Practical Travel Tips: Czech Republic.

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Our numerous visits to the Czech Republic have always been just to Prague. If you want to explore more of Czech Republic, Preethi Chandrasekhar of The Eager Traveler, who last wrote about Anguilla and Dominican Republic, recently explored the country and here are her practical tips.

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For most of us, the Czech Republic begins and ends with the beautiful city of Prague. I recently had the amazing opportunity to visit three lovely towns in the Moravian region of the Czech Republic: Brno, Kromeriz, and Telc. In this article, I walk you through the highlights and why you should consider exploring beyond the well-trodden city of Prague.

GETTING IN

From the West Coast, it’s about 13 hours with one stop to the Vaclav Havel Airport in Prague. Take a short taxi ride into Prague or go directly to the bus station and grab the bus to Brno, the second largest city in the Czech Republic. You can book your tickets online or get them at the bus station itself.

Visas:

Visas are not necessary for most nationalities. The official language spoken is Czech, although English and German are also common.

CONNECTIVITY

Wi-Fi at the hotels are no problem, although I found the connectivity a bit slow at times at the guesthouse in Telc. Some restaurants will also have wi-fi but don’t expect connectivity in all. As soon as I landed in Czech Republic, I got myself a local Vodafone sim card for $55 for about 2.5GB of data that allowed me to stay connected throughout the rest of my Europe trip.

GETTING AROUND

RegioJet buses are awesome to travel around within the Cezch Republic; for example, a ride from Prague to Brno costs a mere 7 euros. Brno to Kromeriz is about 3 Euros while Brno to Telc is about 4 euros. The buses come equipped with individual television monitors for your viewing pleasure, plus free headsets are provided during the trip. You also have your choice of coffee, tea or hot chocolate included in the price of the ticket and, not to mention, newspapers for your reading pleasure. The buses are clean and great to just stare out the windows at the countryside. If you’re taking cabs from the bus station to your hotels, know that the drivers seem to understand just a little English – enough to get you to your destination. If you’re looking for conversation, you may be disappointed.

MONEY MATTERS

The official currency is the Koruna, which means “crown.” Since I was traveling from Switzerland, I exchanged my Swiss Francs at the airport for Koruna as I needed cash on hand for the buses and cab rides. Most businesses accept credit cards, with Visa and MC being the most popular. There are several ATM machines around the bigger cities, like Brno and Prague.

ACCOMMODATIONS

The Czech Republic ranges in accommodations from 4-5 star hotels, guesthouses (Pensions) and of course hostels. In Brno, I recommend staying in Old Town and, if there is availability, especially the Hotel Royal Ricc, which is located on the oldest street in Brno. The hotel is old world charm in a late renaissance home, dating from 1595, and is simply lovely. Breakfast buffet is extensive and set in a charming, intimate room.

Staying at the guesthouse Pension Steidler in Telc is a real must because it is one of the traditional UNESCO designated houses located in the best-preserved square in middle Europe. This allows you insight into a local family’s home; plus you are walking distance from all the attractions, including the castle and the park. Note, this guesthouse does not have a fan or AC so if you are in town during a heat wave, be prepared! Breakfast is plentiful and set in a cute adjoining kitchen/living area with bread, delicious jam, butter, meat, chocolate yogurt with bananas, and a chocolate bar. Yum!

Brno

A mere 2 hours away, the Moravian capital of Brno is the second largest city in the Czech Republic and serves as the gateway to the vineyards of South Moravia. Its skyline is dominated by the Cathedral of St. Peter and Paul. In Gothic style, this cathedral is a pleasure to explore as it sits atop the Petrov hill, a pleasant climb after which you can descend down into Sadys park and the Capuchi gardens strewn with benches to allow you to sit and soak in the atmosphere and the views of the city of Brno.

The Cathedral of St. Peter and Paul – Photo: (c) 2017 – Preethi Chandrasekhar of The Eager Traveler

Old town is lovely to stroll, the buildings are beautiful and the city’s Old Town Hall is not to be missed. A climb up to the tower is well worth your time as you will get a lovely view of the city including the spires of the different churches. The Old Town Hall is also guarded by the legendary two-metre Brno dragon. Notice the crooked gothic turret in front of the building. Legend has it that the master Anton Pilgram, the creater of this Gothic portal, wasn’t paid enough and hence he decided to make one of the turrets crooked. I don’t blame him!

