Liberec

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Coordinates: 50°43′N 15°4′E / 50.717°N 15.067°E / 50.717; 15.067
Liberec
City
Liberec, radnice, výhled 01.jpg
Flag
Country Czech Republic
Region Liberec
District Liberec
Elevation 374 m (1,227 ft)
Coordinates 50°43′N 15°4′E / 50.717°N 15.067°E / 50.717; 15.067
Area 106.1 km2 (41 sq mi)
Population 102,301
Density 968 / km2 (2,507 / sq mi)
First mentioned 1352
Mayor Martina Rosenbergová (Czech Social Democratic Party)
Postal code 460 01
Location in the Czech Republic
Location in the Czech Republic
Wikimedia Commons: Liberec
Statistics: statnisprava.cz
Website: www.liberec.cz

Liberec /ˈlɪbərɛts/ (Czech pronunciation: [ˈlɪbɛrɛt͡s] ( ); German: Reichenberg [ˈʀaɪ̯çənbɛʁk]) is a city in the Czech Republic. Located on the Lusatian Neisse and surrounded by the Jizera Mountains and Ještěd-Kozákov Ridge, it is the fifth-largest city in the Czech Republic.

Settled by German and Flemish migrants from the 14th century until their expulsion after World War II, Liberec was once home to a thriving textile industry and hence nicknamed the "Manchester of Bohemia". For many Czechs, Liberec is mostly associated with the city's dominant Ještěd Tower. Since the end of the 19th century, the city has been a conurbation with the suburb of Vratislavice/Maffersdorf and the neighboring town of Jablonec nad Nisou (Gablonz an der Neisse). Therefore the total area with suburbs encompasses 150,000 inhabitants. This makes Liberec the third-largest city (with suburbs) in Bohemia after Prague and Pilsen.

Liberec Castle

History[edit]

Liberec was first mentioned in a document from 1348, and from 1622 to 1634 was among the possessions of Albrecht von Wallenstein. After his death it belonged to the Gallas and Clam Gallas families. The cloth-making industry was introduced in 1579. The prosperous local industry was interrupted by the Thirty Years' War and a great plague in the 1680s. The Battle of Reichenberg between Austria and Prussia occurred nearby in 1757 during the Seven Years' War.

Until 1918, the town was part of the Austrian monarchy (Austrian side after the compromise of 1867), seat of the Reichenberg district, one of the 94 Bezirkshauptmannschaften in Bohemia.[1]

At one time the second city of Bohemia,[2] the city developed rapidly at the end of the 19th century and as a result has a spectacular collection of late 19th century buildings; the town hall, the opera house, and the Severočeské Muzeum (North Bohemian Museum) are of significant note. The Opera House has a spectacular main curtain that was designed by the Austrian artist Gustav Klimt. The neighborhoods on the hills above the town center display beautiful homes and streets, laid out in a picturesque Romantic style similar to some central European thermal spas.

After the end of World War I Austria-Hungary fell apart. The Czechs of Bohemia joined newly established Czechoslovakia on the 29th of October 1918, while the Germans joined German Austria on the 12th of November 1918, both citing Woodrow Wilson's Fourteen Points and the doctrine of self-determination. Reichenberg was declared the capital of the German-Austrian province of German Bohemia. On the 16th of December 1918 the Czechoslovak Army occupied Reichenberg and the whole province and both became part of Czechoslovakia.

During the 1920s and 1930s, Liberec became the unofficial capital of Germans in Czechoslovakia. This position was underlined by the foundation of important institutions, like Buecherei der Deutschen, a central German library in Czechoslovakia and by failed efforts to relocate the German (Charles) University from Prague to Liberec.

Bilingual railway station postmark in April 1920

The Great Depression devastated the economy of the area with its textile, carpet, glass and other light industry. The high number of unemployed people, hunger, fear of the future and dissatisfaction with the Prague government led to the flash rise of the populist Sudeten German Party (SdP) founded by Konrad Henlein, born in the suburbs of Liberec. Whilst he declared fidelity to the Republic, he secretly negotiated with Adolf Hitler. In 1937 he radicalised his views and became Hitler's puppet in order to incorporate the Sudetenland into Germany and destabilise Czechoslovakia, which was an ally of France and was one of the leading arms producers in Europe.

The city became the centre of Pan-German movements and later the Nazis especially after the 1935 election, despite its important democratic mayor, Karl Kostka (German Democratic Freedom Party). The final change came in summer 1938, after the radicalisation of the terror of the SdP, whose death threats forced Kostka and his family to flee to Prague.

In September 1938, after two unsuccessful attempts by the SdP to stage a pro-Nazi coup in Czechoslovakia, which were stopped by police and the army, the Munich Agreement in 1938 awarded the city to Nazi Germany and it became the capital of the Sudetengau region. Most of the city's Jewish and Czech population fled to the rest of Czechoslovakia or was expelled. The important synagogue was burned down.

After World War II, the town again became a part of Czechoslovakia, and nearly all of the city's German population was expelled, following the Beneš decrees. The region was then resettled with Czechs. The city continues to have an important German minority, consisting of anti-Nazi Germans who were active in the struggle against Hitler, as well as Germans from Czech-German families and their descendants. Liberec also has a Jewish minority with a newly built synagogue and a Greek minority, originating from Communist refugees who settled there after the Greek Civil War in 1949.

