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Prague
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August 21, 2017
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Czech Republic Travel Guide - with Wired Destinations

     

Discount Hotels in Czech Republic : Prague

 

Tourism in the Czech Republic is relatively new (since the 1989 Velvet Revolution) and is largely focused on Prague in central Bohemia. Attractions in the capital city of Prague include wonderful museums, concerts, and galleries. Many day trips are available from Prague, like to the delightful spas in towns like Karlovy Vary and Mariánské Láznì, and to settlements like Kutná Hora and castles like Karlštejn. The rest of the country has much to offer as well, and although prices have continued to rise over the past decade, the country still represents very good value for money.

The Šumava Mountains of south Bohemia offer an excellent range of outdoor activities in addition to well-preserved medieval towns like Èeský Krumlov. Hiking amidst the fantastic scenery in the mountains of northeastern Bohemia (Èeský Ráj) is another worthwhile pastime. In the relaxed eastern half of the country, Moravia, life proceeds at a leisurely pace. The city of Brno provides a convenient base for exploring historic towns like Olomouc and Kromìøíž.

Overall, the Czech Republic is a great place to explore fascinating castles, churches and other architectural creations. Renowned for its musicians, the country plays host to all manner of concerts and festivals. Czechs are very hospitable people and are eager to make visitors feel at home.

Just over 10 million people make the Czech Republic their home. It is located in central Europe, sharing borders with Germany, Poland, the Slovak Republic and Austria. With an area of 78,866 sq km (30,450 sq miles), it is about one-quarter of the size of the British Isles.

The food, based on Austro-Hungarian cuisine, is hearty and delicious. Wiener schnitzel and pork are popular choices. Czech specialities include bramborak (a potato pancake filled with garlic and herbs), and Prague ham. Sauerkraut (zeli) and a type of dumpling called knedliky are usually served with meat dishes. Fresh vegetables are quite often missing in many lower-class restaurants. Restaurants, beer taverns and wine cellars are plentiful and varied. Popular beverages include beers (lager, dark ales, and pilsner), red, white and sparkling wines from Moravia and Bohemia, fruit juices and liqueurs. Liqueur specialities include becherovka (an herb brandy) and two Moravian favourites, slivovice (plum brandy) and merunkovice (apricot brandy). There are no strict licensing hours.

Bohemian crystal, glass, pottery, porcelain, wooden folk carvings, hand-embroidered clothing, and food items make good gifts to bring home. There are a number of shops specialising in glass and crystal, while various associations of regional artisans run their own retail outlets. Special souvenirs worth shopping for include pottery (particularly from Kolovec and Straznice); china ornaments and geyser stone carvings from Karlovy Vary; delicate needle and lace embroidery from many of towns in Moravian; and deep red garnets and other semi-precious stones from Bohemia.

Throughout the year, there are numerous occasions to enjoy music in concert halls, theatres, stately homes and churches, as the country is one of the most musical in Central Europe. Most towns have their own folk festivals featuring dance, local costumes and food. These tend to be during the summer months leading up to the harvest festivals in September.

Prague

The capital city sometimes referred to as ‘Golden Prague’ or ‘The City of One Hundred Towers and Spires’, reflects the image of a fascinating city. After centuries of escaping the worst ravages of war, the city still displays a rich architectural heritage. In a subtle manner, Prague was largely viewed as a model city under the Warsaw Pact during the Communist era. The city, free from years of oppression, has now returned to its former glory since the 1989 Velvet Revolution.

Prague is situated in the Vltava (Moldau) River valley and is overlooked by a castle perched on the foothills to the west. Visitors are attracted to the ‘fairy tale’ aspect of the city but this is only part of its vibrant blend of characters.

Prague is best explored on foot where gothic churches and ultra-modern architecture line the sidewalks. Where strains of classical music blend with jazz and rock and where historical statues look down on abstract works of art. The entire city centre has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Prague’s was established by the Pøemyslid King Otakar II (1253–78), when the town was organised into three administrative districts – the Castle precincts (Hradèany), the Lesser Town below the Castle (Malá Strana) and Old Town (Staré Mìsto).

Charles IV of Bohemia was elected Holy Roman Emperor in 1346 marking the beginning of the city’s golden age. Initiating an ambitious building programme of such gothic structures as St Vitus Cathedral, the Charles Bridge, the University, and the New Town (Nové Mìsto), centred on Wenceslas Square, transformed Prague into one of the greatest and most powerful cities in Europe. Nationalism reasserted itself in the late 18th century as a result of the Hapsburg rule. Throughout the 19th century, the creation of a nationalistic architectural style brought further changes. The Jewish ghetto was later demolished to make way for Art Nouveau buildings. Czechoslovakia gained independence at the end of World War I. Now freed from the control of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Prague blossomed. The new artistic styles of Cubism, Art Deco and Functionalism found a place in the city’s architecture and arts. The Jazz Age influences arrived from America, as Prague was now poised for the importation of popular culture. Prague took only what it wanted, however, while keeping its unique identity. Years of Nazi and Communist suppression could not stifle the Czech spirit; the city reclaimed its reputation for cultural excellence when it threw off dreary social practicality in the 1990s.

Visiting Prague is best done when the hoards of mid-summer tourists have left. If you are not opposed to chilly temperatures, winter finds the city calm and relaxed. Extreme temperatures do exist but not generally for extended periods. Precipitation is at its maximum during the autumn months. Prague was chosen as one of the European cities of culture for the year 2000. The city’s theme of ‘urban transformation’ was, and will continue to be, an idea that will carry this exciting metropolis forward well into the next century.


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