The Bata Canal is a man-made waterway that runs through South Moravia. Surrounded by numerous historical sites and a beautiful landscape, tens of thousands of tourists take a ride down the canal every year. But this year, it is expected to attract many more visitors as, for the first time in over a decade, they are able to travel into neighbouring Slovakia without facing a fine.
Southern Moravia celebrated on Monday. For the first time since Czechoslovakia split into two separate states in 1993, those travelling down the Bata Canal are able to cross the border into Slovakia. Thanks to a new bilateral agreement, both countries have built border crossings directly on the waterway. In the Czech Republic, there are three of them but they are only open in four thirty-minute intervals every day. "When the border crossings are open, people can stop here, show their identification and carry on to Slovakia", a border policeman said at the opening.
The Bata Canal - named after the Czech shoe magnate Tomas Bata - was built in the 1930s. Its purpose was to increase the ground water level and to enable irrigation of the surrounding land but it was primarily used to transport coal to the Bata shoe company. Today, it is a tourist attraction. With the new border crossings, visitors can start off in Moravia's Otrokovice and end their trip in Slovakia's Skalica. Vojtech Bartek is from the Bata Canal administration:
With the closest other similar waterways as far away as France and Britain, the Czech tourist authority hopes that the Bata Canal will become one of the country's main tourist destinations. Vojtech Bartek:
"From Otrokovice to Skalica, the Bata Canal is 53 kilometres long. It has thirteen locks and you can visit many interesting places along the waterway. There are, for example, regional wine galleries, trade fairs, wine cellars, castles, windmills, and other attractions. In our region, we also have famous folklore festivals. There is an international folklore festival in Straznice and in a part of our region called Hornacko we have two summer festivals 'Hornacke Slavnosti' and 'Ozveni Hornacka' and in Veseli nad Moravou we have a folklore festival for children called 'Stepi'."
A new project is underway to extend the Bata Canal. If the plan gets the green light from the Environment Ministry, visitors will be able to travel from Moravia's Otrokovice, down to Slovakia's Skalica, and then back into the Czech Republic to Hodonin, where a ten-kilometre waterway is already open.
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