Historical names[edit]

The origin of the city name had been the subject of many discussions, often even nationally influenced, because it has been a bilingual settlement.

The medieval German words Reychinberch (1352) and Raichmberg (1369), mean "rich/resourceful mountain" (reicher Berg in modern German). Also appeared names Reichenberg (1385) and Rychmberg (1410).

The Czech equivalent originated as a distortion: Rychberk (1545), Lychberk (1592), Libercum (1634), Liberk (1790) and finally Liberec (1845). In Czech, words starting with "R" were often dissimilated into "L".[3] Since then the city was known in Czech as Liberec and in German as Reichenberg (after WWII also Liberec).

The old street name Hablau near city centre is considered to be a trace of old village possibly founded by Havel of Lemberk, husband of Saint Zdislava Berka.

Science and technology[edit]

Side view of the Regional Research Library
  • Technical University of Liberec (Technická Univerzita v Liberci): Founded in 1953 as a Technical College. In 1995 gained the status of a university. It has about 10,000 students in 6 schools (Mechanical Engineering, Textile Engineering, Architecture, Mechatronics, Humanities and Nature and Economics). Applied research in mechatronics, important school of architecture.
  • Regional Science Library (Krajská vědecká knihovna): A general public science library, aiming at general education in the region. Originally founded in 1923 as a new umbrella library Buecherei der Deutschen. New building was completed in 2000. It has an exceptional collection of Germano-Slavica and Sudetica (periodicals and books in German language from Bohemia). Its building comprises also a modern synagogue.
  • The North Bohemian Museum (Severočeské muzeum): Built in 1873. It ranks among the oldest and most significant museums of nature sciences, arts and crafts in the Czech Republic. There is the sculpture of T.G. Masaryk from 2010 standing in front of the Museum.
Tornádo waterslide in Liberec Aquapark

Sights[edit]

Liberec's prominent buildings are the Town Hall (1893), the Liberec Castle (Liberecký zámek), built in the 16th century, and the Ještěd Tower (1968) upon the Ještěd Mountain, build by architect Karel Hubáček, which became a symbol of the city. Václav Havel held a broadcast from the site of the tower in 1968; a plaque beside the tower marks this event. Contemporary buildings of note are also to be found, primarily the work of the firm SIAL, and include the new Regional Research Library (2000) and the Česká Pojišťovna office building (1997). Neo-Renaissance F. X. Šalda theatre was built in 1871-1872. Centrum Babylon Liberec include a large water park, an amusement park, a casino, shopping court and hotel.

Zoo and botanical garden[edit]

White tiger in Liberec Zoo
  • The zoo in Liberec was the first to be opened in Czechoslovakia in 1919. The zoo contains a wide variety of fauna (about 143 species on 13 ha), including large mammals like elephants, giraffes, sea lions and white tigers, which are a genetic anomaly and hence very rare. It participates in breeding activities of endangered species to help preserving the gene pool.
  • The Botanical Garden in Liberec (completely rebuilt from Kučera 1995 to 2000) comprises nine glasshouses for visitors (with a total area of 3,000 m2 (32,291.73 sq ft) and 13 exhibition themes), nine plantation glasshouses and a large exterior terrain. It continues the legacy of a botanical garden established in 1876 by the Verein der Naturfreunde ("Society of Friends of Nature") on a nearby site and it is therefore considered the oldest one in the Czech Republic.

Events[edit]

  • Mateřinka, a theatre festival biennially held in June

Transport[edit]

Cable car to Ještěd

Liberec city transport provides bus and tram lines. The first tram was used in Liberec in 1897. Liberec shares the narrow gauge tramway line which connects it to its neighboring city, Jablonec nad Nisou which is 12 km away. There are also two city lines with standard gauge: The first connects Horní Hanychov (not far to the cable car to Ještěd) and Lidové Sady via Fügnerova. The second connects Dolní Hanychov and Lidové Sady via Fügnerova (only during workdays). There also four historical trams. In the city centre there are two tracks as a memorial, in the past trams were used also on the central place in front of town hall. A private international airport is located 2,5 km from Liberec, at the nearby village of Ostašov.

Sports[edit]

The city is home to FC Slovan Liberec, a football club founded in Liberec and currently playing the Gambrinus liga, the highest division of Czech football. Slovan Liberec is one of the most successful clubs in the Czech Republic, having won three league titles. Ice hockey team HC Bílí Tygři Liberec play in the Czech Extraliga, the highest national ice hockey league.

Liberec has hosted two European Luge Championships, having done so in 1914 and 1939. In 2009, it hosted the FIS Nordic World Ski Championships. The Ski Jumping World Cup always comes to Liberec in January. The World Karate Championships took place in May 2011.

Notable people[edit]

The F. X. Šalda theatre in Liberec

International relations[edit]

View of Liberec from Ještěd

Twin towns – sister cities[edit]

Liberec is twinned with:

Closest cities, towns and villages[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Die postalischen Abstempelungen auf den österreichischen Postwertzeichen-Ausgaben 1867, 1883 und 1890, Wilhelm Klein, 1967
  2. ^ Di Duca, Marc. Bradt's Czech Republic (2006)
  3. ^ The German version of this article

External links[edit]