Every year the start of Advent in late November sees the opening of traditional Christmas markets in the Czech capital, among the most popular the market on the city’s historic Old Town Square. Surrounded by famous medieval architecture, red-roofed stands, decorated with sprigs of evergreen, sell everything from hand-painted baubles to traditional nativity scenes. Open for more than a month, the market features daily programmes such as children’s workshops and concerts in the run-up to Christmas. It also offers a variety of refreshments - a draw
What are you doing to fight climate change? That’s what Australian environmentalist and social worker Kim Nguyen wants ordinary people to ask themselves. For his part, he’s bicycling from Brisbane, Australia to Copenhagen, Denmark. 15 months into his journey, Kim arrived in Prague for a lap around Wenceslas Square and some meetings with the press to promote the idea that if he can cycle half-way round the world, certainly others can cycle to work.
The border point of the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Austria is the confluence of two great rivers, the Dyje, from the west, and the Morava, from which the region of Moravia takes its name. Along the rivers is a natural reserve of marsh forest and a bastion of Moravian culture called Podluží, or “under the marshland”.
The location of the Czech-Polish-Slovak tri-border can be described in a number of ways. Geographically, it’s in the Beskydy mountain range. Politically, it’s Silesia, the oft-forgotten “third” region of the Czech Republic, a strip of mixed Czech, Polish, German and Jewish heritage straddling the north-east border. 20th century conflict though renamed southern Silesia “Zaolzie”, a Polish-perspective place name that means “beyond the Olza River”. 21st century reality though has left the names Poland, Slovakia or the Czech Republic with little real
Last week, Letter from Prague escorted you to balmy foreign climes; this week, I’m taking you to Ostrava, the Czech Republic’s third city and industrial hub, where I found myself for the first time ever last weekend. My knowledge of Ostrava before my trip (if ‘knowledge’ is even the right word) was limited to a number of stereotypes that circulate in the capital about ‘ostraváci’ (the locals), a vague ability to distinguish an Ostravan accent in all of its clipped-vowel-glory and a newspaper report or two about Stodolní Street, the city’s premium
Borderlands are fascinating areas where cultures either meet and intermingle, or in some cases are cordoned off to coldly stare at one another. The Czech/German/Austrian tri-border has experienced both. Over the last century it went from being an imaginary line through the woods to a literal Iron Curtain and back again. What’s emerging here today is a cross-cultural region deep in the Bohemian Forest National Park.
Every year the Czechs’ top summer destination is the beautiful sun-drenched coast of Croatia, with Czechs travelling from Istria in the north to further south to towns like Zadar, Trogir, Split and Dubrovnik. It’s no surprise: the country is relatively close, has a wonderful sea, beautiful medieval as well as older Roman and Byzantine architecture, in short, it’s a fantastic place to go. The last time I was there, I travelled by bus and boat; this year, my return visit, was different – my first time by car with my wife, and our first vacation with
If there were a capital city of legendry in the Czech Republic, the town of Nepomuk would be a hot contestant for the honour. There are said to be graves that glow when someone’s about to die, a landscape littered with the petrified cattle of a greedy pagan and the ghost of an evil musketeer who walks the earth with the still-ferocious spectre of his dog. The official population of Nepomuk may be 3,700, but that’s only if you count the living.
The East German car the Trabant was the butt of many jokes during the communist era, but today the lightweight vehicles are viewed by many with affection. Around the region you will find Trabi enthusiasts, and the Czech Republic is no exception. One group of Czech travellers are currently preparing to travel by Trabant all the way from Prague to Cape Town in South Africa. Their journey will take them through 11 countries and across some 20,000 kilometres. Dan Přibáň is one of five drivers taking part.
Zbiroh Chateau has stood on its hill between the Křivoklátské and Brdy Forests since the 12th century, a beautiful thing, wistfully recalled in the famous melody by Václav Vačkář, “A Memory of Zbiroh”. Until recently, memories of Zbiroh were just about all anyone had, because the chateau and its many treasures and mysteries were strictly sealed off for most of the 20th century. The memory of its illustrious history is only resurfacing today.