2016. April 12.
Back

Czech Republic

Prague is the capital and largest city of the Czech Republic. It is the 14th largest city in the European Union. It is also the historical capital of Bohemia. Situated in the north-west of the country on the Vltava River, the city is home to about 1.24 million people, while its larger urban zone is estimated to have a population of nearly 2 million.

Prague has been a political, cultural, and economic centre of central Europe with waxing and waning fortunes during its 1,100-year existence. Founded during the Romanesque and flourishing by the Gothic and Renaissance eras, Prague was not only the capital of the Czech state, but also the seat of two Holy Roman Emperors and thus also the capital of the Holy Roman Empire. It was an important city to the Habsburg Monarchy and its Austro-Hungarian Empire and after World War I became the capital of Czechoslovakia. The city played major roles in the Protestant Reformation, the Thirty Years' War, and in 20th-century history, during both World Wars and the post-war Communist era.

Prague is home to a number of famous cultural attractions, many of which survived the violence and destruction of 20th-century Europe. Main attractions include the Prague Castle, the Charles Bridge, Old Town Square with the Prague astronomical clock, the Jewish Quarter, Petřín hill and Vyšehrad. Since 1992, the extensive historic centre of Prague has been included in the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites. The city boasts more than ten major museums, along with numerous theaters, galleries, cinemas, and other historical exhibits. An extensive modern public transportation system connects the city. Also, it is home to a wide range of public and private schools, including Charles University.

Some of his famous monuments are:

Prague astronomical clock

The Prague astronomical clock, or Prague Orloj is a medieval astronomical clock located in Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic. The clock was first installed in 1410, making it the third-oldest astronomical clock in the world and the oldest one still operating. The Orloj is mounted on the southern wall of Old Town Hall in the Old Town Square. The clock mechanism itself is composed of three main components: the astronomical dial, representing the position of the Sun and Moon in the sky and displaying various astronomical details; "The Walk of the Apostles", a clockwork hourly show of figures of the Apostles and other moving sculptures—notably a figure of Death (represented by a skeleton) striking the time; and a calendar dial with medallions representing the months. According to local legend, the city will suffer if the clock is neglected and its good operation is placed in jeopardy and a ghost, mounted on the clock, was supposed to nod his head in confirmation. Based on the legend, the only hope was represented by a boy born in the New Year's night.

The oldest part of the Orloj, the mechanical clock and astronomical dial, dates back to 1410 when it was made by clockmaker Mikuláš of Kadaň and Jan Šindel, the latter a professor of mathematics and astronomy at Charles University. The first recorded mention of the clock was on 9 October 1410. Later, presumably around 1490, the calendar dial was added and clock facade was decorated with gothic sculptures.Formerly, it was believed that the Orloj was constructed in 1490 by clockmaster Jan Růže (also called Hanuš); this is now known to be a historical mistake. A legend, recounted by Alois Jirásek, has it that the clockmaker Hanuš was blinded on the order of the Prague Councillors so that he could not repeat his work; in turn, he broke down the clock, and no one was able to repair it for the next hundred years.

The four figures flanking the clock are set in motion at the hour, these represent four things that were despised at the time of the clock's making. From left to right in the photographs, the first is Vanity, represented by a figure admiring himself in a mirror. Next, the miser holding a bag of gold represents greed or usury. Across the clock stands Death, a skeleton that strikes the time upon the hour. Finally there is a figure representing lust and earthly pleasures. On the hour, the skeleton rings the bell and immediately all other figures shake their heads, side to side, signifying their unreadiness "to go.” There is also a presentation of statues of the Apostles at the doorways above the clock, with all twelve presented every hour.

 

Infant Jesus of Prague

The Infant Jesus of Prague is a 16th-century Roman Catholic wax-coated wooden statue of child Jesus holding a globes crucifer, located in the Carmelite Church of Our Lady Victorious in Malá Strana, Prague, Czech Republic. Pious legends state that the statue once belonged to Saint Teresa of Avila. In addition, the statue has also merited Papal recognition through Pope Leo XIII who instituted the Sodality to the Infant Jesus of Prague in 1896. On 30 March 1913, Pope Saint Pius X further organised the Confraternity of the Infant Jesus of Prague. Pope Pius XI granted its first Canonical Coronation on 27 September 1924 while Pope Benedict XVI granted its second coronation to the image as well as a spare ermine fur cape during his Apostolic visit to the Czech Republic in September 2009.

