Czech Republic 30,000 square miles. Borders with Germany, Austria, Slovakia and Poland.
Most people live in small villages of under 5,000 inhabitants
Prague (Praha) on Vltava (or Moldau). Prettiest city in Eastern Europe, if not in the entire continent. Charles Bridge, Old Town Square, Wenceslas Square (originally the horse market), Hradcany Castle, Tyn Church, St. Vitus' Cathedral, Mala Strana, Stare Mesto, Novy Mesto. European Capital of Culture 2000. Castle founded by Borivoj 870, seat of ruling Bohemian dynasty from 894. Don Giovanni premiered here. Amadeus filmed here (Archbishop's Palace). Also Mission Impossible. Wallenstein Palace. Magic Lantern. Amazing range of architectural styles: Romanesque, Gothic, Baroque, Rococo, Art Nouveau and Cubist.
There is a lot of walking involved in he full guided tour. It should last almost four hours. It is all downhill. After driving past Wenceslas Square and the National Museum you will continue up to the Capuchin monastery where you begin your walk. Down to the Castle and through its courtyards. You go through the courtyards but do not go inside the castle buildings. Third courtyard visit St. Vitus' Cathedral. Down the Golden Lane (Kafka's House) and towards Charles Bridge. Stop at the square Na Kampe on Kampa Island before crossing. In Stare Mesto continue to Old Town Square to see the Jan Hus statue and Astronomical Clock (does its show every hour). End of Tour. The guide will leave you now.
This is the full tour. It can be tiring. You have time for the loos in the castle area but no time to stop and shop. There is a lot of walking involved. If you have a group of determined non-walkers you are better off discussing with the guide and the driver beforehand how you can best save them the heartache. The Jewish Ghetto is not included as part of the tour. Once you have free time this definitely the no.1 option, unless the call of the shops is too great. Take Pariszka from Old Town Square. This is the oldest preserved Jewish ghetto in Europe. Two important synagogues: Gothic synagogue, Pinkas Synagogue with names of 77,829 Bohemian and Moravian Jews who died victims of the Nazis. It was Hitler's intention to convert this ghetto into the chillingly named Museum of the Extinct Race. (This, incidentally, is the prime reason why the fabric of Prague was left untouched during WW II.)
NB. For the catalogue Zahrada is Czezh for park.
Cesky Krumlov on the slopes of Mount Klet 3,577 ft up. Vltava river. Renaissance town, World Heritage City. Founded C13. Political and economic heyday in C15 and C16. Untouched by war, catastrophe or industrialisation. Second largest castle in Bohemia (after Prague). Succession of private owners, most importantly the Rozmberks and the Shcwarzenbergs. Tours in English (you need to book in advance) last an hour.
Pilsen (Plzen) Pilsner Urquell, Skoda, now owned by Volkswagen. Good cars nowadays but once the butt of many western jokes. Once one of Europe's largest munitions factories. Breweries date back to the Middle Ages. Brewery Museum. Curch of St. Bartholomew Gothic, spire 343 ft high. Plzener Madonna, carved in limestone. Renaissance houses.
Brno Old capital of the Kingdom of Moravia, vast wheat fields, coal-mining region. Spilberk castle, Freedom Square. Allegedly home of the world's most beautiful women.
On the Road Notes, by title only
Munich-Prague via Plzen
Dresden-Prague past Teresin or Theresienstadt
Vienna-Prague via Cesky Krumlov
Salzburg-Prague via Cesky Krumlov
Budapest-Prague via Brno. This is probably the longest drive in the passports repertoire, 350 miles across two international borders (Czech Republic-Slovakia and Slovakia-Hungary). You will have no time to stop in Brno or in Bratislava.
Bohemia's Golden Age
Independence and WW II
Nazi invasion March 15 1939
The Velvet Revolution
Split with Slovakia
Jan Hus, founder of Hussite movement, 'predecessor' of Martin Luther.
Franz Kafka Metamorphosis born and raised in Prague, died in Vienna, wrote in German
Bedrich Smetana, composer The Bartered Bride
Anton Dvorak, composer New World Symphony
Faust, or at least the man on whom the story is based
Vaclav Havel, playwright and president of the Republic
Milan Kundera The Unbearable Lightness of Being
Alexander Dubczek, leader of the Prague Spring
Tycho Brahe, astronomer, scientist
Johannes Kepler, astronomer
Rainer-Maria Rilke, writer
Robert Maxwell, the bouncing Czech
Jaroslav Hasek, author of The Good Soldier Schweik
King Charles IV, greatest of the Czech kings, Holy Roman Emperor
Jaromir Jagr, centre for the Pittsburgh Penguins
Dominik Hasek, goalie for the Buffalo Sabers
Martin Straka, Pittsburgh Penguins
Jan Zelezny, world record holder javelin
Martina Navratilova, all-time great tennis player (now US citizen)
Ivan Lendl, tennis player (now US citizen)
Jana Novotna, tennis player
Petr Korda, tennis player
Eva Herzigova, Wonderbra supermodel
Emil Zatopek, runner
Ludmila Kratochvilova, athlete
Ludmila Jovovitch, supermodel
Ivana Trump, socialite
Johann Gregor Mendel, founder of science of genetics
Leos Janacek, composer
Masaryk, founding father of Czechoslovakia
In English: "Put your finger through your throat."
In Czech: "Strc prst skrz krk"
Bata shoes (town of Zlin in eastern Moravia)
Hop growing around Zatec and Roudnice in northern Bohemia around the Dresden-Prague road.
Good King Wenceslas looked out
On the feast of Stephen
When the snow lay round about
Deep and crisp and even
Brightly shone the moon that night
Tho' the frost was cruel,
When a poor man came in sight,
Gath'ring winter fuel.
Refers to C10 St. Wenceslas
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