The Czech Republic westernized about as fast as any of the former Warsaw Pact countries, which wasn’t surprising considering its location — bordered mostly to the west by Bavaria and the south by Austria. Czech had a long and prosperous history, especially during the days of the Austro-Hungarian Empire when it was the northern province of Bohemia. Nowadays, a new major highway has been constructed that brings drivers (especially trucks) from Germany directly to Prague, and multiple trains run daily from Frankfurt am Main to Prague. Because of its accessibility from the west, most of my colleagues in Germany have been to Prague, usually as their first trip to former Soviet republics.
I had been to Prague multiple times (2000, 2002 twice). It was easily one of my favorite cities, and with the Czech koruna experiencing a period of weakness, it was also one of the cheapest (tthese trips preceded Czech joining the Eurozone). Doing Prague in depth required a full weekend, and I frankly still haven’t done many of the museums and art galleries.
As far as the rest of the country went, I have only done the city of Karlovy Vary, probably the second-best known destination in Czech because of its border location with Germany. A brilliant and colorful city, Karlovy Vary was one of the most beautiful in Europe. Even with the opportunity to visit other locations in Czech, however, getting there by train would have been slow going. Until or unless they improve their train system, car was the best way to get around.
On my “list” for Czech Republic are some Austro-Hungarian castle cities that I hear of a lot, but no one I know has been there. These include Brno in the southeast, and Ceska Budjovice and Ceska Krumlov in the southwest. Ceska Budjovice is significant as the home of the original Budweiser brewery who successfully defended its international trademark against the same-named American brand. A popular beer subject among my Euro colleagues is often which “Budweiser” was better. However, the Czech variety pales in comparison to other Czech beers, such as one of my all-time favorites — the Pilsner Urquell from the western city of Plzen. Urquell was the original ‘pilsner’ beer and remained one of the top international brands.
Travelogues and Features
The coloring of the locations on the map above indicate different locations in Czech Republic, as shown below.
This is the most extensive travelogue I have on the site, because Prague is one of the biggest tourist draws in Eastern Europe and is a really big place. The city is just too big to cover in a weekend, so be sure to hit the major draws — the beautiful Prague Castle district Hradcany , and the wonderful Old Town of Stare Mesto. The former is the must-see in town, towering majestically over the city. If you want to want to enjoy some classic river views, vineyards, and manors, the west bank district of Mala Strana will appeal. Meanwhile, shoppers will want to look around the major commercial districts of Nové Mesto.
Karlovy Vary is also known by its Germanic name of Carlsbad — “Charle’s Baths”. Inserted in a long winding river valley, Karlovy Vary lines the banks of the Tepla River with brightly-colored and elaborately decorated buildings such as the Grand Hotel Pupp, the Opera House, and the various bathhouses (numbers 1 and 5 still stand). It’s also a great place for a walk along the mountains on both sides of the valley, where one can get great eagle-eye views of the city.