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The Czech Republic is a beautiful vacation country with an impressive nature. The landscape characterizes itself by extensive forests and green hills, diversified with high mountains. Here you can enjoy nice bike rides and walks. It is also possible to get some rest in a quiet camping site near the water. The cities in the Czech Republic have extraordinary historical churches, palaces, castles and fortresses. In the capital city Prague there are lots of things to see and to do. There are numerous museums, theaters, shops, galleries and monuments. The Czech Republic is surprisingly modern and above all cheap. In short: an attractive vacation destination for young and old.
The current Czech Republic used to exist of three regions: Bohemia, Moravia and Silesia. Up to the first century before Christ these regions were occupied by Celtic people. In the sixth century after Christ the Slavonics, coming from the east and north, marched into the country and settled themselves along the river the Moldau (“Vltava”). Around 830 the sovereign Mojmír I established the Great Moravian State, to which mainly the current Czech Republic and Slovakia belonged. A large part of the population was converted to the Christianity.
In the tenth century after Christ the State was attacked by Hungarians. After that the State was divided between several countries: Hungary, Bohemia, Poland and the Holy Roman Empire. The dynasty of the Premyslids came into power and ruled over the Czechs in Bohemia and Moravia. Not much later Moravia and Silesia were brought under the crown. In those days Bohemia together with the capital city Prague, formed the political and cultural center of the Holy Roman Empire.
In the period that followed, the country got into a crisis. Under presidency of John Hus the population resisted against the strong German influence. In 1419 the Hussite Wars broke out where Germans were thrown out of the city. The population also wanted more freedom of religion. The revolution lasted until 1438. From 1526 Bohemia fell under the regime of the Habsburgers. Emperor Ferdinand I strengthened the Catholic church. When Rudolf II became emperor (in 1575), a new period of growth came for Prague. The successor of Rudolf II, named Ferdinand II, was not tolerant towards the protestants and therefore they became rebellious. In 1618 the Thirty Years' War broke loose. The war caused a lot of damage and the Bohemian State deteriorated. Not until the end of the seventeenth century the country's economy recovered.
The nineteenth century characterized itself by the growing national consciousness of the Czech population. They got more freedom of religion and the Czech language became permitted at schools. Gradually there came more interest for the Czech culture, history and language. In 1861 Czech became the official second language in Bohemia. The Czech strived for autonomy, while the Germans wanted to govern the Habsburg State themselves. In 1918 the Czech got what they hoped for: an independent Czech Republic. Masaryk was the first president. The republic existed of a few different nations, namely Czech, Germans, Slovaks, Hungarians and Rusyns.
In the days of World War II the independence of Czechoslovakia came to its end. Germany occupied Sudetenland, Bohemia and Moravia. After World War II the state got its independence back. In 1948 the communists performed a coup because of which Czechoslovakia became a people's republic. In 1968 the reformer Alexander Dubek became leader of the communist party. Under his regime a period of liberalization began. However, the awakening democracy was not appreciated by the neighboring countries. The troops of the Warsaw Pact occupied the republic and re-established the traditional communism. From that moment on different demonstrations took place. The population wanted more rights and more freedom.
In 1989 began the Velvet Revolution where millions of citizens went on strike. Eventually the revolution took place without any violence (that is where the name is based on). Finally the communist regime was brought down. Havel was chosen as the new president by the parliament. The relation between the Slovaks and the Czech became worse. The Slovaks felt inferior. After the Slovak parliament declared the sovereignty in 1992, the Czech Republic and Slovakia continued as two separate states since 1993. Havel became president of the Czech Republic. The democratization was continued and that same year the Czech Republic became member of the UN. The country approached the west. In 2004 the Czech Republic joined the EU. In 2003 the country's Prime Minister, Václav Klaus, succeeded Havel as president.
The Czech Republic has more than 10 million inhabitants, of which 81% is Czech and approximately 13% Moravian. Usually the Moravians are also considered part of the Czech population. Besides that hundreds of nationalities live in the Czech Republic, such as Slovaks, Germans, Hungarians and Polish. The Romany (gypsies) form a small percentage of the population. Although since the 90's the population percentage was decreasing for a long time, nowadays the population number is increasing. This is because more people come to live in the Czech Republic than inhabitants are leaving the country.
Most believers in the Czech Republic are catholic (about 40%). Approximately 400,000 inhabitants are member of the Hussite Church. A smaller percentage of the population is protestant. Furthermore the country has Jews, Buddhists and Muslims. A large part of the population is atheist. Few people go to church frequently.