The exact origin of the Infant Jesus statue is not known, but historical sources point to a small 19 inch (48 cm) high sculpture of the Holy Child with a bird in his right hand presently located in the Cistercian monastery of Santa María de la Valbonna in Asturias, Spain which was carved around the year 1340. Many other Infant Jesus sculptures were also carved by famous masters throughout Europe in the Middle Ages. Often found in early medieval work, the significance of the bird symbolizes either a soul or the Holy Spirit. The sculptures of the Holy Child were dressed in imperial regalia reflecting the aristocratic fashion of that period. One legend says that a monk in a desolated monastery somewhere between Cordoba and Sevilla had a vision of a little boy, telling him to pray. The monk had spent several hours praying and then he made a figure of the child.

The House of Habsburg began ruling the Kingdom of Bohemia in 1526; the kingdom developed close ties with Spain. The statue first appeared in 1556, when María Manriquez de Lara y Mendoza brought the image to Bohemia upon her marriage to Czech nobleman Vratislav of Pernstyn. An old legend in the Lobkowicz family reports that María's mother, Doña Isabella, had been given the statue by Saint Teresa of Avila herself. María received the family heirloom as a wedding present. It later became the property of her daughter, Polyxena, 1st Princess Lobkowicz (1566–1642). In 1628, Princess Polyxena von Lobkowicz donated the statue to the Discalced Carmelite friars (White Friars).

Upon presenting it, the pious Princess Polyxena is said to have uttered a prophetic statement to the religious:

"Venerable Fathers, I bring you my dearest possession. Honor this image and you shall never want."

The statue was placed in the oratory of the monastery of Our Lady of Victory, Prague, where special devotions to Jesus were offered before it twice a day. The Carmelite novices professed their vow of poverty in the presence of the Divine Infant. Upon hearing of the Carmelites' devotions and needs, the Emperor Ferdinand II of the House of Habsburg sent along 2,000 florins and a monthly stipend for their support. In 1630, the Carmelite novitiate was transferred to Munich. Disturbances in Bohemia due to the Thirty Years War brought an end to the special devotions, and on November 15, 1631, the army of King Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden took possession of Bohemia's capital city. The Carmelite friary was plundered and the image of the Infant of Prague was thrown into a pile of rubbish behind the altar. Here it lay forgotten, its hands broken off, for seven years, until it was found again in 1637 by Father Cyrillus and placed in the church's oratory. One day, while praying before the statue, Father Cyrillus claimed to have heard a voice say,

"Have pity on me, and I will have pity on you. Give me my hands, and I will give you peace. The more you honor me, the more I will bless you."

Since then, the statue has remained in Prague and has drawn many devotees worldwide to honor the Holy Child. Claims of blessings, favors and miraculous healings have been made by many who petitioned before the Infant Jesus. In 1739, the Carmelites of the Austrian Province formed a special devotion apart from their regular apostolate. In 1741, the statue was moved to the epistle side of the church of Our Lady of Victory in Prague. Several costly embroidered vestments have been donated by benefactors. Among those donated are those from Empress Maria Theresa and Emperor Ferdinand I of Austria, which are preserved to this day. A notable garment in the collection is an ermine cloak placed on the statue the first Sunday after Easter, which is the anniversary day of the coronation of the statue by the Archbishop of Prague Ernst Adalbert von Harrach on 4 April 1655.

In 1713 the clothing began to be changed according to the liturgical norms. Other valuable garments worn by the image are vestments studded with various gemstones, embroidered with gold, and silk fabrics as well as handmade lace customised purposely for the statue.

    •    Green - Ordinary Time

    •    Purple - Lent, Candlemas and Advent

    •    Red or gold - Christmas and Easter

    •    Royal blue - Immaculate Conception / Feast of Assumption

 

Josefov

Josefov, also Jewish quarter, is a town quarter and the smallest cadastral area of Prague, Czech Republic, formerly the Jewish ghetto of the town. It is completely surrounded by Old Town. The quarter is often represented by the flag of Prague's Jewish community, a yellow Magen David (Star of David) on a red field. Jews are believed to have settled in Prague as early as the 10th century. The first pogrom was in 1096 (the first crusade) and eventually they were concentrated within a walled Ghetto. In 1262 Přemysl Otakar II issued a Statuta Judaeorum which granted the community a degree of self-administration. In 1389 one of the worst pogroms saw some 1,500 massacred at Easter Sunday. The ghetto was most prosperous towards the end of the 16th century when the Jewish Mayor, Mordecai Maisel, became the Minister of Finance and a very wealthy man. His money helped develop the ghetto. Around this time the Maharal was supposed to create the Golem.

