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The Czech Republic: Ancient Castles and a Modern Capital
The Fairy-Tale Castles of Czechia
The Czech Republic, also known as Czechia, is a central European country east of Germany that was part of the republic of Czechoslovakia until 1993. Rich in Gothic and Renaissance architecture, Czechia has over 900 castles, many with a charming fairy-tale quality set in a landscape of rolling hills.
One of the most visited castles is the Hluboká Castle, situated on the Vltava River near the Austrian border. This impressive structure was built in the 13th century but has been reconstructed several times. It has 140 rooms and 11 towers, and sits in a lovely English-style garden. The nearby town of Cesky Krumlov is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with its own large castle and many examples of 14th through 17th century architecture nestled in the bend of the river.
Just 20 miles from Prague, the Karlstejn Castle was founded in the 14th century as a place for hiding the king’s royal treasures, including the crown jewels and holy relics from the Roman Empire. It has been restored in a neo-Gothic style, luxuriously decorated with large tapestries, period furniture and a replica of the coronation jewels. Lednice Castle, in the southeastern corner of the country, sits in the largest park in the Czech Republic, which covers 77 square miles. Built as a Renaissance villa, it evokes romance and grandeur. This stop is a must for romantic getaways.
Prague, the City of Spires
One of the few major European cities unharmed during WWII, Prague boasts original architecture from centuries ago and is home to the world-famous Charles Bridge, a historic stone Gothic structure started in the year 1357. There are 30 statues mounted to the sides of the sandstone span, which crosses the Vltava River in a series of stone arches.
Prague is known as the “city of a hundred spires” due to its many Gothic churches. The Old Town Square in the historic district, untouched since the 10th century, has colorful baroque buildings and a medieval Astronomical clock that puts on a little show at the top of the hour.
Many river cruises visit the city of Prague as a part of the Elbe River itinerary. Wine tastings are part of these cruise excursions, and many delicious wines originate from the Bohemian area. The region is also famous for developing Pilsner-style beer, and there are places in the city called “beer spas” where you can bathe in it. It is said to relax, refresh and rejuvenate.
While in Prague, visitors like to indulge in the distinctive cuisine, including classic dishes like goulash, dumplings, potato pancakes, and a delicious cylinder-shaped dessert called trdlo with chocolate or strawberries and cream. The dough is wrapped around a stick and turned over coals. This Bohemian tradition provides a sweet end to your exploration of Prague.
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