Europe

Czech Republic Travel Guide Information

The Czech republic is one of the parts of the country that most knew under the name of Czechoslovakia. The landlocked country (it doesn’t border on any sea) is situated in the geographic center of Europe and consists of three historical areas – Bohemia, Moravia and the Czech part of Silesia. The Czech Republic is called the roof of Europe since all the rivers which have their source in the area drain into neighboring countries. After World War II, Czechoslovakia fell within the Soviet sphere of influence. In 1968, an invasion by Warsaw Pact troops ended the efforts of the country’s leaders to liberalize party rule and create “socialism with a human face.” Anti-Soviet demonstrations the following year ushered in a period of harsh repression. With the collapse of Soviet authority in 1989, Czechoslovakia regained its freedom through a peaceful “Velvet Revolution.” On 1 January 1993, the country underwent a “velvet divorce” into its two national components, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Now a member of NATO, the Czech Republic has moved toward integration in world markets, a development that poses both opportunities and risks. here are about 10 million people in the Czech Republic.

The Czech Republic really dates from the 1989 Velvet Revolution and has largely focused on Prague (near the middle of Bohemia), with its great museums, galleries, concerts and other attractions. Many day trips are possible from Prague, including the great western spa towns of Karlovy Vary and Mariánské Láznì, early settlements like Kutná Hora and castles like Karlstejn. However, the rest of the country has much to offer to the independent traveler. The country possesses an immense number of fascinating castles, churches and other architectural gems. It has always been known for its musicians, and there are an enormous number of all types of concerts and festivals to choose from.

The territory of the Czech Republic was historically one of the most economically developed and industrialised parts of Europe. As the only country in central Europe to remain a democracy until 1938, the then Czechoslovakia was among the ten most developed industrial states of the world before the second world war. Coal and lignite are in abundant supply. There are also deposits of mercury, antimony, tin, lead, zinc and iron ore, and a number of major European uranium deposits. Processing industries (machinery, steel, chemicals, glass, and agri-food) are the most highly developed. Cereals, sugar beet and hops are intensively cultivated, although agriculture plays a comparatively small role alongside the traditional engineering and other industries.

The attractiveness of the Czech Republic and especially of its capital city, Prague, lies in a remarkable historical and architectural heritage stretching back over 1 000 years, and brings over 10 million visitors a year to the Czech Republic. Throughout the centuries, Prague preserved its unrivaled richness of historical monuments of different styles. Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, Art Nouveau and cubism form a unique aesthetic unit. The Czechs love traveling, both abroad and inside their own country, visiting plenty of castles built in the past centuries which still dominate the Czech landscape. Many monuments of folk architecture, picturesque villages and living traditions of folk music and local folk costumes are typical for the Moravian region.

Goethe called this country ‘a continent within a continent’ because, he said, it has everything a continent needs except a coastline. With hills, highlands and mountains covering more than 95 percent of the territory, it is ideal for skiing, mountain biking and hill-walking. Sport is very popular in the Czech Republic which is very famous for its ice hockey and tennis champions. Czech beverages such as Czech beer (Pils) or mineral water from more than 900 natural springs (a world record) are extremely popular.

Where to go:

1. Prague

Prague (Praha) is the capital city of the Czech Republic and is situated on the Vltava river in central Bohemia,. The “Golden City”is presently undergoing a period of great changes after having once again become a free metropolis of Central Europe. This magical city of two million inhabitants is situated on both banks of the Vltava River, which flows northward through the heart of town. Since 1992, the historic center of Prague has been included in the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites. A wealth of architectural forms, ranging from Romanesque and Gothic through Renaissance and Baroque to Art Nouveau, Cubism and Deconstructionist, co-exist in an unusual harmony.

Prague was constructed upon five hills and is shrouded in the mystery of a glorious, tragic past. The history of Prague has been intertwined with that of Europe for eleven centuries. Despite its cosmopolitan character, which can be seen in the broad range of architectural styles, the city has maintained its purely Czech nature . The original town was built on both banks of the Vltava River in a valley between two castles. One of them, the Vysehrad Castle, royal seat only to the Czech King Vratislav, was situated in the southern portion of the city. Today, the Church of Saints Peter and Paul stands upon this site, as well as Slavin cemetery, burial place of many great men and famous personalities. Construction of Prague Castle was begun in the 9th century, and it has been home to heads of state from the middle ages until the present.

