The area surrounding the town of Český Krumlov has a rich mining history, and a tradition not only in the mining of graphite, but of silver and gold as well. Graphite was mined and processed here more than two thousand years ago when the ancient Celts produced oven-baked pottery.
The origins of silver and gold mining hasn't been clearly established; the oldest preserved written record dates back to 1475, when brothers Heinrich and Peter Wok von Rosenberg granted mining privileges to five miners.
The greatest expansion in the mining of precious metals occurred from 1519 to 1550, when there was even a foundry set up Český Krumlov.
One of the local galleries, originally an exploratory tunnel, is also connected with silver mining. We cannot accurately place it within the historical time line of mining in Český Krumlov, however, due to a lack of historical documents.
However, we do know that that the Germans utilized this same exploratory tunnel during the Second World when they used it as a makeshift shelter. About a few years later, the gallery was then exploited as an ideal space for aging cheese containing mould: for Niva.
Niva cheese production was introduced in 1942 by Andrej Charitonov in Český Krumlov's dairy, which had been put into operation by German farmers. Mr. Charitonov, who was of Donskoi Cossack origin, managed the DELGE dairy in České Budějovice during the occupation and took over the management of the Český Krumlov dairy in March, 1948.
Soon afterwards, he began seeking a long-term production plan for the dairy and, together with Swiss cheesemaker Otto Puchertem, put blue cheese into production. Wheels of Niva were originally left to age in cellars along Rybářská Street, which had remained empty after graphite mining had ended. In 1960, Niva began to be aged in an abandoned tunnel in the rock near a plant that had been taken over by the dairy from the Rudný Mining Company.
In 1973, the Rudný Mining Company completed project plans for expanding space for the aging of cheese. Digging began a year later, but because the rock was not sufficiently solid, the whole project had to be canceled.
The next chapter began in July, 1976 in other locations that had been confirmed as suitable by geological surveys. Digging began at a location where you can still find a small dilapidated house. This all took place from 1977 to 1981, and all while the dairy was under full operation.
The digging of the new tunnels was carried out by specialists in mine tunnels from the Rudný Mining Company’s Bližná Mine; the result their work was 690 meters of galleries as high and wide as the Prague Metro tunnels, which connected to the original 110-meter-long gallery.
The tunnels that had been dug into the rock are cut through metamorphosed limestone, i.e. marble. The deepest spot is sixty meters from the surface through solid rock and the ventilation shaft opens onto Ptáčník Hill.
Cheeses containing blue-green mould were aged within these limestone tunnels till 2005. At that time new, two-story, above-ground aging cellars were put into service which have an annual capacity of 4,000 tons of cheese. The equipment within them guarantee the required temperature and humidity for the aging of cheeses without the fluctuations which sometimes bedeviled Krumlov's cheesemakers in the old tunnels.
These underground galleries had remained empty from 2005, but two years ago intensive mining, reconstruction, masonry work and other labor were begun whose results have transformed them beyond recognition into the MADETA GALLERIES. Though the Niva cheese that has been connected with Český Krumlov for over sixty years is no longer aged here, it again has a place within them. Together with high-quality Bohemian and Moravian wines and a very pleasant environment, it all comes together to create an unforgettable and inspirational experience.
Andrej Charitonov - the first from the left
|1950 - Ripening cellar on Rybářská Street|