sobota 30. září 2017

Top places to visit in the Czech Republic

This is the beginning of a series of articles about my favorite places in my home country. I hope it might help some tourists choose where to go and what to do here. Of course, the selection is very subjective and incomplete. It is definitely not meant as a tourist guide but rather a couple of "tips and tricks" (and photos, too) for those who like to consult alternative sources for their decisions.

First, just a few lines about the country's history (just skip this part if not interested). Thanks to its position in the heart of Europe, it has been the crossing of the ancient trade routes from South to North and East to West for millennia. The country is formed by three "lands": Bohemia being the biggest one, Moravia (the Eastern part) and Silesia (a small region in the North-East), all speaking the same Czech language with light local dialects. Some sources simply use the names Bohemia and Czechia as synonyms. The name Bohemia refers to a Celtic tribe of Boii that occupied the territory in the later Iron Age (Boiohaemum in Latin means Home of the Boii; btw, the name of the German state Bavaria, originally Baiovaria, refers to Boii as well). Later the Celts partly withdrew and partly merged with German tribes and then the Slavic tribes came from the East (and stopped here - this is the western-most country speaking a Slavic language today).
The Czech history is rich and full of twists and turns, ranging from being one of the most powerful countries in the world in 14-16th centuries to being on the brink of extincion in the 17th-18th centuries - as the Czech language was mostly replaced by German, the country being a part of the Habsburg Monarchy. In the years 1583 to 1611, Prague was the capital of the Habsburg Monarchy before it was moved to Vienna.
The history of the modern Czech (and Slovak) state begins in 1918 after the World War I., when the independent Czechoslovakia was declared after its separation from Austro-Hungarian Empire. The progress of this top industrial country was interrupted by the World War II and, most of all, by a sad betrayal of its former military allies. In 1938, the states of Great Britain, France, Germany and Italy signed the Munich Agreement, meeting Hitler's demands and granting him the bordering parts of Bohemia (called Sudetten). That was where the Czech defense line against Germany was set up (the frontier fortification system here was even better than the famous Maginot Line in France), thus the agreement directly lead to Hitler's occupation of the whole Bohemia and Moravia in 1939. And 6 years later, as the World War II was coming to an end, another treaty took place in Yalta where the spheres of political influence were sealed between Russians and Americans. The demarcation line was approved that made sure Czechoslovakia was to be liberated by Russian Army, thus remaining under Russian political influence. As the armies were approaching central Europe from East and West, it became clear that the Russians were in delay. The U.S. Army was able and prepared to continue to Prague and liberate the Czech capital a week before the Russians made it but the American military officials held it off , being aware of the treaty and possible negative reaction from Russians. And that is where the 40 years of communism in Czechoslovakia began. And even though the country got rid of the communist regime and Russian influence in 1989, it has not fully recovered from the moral and economic devastation it brought. So far for our belief in allies, both Western and Eastern. As we are a small country on the border of the East and West, we need allies. But none of them are proving dependable enough (EU being far from an exception, regarding former communist countries more as colonies rather than equal partners). That is one of the reasons for the long-term tension in the Czech political situation.

Here is my top ten chart of the places to visit in Czechia. It may be a coincidence, but again it might not, that these are exactly all the Czech places registered on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

1. Praha (the capital)
2. Český Krumlov, Holašovice
3. Brno
4. Olomouc
5. Kroměříž
6. Telč
7. Třebíč, Žďár nad Sázavou
8. Litomyšl
9. Kutná Hora
10. Lednice-Valtice Area

There are a lot of other interesting places as well. The list is not final and will grow with time. It is sorted out according to the approximate distance and position from the center of Prague.