By the 14th century, Prague had already become a metropolis, surpassing many other Central European cities in grandeur. The city was not damaged a lot during World War II, and , therefore, the old cityscape has retained its stunning beauty. Its compact medieval center is a wondrous maze of cobbled lanes, ancient courtyards, dark passages and churches beyond number, all watched over by an 1100-year-old castle. After the end of the communist era , Prague has once again become one of Europe’s most popular tourist destinations. Its traditional pubs and eateries have been augmented by a wave of gourmet restaurants, cocktail bars and trendy cafes. The Old Town, the Lesser Town and the New Town speak of the great architectural and cultural influence enjoyed by this city since the Middle Ages.The centerpiece of the Old Town, located on the eastern bank of the Vltava, is the Old Town Square and original Old Town Hall, which boasts the famous Prague astronomical clock. Across the square stands the monumental Church of Our Lady of Tyn. From the Old Town Square wind numerous narrow streets and alleys full of remarkable sights, including churches, cathedrals, galleries and museums, antique shops, and centuries-old wine and beer cellars.

In the old town lies the “ Prague Ghetto” or the Jewish Town. Its origins date back to the 9th century, when it began as a colony of Jewish merchants who permanently settled in Prague. In the 17th century it became Central Europe’s Hebrew metropolis. The Old Jewish Cemetery, with more than 200,000 graves, houses the remains of many of the most significant members of Prague’s former Jewish community. Nearby stands the Charles Bridge, Prague’s oldest stone bridge. Built by Petr Parler of Gmund over six hundred years ago on the order of King Charles IV., it leads to Mala Strana. This quarter is probably the most romantic in Prague, with its beautiful architecture and many gardens. Further along from the bridge lies Malostranske Square, followed by Nerudova Street and the Castle Stairs, which lead to the gates of Prague Castle.

2. Plzen

Plzen (Pilzen) is a city in the Czech Republic in western Bohemia, the capital of Plzen Region. The Czech King Wenceslas II founded the city on the confluence of the Radbuza and Mze rivers in 1295 , only 9 kilometers north-west of the original Old Plzen. Plzen was the center of Catholic resistance to the Hussites during the so called Hussite wars;; it was three times unsuccessfully attacked by Prokop the Great, and it took part in the league of the Romanist lords against King George of Podebrady. During the Thirty Years’ War the town was taken by Mansfeld in 1618 and not recaptured by the Imperialists till 1621. Wallenstein made it his winter-quarters in 1633.

The town was unsuccessfully besieged by the Swedes in 1637 and 1648. Plzen, like every other occupied city, suffered greatly during the course of World War II and its once prosperous and successful Jewish community was decimated. The years of Soviet oppression that followed did little to revive the fortunes of either, but following the Velvet Revolution of 1989 the city and its resident Jews have bounced back and are ushering in a brand new era.

3. Brno

Brno is situated around the confluence of two rivers-the Svratka and the Svitava. It is a significant commercial, cultural and social center located directly in the heart of a wine-growing region of South Moravia. The city of Brno has always been an important trading crossroads for journeys from the Baltic to the Adriatic Sea and from the West to the East. Brno is now the second largest city in the Czech Republic by population and the third largest city by area. The city celebrated 750 years of “city status”. It was founded around year 1000. Brno originated as a early medieval ford across the Svratka river in around 1100, Brno parlayed its location on important trade routes into becoming the capital of the Great Moravian Empire, before being annexed by Bohemia. This annexation made the city a catholic center, something unique in the heretical Czech lands.

The silhouette of Brno is highlighted by the Cathedral of St. Peter and Paul and the Špilberk fortress from the 13th century.The cathedral stands on Petrov Hill. It was originally a Romanesque basilica of the of 12th century, it became a Gothic structure during the 14th century. During the first half of the 18th century it was refashioned by Moritz Grimm and furnished in contemporary style with the fine sculptural work by Andreas Schweigl. Its Gothic appearance was restored in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Under the St. Peter and Paul cathedral lies the Capuchin Crypt . It features a pleasingly gruesome taste of the hereafter, with its collection of mummified nobles and monks, many still in their original garb.

The Franciscan church of St. John is also of medieval origin. It contains a sculptured Madonna of the 14th century, wall paintings from 1504 and baroque fresco by Jan J. Etgens. The architecture of the Dominican monastery and its church of St. Michael dates from the first half of the 13th century, though its present appearance is the result of the Baroque alterations carried out in 1655-1679 by Jan Erna and Domenico Martinelli.

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