The View from the Old Town Hall Tower – Photo: (c) 2017 – Preethi Chandrasekhar of The Eager Traveler

Don’t miss Spilberk castle, which also sits atop a small hill, perhaps not the traditional definition of a castle we may be used to, but in my opinion, contains a fascinating well-preserved labyrinth of underground prisons! I also climbed the tower for a view of Brno, but not as impressive as the climb up the city hall tower so maybe you can skip this one!

Kromeriz

Kromeriz is a short one hour bus ride away from Brno and is really a hidden gem of a town. Great for a day trip, the town’s main highlight is the UNESCO World Heritage site of the Archbishop’s Baroque style Palace, Chateau and the flower gardens which are really incredible. Take a tour of the grounds and the Chateau but know that the tours are in Czech, although you can ask for an English text guide, which will you give you a room by room explanation as you walk along with the tour group. Many scenes from Amadeus and Immortal Beloved were filmed here on location. The Castle used to be the principal residence of the bishops and archbishops of Olomuc and has beautiful rococo rooms, ceiling frescoes and the gardens.

 

The tour of the palace begins in the Hunting Hall, where you can see 218 trophies of a chase – trophies of deer and roebucks embedded in plaster heads. You’ll walk through the beautiful Pink Salon with the white furniture in rococo style (you’ll see the most beautiful chandelier in the chateau) the Tsarist room where Alexander III gave audiences (you’ll see a treasured vase from one piece of Uralian mineral), the Meeting Hall, Throne room and the beautiful Assembly Hall known to have the most beautiful Rococo interiors in all of Central Europe. Amadeus was also filmed in this hall. The library rooms contain close to 20,000 books written in Latin, German and Czech, mostly originating from the end of the 19th century

When in Kromeriz, don’t miss having lunch at the lovely Cerny Orel Pivovar. This restaurant has both an outdoor patio up front and in the back and also boasts its own brewery. Yes, we’re talking about the traditional Czech lagers to German Hefewizen to the Belgian acid beers. The main square consists of delightful homes and restaurants in the Art Nouveau style, Renaissance and Baroque architecture. My guide was a local school teacher who knew everyone in town as well as a lot of the history as well. He came dressed in a typical 17th century costume and showed me the different archbishop run schools, as well as the regular state-run schools, all housed in lovely Baroque buildings. The Neo Gothic cathedral adjacent to the Chateau is worth a visit.

The View from the Chateau Tower – Photo: (c) 2017 – Preethi Chandrasekhar of The Eager Traveler

Telc

One of the most impressive sights in Telc is the town square itself. It’s a unique long plaza with what is arguably the best well-preserved Renaissance and Baroque houses characterized by the high gables and arcades. Since 1993, this has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A small town, Telc is easy to walk around in a few hours and utterly charming with some stunning views.

The Gothic castle dominates one end of the square and while it was built in the 14th century, it underwent a significant alteration toward the Renaissance style. Zacharias of Hradec was a nobleman, who after the premature death of his father, took over his part of the paternal heritage (Telc and other nearby villages). At one point, he took part in a trip of Czech noblemen to Italy to welcome there the elected Czech king Maximilian II. It was his exposure to the Italian Renaissance architecture that prompted him to reconstruct the Telc square with Renaissance gables, as well as to reconstruct the castle, including the lovely interiors and furniture in the Renaissance style, using Italian artists. The most beautiful rooms are the Renaissance halls with unique gild waffle ceilings with lavish figural ornaments, an extraordinary example of Renaissance woodcarving. For example, in the Theatre Hall, the ceiling is formed by the panels containing painted masquers. In the ceiling of the Knight Hall, you will see paintings of the acts of Hercules on the wooden waffle ceiling of 1570. The Blue Hall contains the allegory of four elements personified by the Roman gods and is named after the color of the fields of the Renaissance waffle ceiling. The ceiling of the famous Golden Hall consists of 30 octagonal panels with impressive figurative wooden carvings and is one of my favorites, as well as one of the Chateau’s most spectacular halls.

The Food

Czech cuisine thrives on pork dumplings (steamed and sliced bread-like), cabbage (not like sauerkraut but boiled with a light sugar sauce), boar, rabbit, fried chicken, potatoes, and bacon. They also have simple panini sandwiches at smaller cafes. And definitely try the Moravian wine and tell me if you like it!

About the Author:

Preethi Chandrasekhar is a freelance travel writer/influencer with a passion for sharing her travel stories to inspire people to explore more of this beautiful world. She’s interested in experiential travel and writes frequently about off the beaten path destinations. Follow her on Instagram and her blog, The Eager Traveler, for more of her travel pics and stories!

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