In 1850 the quarter was renamed "Josefstadt" (Joseph's City) after Joseph II, Holy Roman Emperor who emancipated Jews with the Toleration Edict in 1781. Two years before Jews were allowed to settle outside of the city, so the share of the Jewish population in Josefov decreased, while only orthodox and poor Jews remained living there. Most of the quarter was demolished between 1893 and 1913 as part of an initiative to model the city on Paris. What was left were only six synagogues, the old cemetery, and the Old Jewish Town Hall (now all part of the Jewish Museum in Prague and described below).

Currently Josefov is overbuilt with buildings from the beginning of the 20th century, so it is difficult to appreciate exactly what the old quarter was like when it was reputed to have over 18,000 inhabitants. Medieval Josefov is depicted in the 1920 film The Golem, composed of crampt, angular, squinted buildings, but this impression is used purely to convey the expressionist nature of the film.

 

Karlovy Vary

Karlovy Vary or Carlsbad is a spa town situated in western Bohemia, Czech Republic, on the confluence of the rivers Ohře and Teplá, approximately 130 km (81 mi) west of Prague (Praha). It is named after King of Bohemia and Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV, who founded the city in 1370. It is historically famous for its hot springs (13 main springs, about 300 smaller springs, and the warm-water Teplá River). It is the most visited spa town in the Czech Republic. The first Celtic settlers came there before the Middle Ages. Around 1350 Charles IV, Holy Roman Emperor and Czech king during his stay in Loket organized an expedition into the surrounding forests, where on the site of the alleged spring established a spa called Horké Lázně u Lokte (Spas at Loket). Place was subsequently renamed after him, according to legend after he had acclaimed the healing power of the hot springs. Charles IV. on 14 August 1370 gave the city privileges. Earlier settlements can be also found in the outskirts of today's city.

Due to publications by doctors such as David Becher and Josef von Löschner, the city developed into a famous spa resort, and was visited by many members of European aristocracy. It became more popular after the railway lines to Eger (Cheb) and Prague were completed in 1870. The Carlsbad Decrees of 1819 introduced in the city, implemented antiliberal censorship within the German Confederation. The number of visitors rose from 134 families in the 1756 season to 26,000 guests annually at the end of the 19th century. By 1911, that figure had reached 71,000, but World War I put an end to tourism and also led to the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire by late 1918.

The large German-speaking population of Bohemia was incorporated into the new state of Czechoslovakia in accordance with the Treaty of Saint-Germain-en-Laye. As a result, the German-speaking majority of Carlsbad protested. A demonstration on 4 March 1919 passed peacefully, but later that month, six demonstrators were killed by Czech troops after a demonstration turned unruly.

In 1938, the Sudetenland, including Carlsbad, became part of Nazi Germany according to the terms of the Munich Agreement. After World War II, in accordance with the Potsdam Agreement, the vast majority of the people of Carlsbad were forcibly expelled from the city because of their German ethnicity. In accordance with the Beneš decrees, their property was confiscated without compensation.

Since the fall of the Soviet Union and the end of Communist rule in the Czech Republic, there has been a steady increase of the Russian business presence in Karlovy Vary. In the 19th century, it became a popular tourist destination, especially known for international celebrities visiting for spa treatment. The city is also known for the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, which is one of the oldest in the world and has become one of Europe's major film events. And also for the popular Czech liqueur Becherovka. The glass manufacturer Moser Glass is located in Karlovy Vary. The famous Karlovarské oplatky (Carlsbad spa wafers) originated in the city in 1867. The city has also given its name to the delicacy known as "Carlsbad plums". These plums (usually quetsch) are candied in hot syrup, then halved and stuffed into dried damsons; this gives them a very intense flavour. The city has been used as the location for a number of film-shoots, including the 2006 films Last Holiday and box-office hit Casino Royale, both of which used the city's Grandhotel Pupp in different guises.

Notable people associated with Karlovy Vary

    •    Peter I of Russia visited Karlovy Vary in 1711

    •    Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, founder of the Republic of Turkey, as well as its first President, visited Karlsbad in 1918 for spa treatments

    •    František Běhounek, scientist and novelist, died here

    •    Johann Wolfgang Goethe, German poet, novelist, philosopher, scientist

    •    Princess Michael of Kent (born Baroness Marie Christine Agnes Hedwig Ida von Reibnitz), a member of the British Royal Family, was born in January 1945, prior to the expulsion of the German population later that year.