A very large part of the population speaks Czech (97%). Just like the Polish and Slovakian language, the Czech is a West Slavonic language. It is one of the oldest languages of Europe and is spoken by approximately twelve million people. Furthermore many Czech also speak German and English.
The Czech Republic is known for its large amount of historical monuments. The country has more than 2,700 palaces and castles. There are also beautiful gothic cathedrals. In different cities there are important cultural buildings. Therefore a few cities such as Telc, Cesky Krumlov, Kutna Hora and Prague are on UNESCO's World Heritage List. Everywhere in the country theaters and museums can be found. Since the Czech Republic used to be a catholic country, many Christian feasts are celebrated. Especially Christmas and Easter are important and know many traditions. There are also typical Czech holidays, such as the expulsion of the winter on April 30th and the commemoration of John Hus on July 6th.
The Czech Republic has some known writers and composers. Examples of Czech writers are Frans Kafka and Vaclav Havel. Three great Czech composers are Antonín Dvoák, Bedich Smetana and Leoš Janáek. In conclusion the Czech Republic is known for its health resorts. Widely spread over the country there are more than forty world-famous health resorts that have mineral and thermal sources as a basis. People believe that these sources have a therapeutic effect.
The Czech Republic is a republic with a parliamentary democracy. The legislative power is in the hands of the parliament. The parliament exists of two chambers, namely the Senate and the House of Representatives. The Senate has 81 members and the House of Representatives has 200 members. The member of the Senate are chosen for a period of six years; the members of the House of Representatives for four years. The prime minister is the Head of State.
The president has the executive power. Since 2003 Václav Klaus is the country's president. He has been chosen for five years by a majority of both chambers. The president appoints the ministers, is president of the Central Bank and is empowered to grant a reprieve.
The Czech Republic has a multi-party system. This means that several political parties may participate in the elections. This way the political power is divided. Important left parties are the "Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia" and the "Czech Social Democratic Party". Parties in the middle are the "Christian and Democratic Union - Czechoslovak People's Party" and the "Green Party". Two important right parties are the "Citizens' Democratic Party" and the "SNK European Democrats". In 2006 the "Citizens' Democratic Party" received the highest amount of votes.
All Czech of 18 years or older have general voting right. From the age of 21 years citizens can be chosen in the House of Representatives. The age limit for the Senate is higher: from 40 years.
The president of the Czech Republic is a supporter of the free market economy. Since 1991 the country's economy has been privatized for a large part. To stimulate the free market economy, the prices were liberated. Although at first it led to inflation, afterwards the price level decreased to an acceptable level. The Czech economy may be called stable and developed.
Foreign investments form an important aspect of the Czech economy. The largest part of the investments (75%) originated from EU countries. Especially the financial service industry is an attractive sector for foreign investment companies. The investors benefit from the well educated Czech working population, which is formed by approximately 15 million inhabitants. A large percentage is working in the industrial sector.
Just a small percentage of the working population works in agriculture. Many companies in this sector are privatized. The production is mainly meant for the country's consumption. The harvest is not sufficient for the entire country; besides the proper production the Czech Republic also imports several agricultural products, some of which are sugar beets, potatoes, wheat and hop.
The industry forms an important sector in the Czech economy. A strategic and important industrial branch is the chemical industry. Especially the heavy chemical industry brings high revenues. Other important industries are machine building, metalworking, and the iron and steel production. Two examples of industrial import products are heavy chemicals and synthetic fibers. Export products are several chemical agents such as detergents.
The free market economy made the service industry grow. Many companies have been established and tourism has also increased. Furthermore the banking sector was privatized. A large part is owned by foreign investors. Trading is very important for the Czech economy as well. The main trading takes place with the EU countries and the CEFTA (Central European Free Trade Agreement). As much as 30% of the export products are destined for Germany. Besides that Slovakia and Russia are important trade partners. Machines, metal and electronics are exported. Chemical products, machines and transport equipment are imported a lot.
The Czech Republic does not work with the euro. The legal currency is the crown. One crown (Kc) is 100 helaru. One euro equals to approximately 30 crowns.
The Czech Republic lies in Central Europe and is a relative small country. The country's total surface is almost 79,000 km2. In the north it borders to Poland, in the east to Slovakia, in the west to Germany and in the south to Austria. The country is not near a sea. The two important regions are Bohemia (west) and Moravia (east).
The Czech Republic exists of several regions with lowland which are separated by high mountains. The landscape characterizes itself by small hills, extensive forests, pasture and watery areas. In the south-west along the border, lies the Bohemian Forest. This is a low mountain range of not less than 200 kilometers long. The mountain range goes all the way into Germany and Austria. Other mountain ranges are the Erz Mountains, in the north-west and the Sudeten Mountains in the border area between Germany, Poland and the Czech Republic. The mountain range Sumava is the largest nature reserve of Central Europe. The Moldau river rises in this area. In the Giant Mountains, at the border of the Czech Republic and Poland, rises the River Elbe. The highest point of the Czech Republic (1,601 meters), mountain Snowhead, also lies in this area.
