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Czech Republic

 

The Czech Republic is a landlocked country in Central Europe, bordering with Germany, Austria, Slovakia and Poland. The Czech Republic includes the historical regions of Bohemia and Moravia, and a small part of Silesia, and after many centuries of changing borders and power structures, it became an independent republic in its current form in 1993 following the division of Czechoslovakia. The population of the Czech Republic today is approximately 10.5 million. The official language of the country is Czech, and the currency is the Czech Crown (Kč, or CZK).
 
The Czech Republic has a strong scientific tradition. Important inventions include the modern contact lens, the separation of modern blood types, and the production of the Semtex plastic explosive. Prominent scientists who have lived and worked in the Czech lands include, among others:
  • John Amos Comenius (1592–1670), teacher, educator and the founder of modern education.
  • Václav Prokop Diviš (1698–1765), inventor of the first grounded lightning rod.
  • Gregor Mendel (1822–1884), often called the "father of genetics", is famed for his research concerning the inheritance of genetic traits.
  • Ernst Mach (1838–1916), physicist and philosopher, proved the existence of shock waves.
  • Emil Škoda (1839–1900), founder of car company Škoda, one of the largest manufacturing businesses in the country.
  • František Křižík (1847–1941), electrical engineer, inventor of the arc lamp.
  • Jan Janský (1873–1921), serologist and neurologist, discovered the classification of blood into the four types.
  • Jaroslav Heyrovský (1890–1967), inventor of polarography, electroanalytical chemistry and winner of the Nobel Prize.
  • Otto Wichterle (1913–1998) and Drahoslav Lím (1925–2003), Czech chemists responsible for the invention of the modern contact lens.
  • Stanislav Brebera (1925–2012), inventor of the plastic explosive Semtex.
  • Antonín Holý (1936–2012), scientist and chemist, was involved in the creation of the most effective drug in the treatment of AIDS in 2009.
 
The Czech Republic  also has a rich cultural history, and has been home to many renowned composers (Antonín Dvořák, Bedřich Smetana, Gustav Mahler, Leoš Janáček,  Bohuslav Martinů), artists (such as Alphonse Mucha) and writers (including Franz Kafka, Jaroslav Seifert, Milan Kundera and Vaclav Havel).
 

In addition to the glorious capital city Prague, the Czech Republic is also home to many other fascinating sites of natural beauty and cultural heritage, including no fewer than 11 further UNESCO world heritage sites!

 

Here is a little taster of just a few of the country’s delights…

 

Lednice-Valtice Cultural Landscape

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Located in the Breclav district in South Moravia, Lednice-Valtice Cultural Landscape is a vast (200 square km) landscaped country park, historically the estate of the Dukes of Liechtenstein, that combines elements of baroque, classical and neo-gothic architecture, in the midst of romantic landscaped parklands featuring exotic trees, fishponds and more.

 

Kroměříž

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The baroque castle and gardens at Kroměříž in Moravia are an exceptionally well-preserved example of the Central European style of the 17th and 18th centuries.

 

Kutná Hora

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The unusual architecture of Kutná Hora makes this town a truly unique place. Most famous are the two cathedrals, the Cathedral of St Barbara, and the Cathedral of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, both of which are UNESCO listed. The former high and late gothic cathedral was completed in 1905, after being under construction for over 500 years, and features notable frescoes, in particular drawing on themes from mining and coining, while the latter cathedral, originally a Cistercian monastery dating from 1142, was rebuilt in 1699-1709 following three centuries in ruins after being sacked by the Hussites. Its imposing form retains a certain atmosphere of medieval mystery.

 

Litomyšl

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The historic town of Litomyšl, founded as early as 981 and granted the status of city in 1249, was the birthplace of composer Bedřich Smetana, in whose name an annual opera festival is held today in the grounds of the beautiful UNESCO-listed castle.

 

Olomouc

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Olomouc has been the historical centre of the Moravian region for many centuries. Nowadays a lively student town that hosts numerous cultural events and festivals, the historic centre holds the largest collection of historic monuments after Prague, amid quaint cobbled streets and beautiful floral parks. Mozart composed his 6th symphony in this town. Today its key sights include the historic cathedral and the Archbishop’s palace, where the Austrian Emperor Franz Josef I was crowned, and the astronomical clock in socialist realist style on the main square.

 

Telč

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This beautiful little town near the south-western border between Moravia and Bohemia, contains no fewer than 85 historical monuments. Most notable are the Renaissance chateau, and the triangular market square, surrounded by historic houses with colourful facades.

 

Český Krumlov

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In a naturally beautiful and strategically important location on the banks of the river Vltava, the peaceful town of Český Krumlov began life in the 13th century as the castle estate of the ruling Vitkovici family of South Bohemia, and continued as the seat of key noble families right into the 19th century, as well as an important trade and craft centre. The historic castle and Baroque theatre, together with the medieval streets of the town centre, offer a charming introduction to the region’s past.

 

Žďár nad Sázavou

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The unusual Pilgrimage Church of St John of Nepomuk at Zelená Hora, near Ždár nad Sázavou in Moravia, with its star-shaped cloister, is a fine example of work by the architect Jan Blazej Santini, and was a major centre of pilgrimage from its foundation until 1784, when the monastery was abolished.

 

All photos on this page: ©CzechTourism.com

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