    •    Adalbert Stifter, Austrian writer

    •    Ludwig van Beethoven, composer, came for spa treatments. He and the poet Goethe would take walks together, much to the delight of the local people.

    •    Fryderyk Chopin, composer, and his parents met for the last time during a holiday in Karlsbad, August/September 1835.

    •    Anthony J. Drexel, senior partner of Drexel, Morgan & Co. (JPMorgan, today) and founder of Drexel University, died in Karlsbad in 1893 while spending the summer there for his health.

    •    Vladimir Voronin, former president or Republic of Moldova, visits Karlovy Vary every year for spa treatments.

    •    James Ogilvy, 7th Earl of Findlater, Scottish noble and an accomplished amateur landscape architect and philanthropist

    •    Ivan Turgenev, the Russian novelist, visited Karlsbad on numerous occasions for its healing waters.

    •    Jean de Carro, Swiss physician, published the Almanach de Carlsbad

    •    Gerda Mayer, English poet, born in Karlsbad

    •    Saint Diddlemus Maximus, born 769 AD. He was part of a Christian movement proclaiming the benefits of cultivating buckwheat as a staple crop in the region. He is the patron saint of grain, in particular buckwheat. Martyred December 23rd,793

 

Český Krumlov

Český Krumlov is a small city in the South Bohemian Region of the Czech Republic where Český Krumlov Castle is located. Old Český Krumlov is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and was given this status along with the historic Prague castle district. The city is named Český Krumlov ("Bohemian Crumlaw") to differentiate it from Moravský Krumlov in South Moravia.

Construction of the town and castle began in the late 13th century at a ford in the Vltava River, which was important in trade routes in Bohemia. In 1302 the town and castle were owned by the House of Rosenberg. Emperor Rudolf II bought Krumlov in 1602 and gave it to his natural son Julius d’Austria. Emperor Ferdinand II gave Krumlov to the House of Eggenberg. From 1719 until 1945 the castle belonged to the House of Schwarzenberg. Most of the architecture of the old town and castle dates from the 14th through 17th centuries; the town's structures are mostly in Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque styles. The core of the old town is within a horseshoe bend of the river, with the old Latrán neighborhood and castle on the other side of the Vltava. The town was seat of Duchy of Krumlov. The widespread use of Czech language of town's inhabitants was gradually replaced by the use of German during the 17th century. 8,662 inhabitants lived in Krumau an der Moldau in 1910, including 7,367 Germans and 1,295 Czechs.

During the interwar era it was part of Czechoslovakia. Between 1938 and 1945 it was annexed by Nazi Germany as part of the Sudetenland. The town's German-speaking population were expelled after World War II and it was given to Czechoslovakia. During the Communist era of Czechoslovakia, Krumlov fell into disrepair, but since the Velvet Revolution of 1989 much of the town's former beauty has been restored, and it is now a major holiday destination popular with tourists from Germany, Austria and beyond, as far as China. In August, 2002, the town suffered from damage in the great flood of the Vltava River.

Český Krumlov Castle is unusually large for a town of Krumlov's size; within the Czech Republic it is second in extent only to the Hradčany castle complex of Prague. Inside its grounds are a large rococo garden, an extensive bridge over a deep gap in the rock upon which the castle is built, and the castle itself, which in turn consists of many defined parts dating from different periods of time. After the garden was not adequately maintained during the second half of the 20th century, the site was included in the 1996 World Monuments Watch by the World Monuments Fund. With financial support from American Express the garden's central fountain was documented and reconstructed, and is functional today. Church of St. Vitus (Kostel Sv. Víta) is a Gothic church dating back to the 15th century with frescoes from the same period.

Český Krumlov Castle preserves its Baroque theatre, built from 1680–82 under Prince Johann Christian I von Eggenberg and renovated with modern (at the time) stage equipment under Josef Adam zu Schwarzenberg from 1765–66. With this original stage machinery, scenery and props it is among only a few such court theatres that still exist[6] Due to its age, the theatre is only used three times a year (only two are open to the public), when a Baroque opera is performed in simulated candlelight. The castle's last private owner was Adolph Schwarzenberg. It was here that he received President Edvard Beneš and gave him a large contribution for the defence of Czechoslovakia against the growing threat of Nazi Germany. His property was seized by the Gestapo in 1940 and then confiscated by the Czechoslovak government in 1945.