Karlštejn (30 km SW, Gothic castle)

Mladá Boleslav (60 NE, city of cars with a nice historical center and a car museum)

Orlík (80 S, reservoir on Vltava river with castles Orlik and Zvíkov on both ends; a unique bridge - Žďákovský most - close to Orlík castle)

Český Ráj (90 NE, Czech Paradise-impressive sandstone "rock towns", chateaus, castles both preserved and ruins between two historical towns of Jičín and Turnov)

Plzeň (95 W, Pilsen = City Of Beer No.1)

Písek (105 S, historical town with the oldest stone bridge in Bohemia)

Liberec and Jested (110 N, nice city and a hill with a unique hotel on top of it)

Hradec Králové (120 E, historical city with unique architecture both old and modern)

Karlovy Vary (130 W, famous spa with a unique atmosphere)

Jaroměř-Josefov (130 E, historical military complex), Kuks (baroque spa), Dvůr Králové (open-air ZOO)

Třeboň (140 S, nice historical town)

České Budějovice (150 S, Budweiss = City of Beer No.2; chateau Hluboká close by)

Cheb (170 W, historical town with a beautiful town square)

Hranice na Moravě (320 E, historical town center, aragonite caves close by)

Ostrava (350 E, industrial city with abandoned steelworks turned to exhibition areas, United Colors musical festival)

Rožnov pod Radhoštěm (360 E, open-air museum), Valašské Meziříčí

čtvrtek 28. září 2017

Zámky č. 42 a 43

Dnešní krásné podzimní odpoledne jsme chtěli využít k návštěvě toho nejbližšího zámku, resp. zámečku, z těch, co nám zbývají - Jabloňky v Praze-Tróji. Nakonec dopadlo všechno trochu jinak. Na mapě jsem si zámeček našel, zadal jsem ho do navigace, a podle ní jsme dojeli až do uličky Nad strání. Navigace oznámila, že jsme na místě, ale zámeček nikde. V té uličce je pár vilek, všechny za vysokou zdí, a podle mapy sice tušíme, že by kousek odsud zámeček měl být, ale nedá se odsud ani zahlédnout. Zjevně tu bydlí elita národa, která nechce být obtěžována obyčejným plebsem. Nakonec jsme lesními cestičkami sjeli dolů z kopce a změnili jsme cíl na trojský zámek, který známe a umíme ho najít. Chtěli jsme si ho nechat na jindy, ale přeci nepojedeme domů s prázdnou. A protože očividně jediný pohled na Jabloňku je zdola od Vltavy, tak si ho odsud na zpáteční cestě nakonec taky vyfotíme, i když z větší dálky, než jsme původně doufali.

Zámek č. 42: Trojský zámek
GPS: N 50°6.98495', E 14°24.77268'
Vzdálenost od bydliště: 21 km

Barokní zámek, který nechal vybudovat Václav Vojtěch ze Šternberka jako své letní sídlo. Roku 1763 jej od Šternberků koupila Marie Terezie pro Ústav šlechtičen. Zámek pak ještě několikrát vystřídal majitele, až jej poslední z nich, velkostatkář Alois Svoboda, daroval r. 1922 československému státu. Stát si s ním však nevěděl příliš rady a tak zámek nikdy nenašel dlouhodobé využití. Část pozemků, které k němu patřily, byla využita pro zoologickou zahradu (otevřena r. 1931). V letech 1977-1989 byl rekonstruován, a po revoluci se stal turistickou atrakcí, která je hojně navštěvovaná díky krásně upraveným zahradám a samozřejmě také díky sousedství zoologické zahrady.






 vinice patřila původně k zámku, dokud ji od něj neoddělila silnice


Zámek č. 42: Jabloňka
GPS: N 50°7.01225', E 14°26.33943'
Vzdálenost od domova: 20 km

Klasicistní zámeček na kopci nad Vltavou mezi Trojským mostem a Mostem barikádníků.
Na Wikipedii se můžeme dočíst, že se o něm vlastně skoro nic neví, kromě toho, že dnešní podobu získal někdy na konci 1. světové války, kdy jej vlastnil hejtman Šafránek. A že jej dnes vlastní soukromá osoba, milionář (to je poznat) jménem Mark Vydra, manžel naší stříbrné olympijské medailistky z Atén 2004, jachtařky Lenky Šmídové.