Sitting in the centre of Europe, with Germany to the west, Poland to the north, Slovakia to the east and Austria in the south, the Czech Republic has one foot in Western Europe, and one in the Slavic East.
“Prague never lets you go”, said Franz Kafka, “this dear little mother has claws”. Prague gets her golden claws into tourists too, and few ever make it outside the capital. But those who tear themselves away won’t be sorry; the honey-coloured spa towns in the Sudeten Mountains, Bohemia’s Renaissance breweries and hilltop ruins, and the tumbling vineyards and underground bars of Moravia are well worth exploring.
Before the fall of Communism, a staggering ninety percent of foreign tourists visiting the country never strayed from the environs of the capital, Prague. While that no longer holds true, Prague is still the main focus of most people’s trips to the Czech Republic, certainly English-speaking tourists. Although the country is small, the variety in landscape and architecture is enormous, encompassing the forests and rolling countryside of Bohemia, peaceful spa towns like Karlovy Vary, Moravia’s spectacular karst region and historic towns like Olomouc and Český Krumlov.
September ushers in vinobraní, a boisterous festival marking the wine harvest. Revellers dance, drink and feast in an event that dates back to the Middle Ages, and the star of the show is burčák, white wine fresh from the press. Sweet and bubbly, it’s only part fermented so it tastes as innocent as peach juice, but it’s up to 8 percent alcohol. It’s only available from the end of August to the end of November at festivals, wine bars and markets. There are festivals all over the country, though the best are in wine country, Moravia. For more information, check at wwww.wineofczechrepublic.cz.
Population 10.5 million
Area 78,866 sq km
Currency Czech koruna (Kč)
Capital Prague (population: 1.3 million)
International phone code t420
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