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Czech Republic Attractions And Landmarks Guide
Once part of Czechoslovakia, the Czech Republic split from Slovakia in a “friendly divorce” following the end of Soviet rule in the 1990s. Since then, it has grown into a major tourist destination, with its historic capital, Prague, now one of the key stops on any Central European tour.
It’s a good place to quench your thirst for culture, history, hiking tours over rolling hills and, of course, the local pilsners. It’s a good place to quench your thirst for culture, history, biking or hiking tours over rolling hills, and, of course, the local pilsners.
When most people think of the Czech Republic, they picture Prague, its majestic capital – and with good reason. “The city of a hundred spires” not only challenges Paris in its beauty, it also boasts a history that stretches back over a millennium along with one of the most vibrant cultural settings in all of Europe.
Yet those who visit only Prague and don’t explore the treasures that abound throughout the rest of the country miss a lot. The landscape is strewn with shimmering lakes and criss-crossed by rivers. Rolling farm fields and orchards lead to forested highlands overlooked by mountain ranges that virtually surround the small nation.
Despite the magnificent examples of Mother Nature’s handiworks, the Czech Republic’s greatest assets are man-made. Hilltop castles, ornate cathedrals and imperial palaces dot the landscape and decorate cities and towns. Adding to the appeal for visitors is the ease of being immersed among these varied riches in a compact country that is about the size of South Carolina.
For its minuscule size, the Czech Republic has a relatively high number of places – 13 -- included on the UNESCO World Heritage List. They are citied for their “outstanding universal value” in terms of history, art, culture and other attributes.
Prague (Praha) is a city that overwhelms visitors with its architecture, then envelopes them in an aura of living history. The entire city center is a designated UNESCO heritage site, and the fact that its buildings survived World War II remarkably intact, unlike many throughout Europe, adds to its appeal. So well preserved are the ancient neighborhoods that it can seem as if you’re walking in a stage set. To stroll through the city is to discover a cathedral here, a palace there and Gothic spires everywhere.
The city’s Medieval core is surrounded by architectural treasures from every major period and style. The allure of its age becomes clear in both the “Old Town” (Stare Mesto), a labyrinth of winding alleys and picturesque squares which was founded in the early 13th century, and the not-quite-so-old “New Town” (Nove Mesto), which dates back to 1348.
The sprawling Prague Castle, one of the largest in the world, overlooks the city from a steep hill. Dating back to 870, when the first walled building was constructed at the site, the castle was the seat of power for a number of kings and emperors, and today is the official residence of the president of the Czech Republic.
In addition to the castle itself, the complex of buildings includes cathedrals, palaces and several museums. A series of lovely terraced gardens spills down the hillside to the red tile-roof houses below.
Another must-see is the Charles Bridge, which has spanned the Vltava River since the 14th century. A line of statues which were placed along the balustrade in the 17th and early 18th centuries depicts saints that were venerated at that time.
Equally as popular with visitors and townspeople alike is the 15th century Astronomical Clock set on a wall of the Old Town Tower. Throngs gather each hour as Christ emerges through a small door followed by his disciples, and a skeleton tolls the bell.
Towns, Tunnels, and More
Despite the countless attractions and appeals of Prague, and there are many, visitors who fail to explore the charming and diverse towns scattered throughout the Czech Republic miss out on a lot. Many towns have a charming central square surrounded by narrow winding streets and church steeples pointing toward the sky. In addition, each has its own unique charms.
The central square of tiny Telc could have been lifted from the pages of a Hans Christian Andersen tale. It’s lined by the decorative facades of arcade-fronted Renaissance townhouses painted a variety of pastel hues and set off by ornate gables and intricate designs and decorations. That fairytale setting has earned the historic town center recognition as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
It’s primarily what lies beneath the ground that makes Jihlava worth a visit. The story began in the 13th century when cellars were built under most houses in the town center for the storage of food, beer, wine and other items. Over several centuries, the storage areas were connected by tunnels, which stretched over 15 miles. Tours lead visitors through sections of the catacombs, past exhibits that tell the story of the tunnels and how they were created.
Visitors to the Czech Republic seeking to explore its Jewish heritage often head for Trebic, about 100 miles from Prague. Among many vestiges of the Jewish aspect of the country's history, that small city stands out.
The presence of Jewish people in present-day Trebic was first documented in 1338, but it wasn't until the early 18th century that a ghetto was established. Today, it's one of the best preserved ghettos in Europe and the only Jewish monument outside Israel included on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Squeezed into a compact area between a river and steep hills, the neighborhood encompasses 123 historic buildings, including two synagogues, a rabbi's house (built around 1620), hospital and two schools. The Jewish cemetery nearby contains about 11,000 graves and almost 3,000 tombstones, some from the 1730s.
The Liquid Czech Republic
“Taking the waters” at mineral spring spas has been an inherent part of life over centuries for people living in the present-day Czech Republic. Today, close to two dozen spa towns attract visitors in search of healing various ailments, or simply a relaxing experience.
Among the most famous spas are Karlovy Vary, set amidst a virtual forest of graceful colonnades; Marianske Lazne, which is surrounded by nearly 100 natural springs, and Luhacovice Spa, which has been been providing healing and hedonism for nearly 350 years.
Ask at a Czech restaurant or pub for “liquid bread” and you’ll be served beer. That beverage has been brewed for centuries there and aficionados rank it among the best in the world. Most towns have at least one brewery and there are hundreds of local and regional brands throughout the country.
Given those facts, it’s not surprising that the Czech Republic tops the worldwide list of per capital beer consumption, with a hefty intake of about 40 gallons a year per person.
646 Czech Republic Tour Reviews - Summary
Perfect for people aiming to get a good taste of central Europe July 20164.0
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Danube Riover Cruise June 20154.0
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