The Czech Republic is a small but charming country situated in the heart of Europe. Since medieval times, it has been a crossroads of intellectual, artistic and culinary influences, as well as a center of conflicts.
After a long period of isolation caused by the communist regime, Czechs are becoming more diverse ethnically, nationally and culturally, reflecting the growing globalization tendencies. This is also reflected in its cuisine, which combines traditional goulash with new, hip Vietnamese “Pho” soup. The most traditional meeting spot remains the pub, where you can enjoy some of the best and most famous beer in the world.
Despite its small land area, the Czech landscape is highly diverse, ranging from mountains that form natural borders in all directions to the fertile, scenic lowlands of South Moravia. The Czech Republic has a moderate continental climate, with warm summers and cold, snowy winters. The temperature between seasons varies greatly due to its landlocked geographical position.
The official language is Czech, which is very similar to Slovak and Polish. They all belong to the West Slavic languages group. Czech is a particularly difficult language to learn, as the endings of words change due to many different grammar rules.
Bohemia, the official name of the region, derives from the Celtic tribe Boii, who were the first inhabitants of the area. There is also evidence that the area was once occupied by the Slavs in the 6th century A.D. The long and rich history of Bohemia and Moravia can be traced through Samo´s Empire, the Great Moravia, the reign of the Přemyslid, the Luxemburg and Habsburg dynasties, and the Catholic expansion leading to the Thirty Year’s War. The decline of the Austro-Hungarian Empire led to the birth of Czechoslovakia. After surviving the German occupation during the Second World War and years of communism, the totalitarian regime ended symbolically in one day – the Velvet Revolution in November 1989. After years of being persecuted, the writer and philosopher Vaclav Havel became president with a democratic vision. The Czech Republic and Slovakia peacefully parted ways on January 1, 1993. As one of many historical paradoxes, the process of convergence with the European Community started soon after and culminated in joining the European Union on May 1, 2004.
Many Czech personalities have become famous throughout the world, such as Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV, who played a significant role in European history. Masterpieces of composers Bedrich Smetana, Antonin Dvorak and Leos Janacek are still played worldwide. Novels written by the mysterious Franz Kafka and innovative Karel Capek are timeless. Voice of opera singer Emma Destinn is still impressive. The Czech Republic is also a producer of globally famous athletes such as football player Petr Cech, ice hockey star Jaromir Jagr, and Wimbledon winner Petra Kvitova and Olympic medalist speed skater Martina Sablikova.
Commercially, the Czech Republic has grown significantly since the Velvet Revolution, and throughout the 90´s it built its reputation as a sophisticated congress destination. It is also a country where historical monuments and entire towns have been marked as world heritage sites. Of course, when discussing tourism in the Czech Republic, one cannot overlook the overwhelmingly popular tourist destination of Prague. The city is generally considered to be one of the most beautiful world capitals, with an exquisitely preserved historical center.
Many towns and historical monuments are registered as UNESCO world cultural landmarks, such as Kutna Hora and Cesky Krumlov. Terezin is also often explored by tourists, but unfortunately its history is stained by war. Once a fort town from the end of the 18th century, it was transformed by Nazis into a concentration camp during the war. Karlovy Vary (Karlsbad) and Marianske Lazne (Marienbad) are glowing assets of the Czech Republic due to the existence of curative mineral spring spas. Jachymov, another town in the countryside, is well known for its rare radioactive springs.
The Czech official currency is “Koruna”, often translated as “Crown”. Although the country has not yet adopted the Euro (unlike many other countries of the European Union), it is possible to use it as a payment method in most restaurants and shops. Payment by credit card is an equally widely spread option, and most hospitality spots enable this kind of payment. ATM machines are accessible on every corner; however, it is recommended to check the bank fees beforehand. In case you decide to exchange money in one of the exchange offices in Prague, it is suggested to check the rates and commissions carefully, as they may differ by company. The recommended exchange office with reliable rates is one called “Exchange”. Rates suggested by the national bank of Czech Republic are listed online.
Tipping is not mandatory, and the most common way to tip is to round the amount up. In more expensive restaurants, a 10% tip is suggested, but is not obligatory.
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