Krumlov has a museum dedicated to the painter Egon Schiele, who lived in the town.

 

Český Krumlov hosts a number of festivals and other events each year including the Five-Petalled Rose Festival (the name is derived from the Rožmberk crest of a 5 petal red rose), which is celebrated on the weekend of summer solstice in June. The downtown area is recreated as a medieval town with craftsmen, artists, musicians, and local people dressed in costumes from the Middle Ages. Various activities such as jousting, fencing, historical dance performances, and folk theatre take place at the castle, local park, and the river bank, among other places. The festival is concluded by a fireworks show above the castle.

The  is one of the summer's cultural events. The Festival begins in July and ends in August, and features International music from varied musical genres.[7] In addition, various other festivals are sprouting up throughout the year. Summer music festivals in Cesky Krumlov also include the latest blues, rock, and soul festival Open Air Krumlov, which is held annually in late June at Eggenberg Brewery Garden in Cesky Krumlov. Since the Velvet Revolution in 1989, over eighty restaurants have been established in the area. Many restaurants are located along the river and near the castle.

 

Kutná Hora

Kutná Hora is a city situated in the Central Bohemian Region of Bohemia, which is now part of the Czech Republic.

The town began in 1142 with the settlement of the first Cistercian monastery in Bohemia, Sedlec Monastery, brought from the Imperial immediate Cistercian Waldsassen Abbey. By 1260 German miners began to mine for silver in the mountain region, which they named Kuttenberg, and which was part of the monastery property. The name of the mountain is said to have derived from the monks' cowls (the Kutten) or from the word mining (kutání in old Czech). Under Abbot Heidenreich the territory greatly advanced due to the silver mines which gained importance during the economic boom of the 13th century.

The earliest traces of silver have been found dating back to the 10th century, when Bohemia already had been in the crossroads of long-distance trade for many centuries. Silver dinars have been discovered belonging to the period between 982–995 in the settlement of Malín, which is now a part of Kutná Hora. From the 13th to 16th centuries the city competed with Prague economically, culturally and politically. Since 1995 the city center has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

In 1300 King Wenceslaus II of Bohemia issued the new royal mining code Ius regale montanorum (also known as Constitutiones Iuris Metallici Wenceslai II). This was a legal document that specified all administrative as well as technical terms and conditions necessary for the operation of mines. The city developed with great rapidity, and at the outbreak of the Hussite Wars in 1419 was the second most important city in Bohemia, after Prague, having become the favourite residence of several Bohemian kings. It was here that, on January 18, 1409, Wenceslaus IV signed the famous Decree of Kutná Hora, by which the Czech university nation was given three votes in the elections to the faculty of Prague University as against one for the three other nations.

In 1420 Emperor Sigismund made the city the base for his unsuccessful attack on the Taborites during the Hussite Wars, leading to the Battle of Kutná Hora. Kuttenberg (Kutná Hora) was taken by Jan Žižka, and after a temporary reconciliation of the warring parties was burned by the imperial troops in 1422, to prevent its falling again into the hands of the Taborites. Žižka nonetheless took the place, and under Bohemian auspices it awoke to a new period of prosperity.

Along with the rest of Bohemia, Kuttenberg (Kutná Hora) passed to the Habsburg Monarchy of Austria in 1526. In 1546 the richest mine was hopelessly flooded; in the insurrection of Bohemia against Ferdinand I the city lost all its privileges; repeated visitations of the plague and the horrors of the Thirty Years' War completed its ruin. Half-hearted attempts after the peace to repair the ruined mines failed; the town became impoverished, and in 1770 was devastated by fire. The mines were abandoned at the end of the 18th century. In this town Prague groschen were minted between 1300–1547/48.

Bohemia was a crownland of the Austrian Empire in 1806, in the Austrian monarchy (Austria side) after the compromise of 1867). Until 1918, Kuttenberg was head of the district with the same name, one of the 94 Bezirkshauptmannschaften in Bohemia. The city became part of Czechoslovakia after World War I and the collapse of Austria-Hungary. Kutná Hora was incorporated into the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia by Nazi Germany in the period 1939–1945, but was restored to Czechoslovakia after World War II. The city became part of the Czech Republic in 1993 during the dissolution of Czechoslovakia.

Ask for a quote