Semester i Tjeckien
The Czech Republic, is a small landlocked country in Central Europe, situated south-east of Germany and bordering Austria to the south, Poland to the north and Slovakia (with which it used to form one country of Czechoslovakia) to the south-east.
The Czech Republic is not a large country but has a rich and eventful history. From time immemorial Czechs, Germans, Jews and Slovaks, as well as Italian stonemasons and stucco workers, French tradesmen and deserters from Napoleon’s army have all lived and worked here, all influencing one another. For centuries they jointly cultivated their land, creating works, which still command our respect and admiration today. It is thanks to their inventiveness and skill that this small country is graced with hundreds of ancient castles, monasteries and stately mansions, and even entire towns that give the impression of being comprehensive artifacts. The Czech Republic contains a vast of amount of architectural treasure and has beautiful forests and mountains to match.
It can be divided in 2 historical regions:
The western part of the Czech Republic with the capital Prague.
The eastern part of the country, with Brno as it's largest city.
These are nine interesting cities selected to represent variety of Czech urban areas.
Prague (Praha) - the capital and largest city of the Czech Republic. Its large and beautiful historic center is on the UNESCO World Heritage list.
Brno: Largest city in Moravia with several excellent museums. The Moto GP Grand Prix takes place here every year.
Ostrava - Third-largest city in the Czech Republic with a vibrant local subculture and long history of coal mining and heavy industry. The old steelworks and coal mines are not everybody’s idea of a tourist destination but it is a fascinating and unique landscape which is accessible on guided tours. Hard hats supplied.
Olomouc Square at duskOlomouc - A vibrant riverside university town with a 1000 year history and the 2nd largest historical centre in the Czech Republic. Olomouc’s rich collection of historical architecture includes the UNESCO-listed column of the Holy Trinity, six stone baroque fountains, several churches and the renaissance town hall with a 15metre high astronomical clock. Bouzov and Helfštýn castles are nearby.
Český Krumlov - Beautiful old town in South Bohemia with the country's second biggest chateau.
Kutná Hora - Historical town with famous St. Barbora cathedral, old silver mines and the Chapel of All Saints, which is decorated with thousands of human bones.
Karlovy VaryKarlovy Vary aka "Carlsbad", historic (and biggest Czech) spa resort, especially popular with German and Russian tourist groups.
Pilsen (Plzeň) - Home of the original Pilsner Urquell beer, and the largest city in West Bohemia.
Telč - A small South Moravian town with a perfectly preserved Renaissance town centre which is surrounded by shallow man made lakes. The town square is surrounded by an arched walkway and colourful two-storey renaissance houses. The chateau and Church of St James are open to the public and its possible to hire rowboats from the lakeside in the warmer months.
Trosky CastleČeský Ráj: (Czech Paradise) A region of towering rock formations and isolated castles located north-east of Prague. The gateway city of Jičín is an interesting destination in its own right, but Turnov is closer to most of the castles and rock formations. The twin towers of the ruined castle Trosky are a symbol of the area and can be climbed for the views.
Jaroměřice nad Rokytnou: A small town circa 50 km from Jihlava (towards Znojmo) with the Baroque Castle and Church of St. Margaret
Karlštejn Castle and the holy cave monastery: Hiking trip to the famous castle as well as an off the beaten track monastery
Krkonoše: (Giant Mountains) The highest mountains in the Czech Republic along the Polish border.
Litomyšl monastery gardensLitomyšl: A beautiful small town in East Bohemia. The renaissance main square and chateau are among the Czech Republic’s prettiest and the town has been home to many important and influential artists, including composer Bedřich Smetana, sculptor Olbram Zoubek and painter Josef Váchal. There are two international opera festivals at the chateau each year.
Moravský Kras: Extensive karst area between Brno and Olomouc with the deepest abyss in the country and, in the Punkevní Caves, the opportunity to take a boat ride along an underground river.
Mutěnice Wine Region: Some of the best vineyards in the Czech Republic and totally off the well beaten tourist path
Nové Město na Moravě : Cross country skiing resort. The race of Tour de Ski takes place here.
Main Square of TelčTerezín: A red-brick baroque fortress 70km north of Prague beside the Ohře river. It was used during WWII as a Jewish ghetto and concentration camp.
The Czech Republic is an excellent place for cycling. There are lots of pleasant country lanes, cycling marked paths and picturesque villages along these paths (always with a pub...), it's easy to find the way, and the trains have bicycle racks in the baggage section for when you get tired. Try cycling in South Moravia region (close to Austrian borders) where you can find dozens of well-marked paths that will lead you through beautiful countryside full of vineyards, vine cellars and colourful villages.
Also border mountains (Krkonoše, Šumava, Jeseníky etc.) are more and more popular among mountain-bikers. There are usually no fences along the trails but always keep to the marked paths here as these mountains are "CHKO" (i.e. protected as national natural heritage) and you can be fined if you cycle "off the beaten track".
Prague, the capital with its incredible historic center (and famous monuments such as the Astronomical Clock, Charles Bridge, and Prague Castle). Member of the UNESCO World Heritage list.
Olomouc, a vibrant university town with the second largest historic center after Prague. Member of the UNESCO World Heritage list.
Český Krumlov - beautiful city with castle. Member of UNESCO.
CzechTek, the yearly freetekno party somewhere in Czech Republic.
The main language spoken is, not surprisingly, Czech. The Slovak language can also be often heard, as there is a sizable Slovak minority and both languages are mutually intelligible. Czech people are very proud of their language, and thus, even in Prague you will not find many signs written in English (outside of the main tourist areas). Many older people, especially outside the large cities, are also unable to converse in English, so it's good to learn some Czech or Slovak before your arrival. However, most young people speak at least some English, as it has been taught in most schools since 1990.
Most Czechs speak a second and often a third language. English is the most widely known, especially among younger people. German is probably the most widely spoken second language among older people.