Category Archives for "Czech Republic"

Must see locations, events and places to travel and enjoy in Czech Republic.

Castle District – Prague, Bohemia, Czech Republic

Religious and Political Symbol of Might and Glory

High atop the hilly West Bank of this “Golden City” is one of the most beautiful sights in Europe: Prague Castle (Prazsky hrad) perched above the curving Vltava (or Moldau) River that flows below it, with the Gothic masterpiece of St. Vitus Cathedral (Chrám svatého Vita) soaring behind it.

This was the site of early Prague, and everything that evolved from it lay in its proverbial shadow. An amble through this picturesque hilltop town-within-a-town provides breathtaking views of the river and the Gothic-style Charles Bridge. The fabled skyline of spires and turrets of the lower Old Town (Staré Mesto) rises above the ancient rooftops of the right, or east, bank.

Prague Castle is a monumental fortresslike collection of buildings and courtyards spanning the millennia from the 10th to the 20th centuries. Its spiritual core is the 14th-century cathedral, not completed until 1929. Of its twenty-one chapels, the most lavish is dedicated to “Good King” Wenceslas, patron saint of Bohemia; others honor Czech princes and kings from the 11th to the 13th centuries.

Adjacent is the Royal Palace (Krávlovsky palác), residence for the lords of Bohemia from the 11th to the 16th centuries. This is where, in 1990, the dissident writer Václav Havel was inaugurated as president of what was then Czechoslovakia.

Prague’s two most important art galleries are the highlight for many: the deconsecrated St. George’s Basilica houses a unique collection of ancient Czech art, while six centuries of European art is found in the Sternberk Palace. If the rich 1,000-year heritage of the castle complex makes your head swim, escape to the small and intimate Hotel U Páva (the name means “pea­cock”), with its excellent location on a charming gas-­lit street. The homey rooms in the front of the house have unforgettable night­time views of the illumi­nated Prague Castle.

Just 100 yards from the Charles Bridge is the riverside Four Seasons, Prague’s first bona fide luxury hotel. Much of the hotel comprises three classic 18th- and 19th-century buildings (one of which served as King Charles IV’s laundry), with suites that promise romantic views of the river and the hilltop castle.

Cesky Krumlov – Bohemia, Czech Republic

An Exquisite Medieval Jewel, No Longer Unknown

Cesky Krumlov has an impressive history, but it is a living town, and provides an interesting window on genuine Bohemian village life, particularly in the off-season, when the ever-increasing tourist crowds subside.

Most notable among the impressive amalgam of medieval, Renaissance, Baroque, and rococo buildings is the splendid castle (Krumlov hrad, also called the Schwarzenberg Castle). Czech castles are a dime a dozen, but with 300 rooms, this is the second largest in the Czech Republic after Prague’s.

For some 300 years, it was the official residence of the Rozenberk dynasty, the powerful noble family that ruled southern Bohemia from 1316 to the 16th century. You can also fill your days exploring the countless nooks and crannies of this pristine, fairy-tale river town, meandering through twisting and cobbled alleyways, some so narrow you must walk sideways.

The Czech Republic is famous for its beers (although brewing is a millennium old, lager was invented in the Bohemian town of Pilsen, or Plzen, in 1842) and Cesky Krumlov has its own brewery, the Eggenberg. The cavernous Beer Hall at 27 Latrán is the place to sip its tasty dark beer on tap.

Park your bags at the Hotel Rüze, the city’s most romantic hotel, recently refur­bished. A 16th-century Renaissance building used as a Jesuit monastery, it offers lovely rooms (some with gorgeous views of the his­torical center and the castle) and an excel­lent restaurant specializing in traditional Czech dishes.

Carlsbad – Bohemia, Czech Republic

Bohemia, Czech Republic

“I feel as if I’m in some paradise of innocence and spontaneity,” wrote Goethe, who spent sixteen summers in Karlovy Vary, more commonly known abroad by its German name, Carlsbad. That Beethoven, Brahms, Bach, Liszt, and many others all found inspi­ration during frequent visits to this spa town speaks volumes.

Thanks to the Czech Republic’s geological fault lines, there are more than thirty spa towns in the area still in operation. Carlsbad is the largest and most renowned. Only its centuries-old competitor Marianske Lazne (Marienbad) comes close to rivaling its fame.

For more than 400 years, the world’s rich and famous have come to “take the waters” of Carlsbad’s twelve natural thermal springs, which range from 76 to 161 degrees Fahrenheit. (The “thirteenth spring” is Becherovka, a well-known locally produced herb-and-mineral liqueur, also said to be cur­ative.) Situated in a beautiful and wooded valley, Carlsbad retains an elegant, important air, dominated by handsome 19th-century architecture.

Dating from 1701, the starred Grand Hotel Pupp was once one of Europe’s most famous hotels, with countless celebrities, including Goethe, Paganini, and Freud, filling its guest register.

Use this as your regal base, and drive forty-five minutes south to the smaller, quieter Marienbad, whose thirty-some mineral springs were the favorite choice of Kafka, Chopin, and England’s King Edward VII.

Given its rather lazy ambience, the fact that the town boasts a top-ranked golf course (the country’s finest) may come as something of a surprise. For the curious with time and wheels, the third and smallest of the local trio of well-known spa towns is Frantiskovy Lazne (Franzenbad), almost at the German border.