The country's capital is Prague (in Central Bohemia). It is a beautiful city with a rich culture. There are many nice buildings, castles and churches, as well as museums and theaters. The city's surrounding is the most densely populated area of the Czech Republic. In Prague itself there are more than one million Czech. After Prague, Brno is the largest city of the country. This city in South Moravia has almost 400,000 inhabitants. The city Cesky Krumlov is known for its historical buildings. Other cities in the Czech Republic are Ostrava, Pilsen, Olomouc, Kutna Hora, Telc, Ceske Budejovice and Pardubice.
The climate in the Czech Republic is a Central European one. In the east the influence of the continent is larger, which produces large differences between summer and winter temperatures. Most rainfall is in summer. The Bohemian valleys have the lowest rainfall. The mountain areas are often packed with snow in winter. In the lowland areas now and then there is snowfall and rain. July is the warmest month of the year with an average temperature between 18 and 21 degrees Celsius. Temperatures can also rise up to more than 30 degrees Celsius. January is the coldest month with an average temperature below zero. The temperatures of Moravia are often higher than in Bohemia. Moravia also has less rainfall. Prague is relatively warm and dry because the city lies sheltered in between a basin of several rivers.
The Czech Republic can be reached in different ways. Several international trains run from and to Prague. Within the country it is also possible to travel by train. The railroad is managed by eské dráhy (CD). The train tracks have a total length of 9,500 kilometers. The largest and most important train station, Praha hlavní nádraží, is in Prague. Traveling by train in the Czech Republic is very cheap.
It can also be reached by bus. However, the journey takes much more time than by airplane. In the Czech Republic there are many busses. Especially in Prague there are many city busses. Besides buses the city also offers the metro and streetcar. Traveling by streetcar is possible in the cities Brno, Pilsen, Liberec, Olomouc and Ostrava as well.
The Ruzyn airport in Prague is the Czech Republic's largest airport. Other international airports can be found in Brno, Ostrava, Karlsbad and Pardubice. CSA Czech Airlines is the national airline. The airplane is hardly ever used for traveling within the Czech Republic, because it is much cheaper by train, bus or car and the distances are reasonable.
The road network of the Czech Republic is approximately 55,000 kilometers of which only 500 kilometers exists of highways. Anyway, the quality of the main roads is very good and the regional and local roads are often of a good quality. The maximum speed on highways in 130 km/h and on the main road 90 km/h. Within the town area the maximum speed is 50 km/h.
The Czech kitchen has been influenced by the surrounding countries Hungary, Austria and Germany. Therefore some Czech dishes and delicacies such as goulash and apfelstrudel (apple strudel) can also be found in other countries. For the typical Czech recipes they mainly use grain, legumes, potatoes and meat. In the old days one could cultivate these ingredients oneself. There are a few unique Czech dishes such as dumplings, which are made from yeast mixture or from raw or boiled potatoes. They are often served as a side dish. Bramboráky are baked potato cookies and topinky is toasted bread. They eat very little fish. The Czech also eat more meat than vegetables.
Lager (beer) is the Czech's favorite drink. They say that this type of beer comes from the city Pilsen. Beer (pivo) is not only used to drink, but also to prepare food. The Czech drinks an average of 150 liters of beer per year. Becherovka is a typical herbal liqueur which contains 38% alcohol.
There are many restaurants in the Czech Republic with both international and traditional dishes. Going out for dinner is relatively cheap. The restaurants are often open until 11 p.m. Most restaurants are closed on Mondays. It is normal to tip between 5% and 12%.
The Czech Republic has become a popular vacation destination during recent years. It is tuned well to the millions of people who yearly visit the country. The hotel quality differs a lot. The most luxurious and expensive hotels are in Prague. At the border of the city more basic and cheap hotels can be found. Spending the night economically can be done in one of the many (youth) hostels. There are also many camping sites, but just like the hotels, the quality can differ a lot. Some camping sites have mainly Czech guests. The quality is usually better, but the prices are higher. Of course it is also possible to spend the night in vacation houses or guesthouses. A small typical Czech guesthouse is an excellent way to get a taste of the Czech domestic atmosphere.
The Czech Republic has a time zone of GMT +1. This is the Central European Time (CET). In March the clock is set one hour ahead.
For more information about the Czech Republic, we recommend Google and the following sources: