Modern Czech Republic is the result of several historical jolts occurring over the years. The last one being probably the Velvet revolution, a non-violent transition of power started in 1989 which signed de facto the end of the communist hegemony in this and other countries around and the division of what it was at the time Czechoslovakia in Czech Republic on one side and Slovakia on the other. The Czech Republic today is officially part of NATO (since 1999) and the European Union (since 2004) and probably not everybody knows that it is considered a fully developed country with high income economy and high living standards. Recently, it even ranked as the European country with the lowest unemployment rate.
The Czech Republic is divided in three regions: Bohemia, Moravia and Czech Silesia. The first one is the largest. Its name is derived from the latin “Boiohaemum”, meant by ancient Romans as “the desert of the Boii”, a population pushed by the Roman Republic to retreat from Northern Italy to that region following the violent battle of Mutina (193 BC). It’s a region full of castles and forests and it’s well known especially for its brewing tradition. After visiting Prague, it is worth it to have a quick tour through the other main cities around. Plzeň (known worldwide for the Pilsner beer), Liberec and Teplice (a popular spa city) above all deserve certainly a visit.
Moravia according to many people is the exact opposite to Bohemia. One of the most noticeable differences is actually that while Bohemia is quite popular worldwide for its beer, Moravia’s landscape is dominated by large vineyards and the quality of its wine is absolutely remarkable. Wine cellar tours are a quite nice activity to do if you have the chance to visit this part of the country. If you are just beer lovers though do not panic: the region is full of excellent microbreweries too. Brno, the capital of Moravia, has a vibrant city centre and some interesting museums. Silesia is by far the smallest region. Its main city, Ostrava, once known as an important coal mining and metallurgical centre features today a really captivating architecture.
One of the most popular outdoor activities is definitely hiking. Curiously enough, the Czech word “turista” (“tourist” in English) means also “hiker”. For beginners, thanks to a quite long tradition, there is a very good system of waymarking, most likely one of the best in Europe and there is a network of about 40,000 km of marked long- and short-distance trails crossing the whole country.
There are also several centres of tourist activity. For example the spa towns, such as Jáchymov, Karlovy Vary and Františkovy Lázně, are very popular destinations among lovers of relaxing holidays. Architectural heritage is another big treasure for this country. It includes several castles from different epoques, such as Karlštejn Castle and Český Krumlov.
The Czech Republic is also blessed as you can imagine with a big number of beer festivals over the whole year. The most popular ones are definitely the Czech Beer Festival (held every year in Prague in May), the Pilsner Fest (every year in August in Plzeň) and the Olomoucký pivní festival (in Olomouc).
Do not miss any chance to taste this delicious amber treasure that Czech people celebrate in any occasion. Beer is so central to the culture of this country that one popular proverb here says “Life is good wherever beer is brewed”. Traditionally, Czech beers are labelled either destitka (10) or dvanactka (12). Sometimes it is even possible to spot a jedenactka (11). This designation is quite misleading for visitors because this measure is actually not referred directly to the percentage of alcohol but it’s rather an indicator of the specific gravity (occasionally used also for wines). This method was invented in the 19th century by the Czech scientist Karl Josef Balling. Basically, 1 Balling represents 1% by weight of sugar derived from malt before fermentation in the liquid mix. However, many beers these days also have the conventional ABV content.
Finally, here is another little curiosity about Czech beer: did you know that Czech Republic has its own Budweiser? It all actually started many years ago when Adolphus Busch went back home in the US from a tour in Bohemia and decided to found in the 1870s a brewery named “Budweiser” to give it a touch of authenticity. He probably didn’t know that in the town of České Budějovice there had been already a brewing company named Budweiser since more than 800 years. By the beginning of the 20th century both companies started to expand internationally and a dispute arose about the first legal adopter of such name. Apparently the Czech Budweiser name was though legally registered just in the 1890s. Whatever is the story, today the American Budweiser brand, owned by the multinational giant InBev, is commercialized in Europe with the name Bud, while the Czech Budweiser is sold in the USA under the name “Czechvar”. In some other markets, such as UK, neither company is entitled to claim ownership of the name, so both companies can use the name Budweiser.