About the Czech Republic
The Czech Republic is a country with a millennial history, but its existence as an independent state is quite recent; it came into existence in its present form only in 1993, when Czechoslovakia, a 72-year-long union of the Czech and Slovak peoples, dissolved. Although now living in separate states, Czechs and Slovaks still have fairly close relations; Czechs often vacation in Slovakia’s High Tatra Mountains, and many Slovaks come to Prague or other parts of the Czech Republic to work.
It is a little-known fact that a one-word short-form name exists for this country in English. It’s “Czechia” (Česko in Czech), and it was officially sanctioned by the Czech government, but this term is not familiar to many and has not gained currency.
Being located right in the center of Europe has meant that the Czech lands have always been at the crossroads of different peoples, cultures and influences. In many ways it is a bridge between Eastern and Western Europe. The Czech mentality and culture have been influenced by both Slavic and German streams; the melting pot of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy left its mark on the nation before giving way to the democratic and nationalist progress of the First Republic of Czechoslovakia. The dark days of Nazi occupation put and end to this progress and the decades of Communist rule that followed set the country further back. But since the return to democracy in 1989 and the separation from Slovakia in 1993, the Czech Republic has seen some of the greatest reforms and improvements in standard of living of any former Eastern-bloc country. Once a practically closed society, it has become an attractive place to visit and even to live in for many Westerners.
Despite covering only some 78,866 km2, the Czech Republic offers a surprising variety of attractions, and not only of a historical nature. From the Krkonoše Mountains of the Northern Bohemian borderland to the giant fish ponds of the South, from the Baroque charm of old Olomouc to the spas of Carlsbad, this small country has something to capture anyone’s interest. Much of the land area is covered by different natural biotopes including largely unspoiled woods, mountains, rocks, and hills that present opportunities for hiking, skiing, rock climbing, and other outdoor activities. The cities mix the old with the new; Kutná Hora’s impressive Gothic Cathedral of St. Barbara contrasts with Brno’s functionalist Tugendhat Villa or Prague’s avant-garde Dancing House.
Prague – The national capital is as old as the country itself, so it is not surprising that buildings and architectural styles spanning a millennium are contained within it. The old and the new meet here at every corner: On Old Town Square there are medieval pageants and horse-drawn cabs while world-renowned popular musicians perform regularly at such venues as the Sazka Arena or the Congress Center. The choice of pubs serving various brands of the renowned Czech beer is endless, and every form of cultural activity, both native and foreign, can be participated in. The Czechs are very open toward different ethnic artistic experiences and Prague has no lack of concert halls, art cinemas, or galleries catering to all tastes. The well-planned and efficient public transportation system ensures that one can get where one wants in due time, and often that one runs into friends en-route. The Prague international airport (Václav Havel Airport Prague), from where flights connect to most major European cities, is conveniently located within city limits and is easily accessible by public transportation.
Brno – The Czech Republic’s thriving second city is the capital of the historic region of Moravia. Although less of its old town remains than in Prague, it still has a historic center and has a vibrant cultural and social atmosphere. In the city center, fine pubs and restaurants, theaters, museums, and clubs are all concentrated within a small area at no great distance from each other. Furthermore, Brno is a convenient hub to historical Moravian towns like Ivančice or Moravský Krumlov, as well as to the beautiful, lush wine-growing regions of South Moravia and the old folk cultural areas of Eastern Moravia. It can be conveniently reached from Prague by bus or train.