and settlements were first established along the rivers which were also an important method of transportation. The foothills of the Bohemian Forest were settled earlier than the mountain areas due to a more favourable natural environment, higher temperatures and the greater possibility to provide food.
The credit for the colonisation of the Bohemian Forest ranges since the 13th century should be given in particular to the Witikonides, the Czech king and the Bavarians on the German side of the mountain range. Systematic colonisation of areas around the headwaters of Vltava began under the reign of Vok I of Rožmberk (1220 – 1262). For centuries, a fight for power raged here between local noblemen. On one side, there was Český Krumlov, the residential town of the Witikonides and the Rožmberks, and the monastery of Vyšší Brod, which was always strongly supported and influenced by the Rožmberks. On the other side, there was the royal town of České Budějovice and the monastery of Zlatá Koruna, symbols of the King’s power, which were to prevent the expansiveness of the Witikonides and later the Rožmberks.
In the Bohemian Forest region, the Czech and German people have mingled for time immemorial, and there were a number of mixed families, people often speaking both languages. In the mid 16th century, glassmaking and timber harvesting began to flourish in the area. The original settlers cut and burnt trees to acquire land for cultivation. However, wood gradually became an important material that could be sold. The question arose as to what would be the best way to transport the wood inland? The answer was rafting – using rafts on the Vltava River. In 1590, Petr Vok of Rožmberk issued the first rafting rules for Vltava and the development of rafting climaxed at the end of the 18th century with the construction of the Schwarzenberg Canal.
The development of science and technology in the 18th and 19th centuries did not reach into the border region too much, and the economic lag of the Bohemian Forest region behind the inland continued. From today’s point of view, it contributed to preserve the environment, although the everyday life of the people was certainly not easy. At the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, industry finally made its way to this area, specifically wood processing, textile manufacturing and paper production.
Both world wars brought a number of economic, political and social problems, including casualties, to the region, just like throughout the whole republic. The political events after 1945 had a fundamental impact on the appearance and development of the Bohemian Forest border region. The displacement of German people caused the depopulation of many regions within the Czech-Austrian and Czech-German borderlands. A number of small villages became extinct because repopulation was too slow; moreover, after the Iron Curtain was drawn, the entire area on the right bank of the Vltava which runs along the border was severely guarded and the movement of people was restricted. During the collectivisation in the 1950s, high-capacity agricultural subjects began to be built. If we leave aside the political goal and the hardship caused to many families, the said building project also brought job opportunities to remote areas. At the same time, however, residential and cultural houses began to be constructed in inappropriate places. As a result, the architectonic appearance of most municipalities within the Bohemian Forest region is adversely affected even today. An important event was the construction of the Lipno Reservoir, which boosted the development of this part of the region economically and socially, and also increased the protection of the state border and scrutiny of the people. A great benefit for the protection of nature and the landscape of the Bohemian Forest was the declaration of the Protected Landscape Area in 1963.
After the opening of the borders in 1989, new crossings were established, people began to pursue business in lodging and catering services, the appearance of towns and villages improved unbelievably thanks to reconstructions and refurbishments of house facades, and investors became interested in the Lipno Region. All these factors contributed to the revival of the whole region and supported the development of modern tourism. In 1991, as the next level of protection for particularly precious localities, the Bohemian Forest was declared the Šumava National Park. Municipalities located close to the border associate in microregions and establish partner relationships with municipalities in neighbouring Austria and Germany.