The greater part of Czech territory lies below 500 metres above sea level, Mount Sněžka at 1,600 metres being the highest point.
The country’s capital is Prague, and the population numbers around 10.5 million.
The Czech Republic is a parliamentary democracy. The head of state, the President, is elected in direct elections for a period of 5 years.
On March 12, 1999, the Czech Republic became a member of NATO, on May 1, 2004 – a member state of the European Union, and as of November 21, 2007 part of the Schengen Area. Some 6 million tourists visit the country each year.
The Czech Republic has a remarkably large number of sites of architectural interest for a country of its size: the country now has 12 UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
The oldest remaining heritage sites date back to the early Middle Ages. The Roman architectural influence entered Bohemia from the west and south with the settlement of Slavs, from which to this day stand large rotundas, stone houses, towers and simple churches. The most prominent monuments of this style include the 13th Century stone bridge in Písek (the oldest bridge in the country) and Saint Catherine’s (Svaté Kateřiny) rotunda in Znojmo.
As of the 13th
Century, the Gothic style had a profound influence in the Czech lands for some 300 years. At the height of the Gothic period, Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV commissioned a large number of imposing buildings designed by the architects Mathieu of Arras, Peter Parler and others. Among the best-known of these buildings is the Bezděz Castle in the Central Bohemian Hills, and Pernštejn Castle near Brno. Of the places of worship built in this era, the Cathedral of Saint Barbara (katedrála sv. Barbory
) in Kutná Hora, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is particularly noteworthy.
The Renaissance brought a new wave of architectural innovation. In the 16th
Century a large number of aristocrats moved from uncomfortable gothic castles to newly-built palaces with elegant, arcaded courtyards. The palace in Blatná and the historic centre of Slavonice are noteworthy examples from this period.
As with other architectural styles, Baroque was also influenced by the Church, but war – namely the Thirty Year War, also had a significant influence. Dientzenhofer, Santini and Alliprandi were the most prominent architects of the Baroque period. Prime examples of this period include Church of Our Lady of the Snows (kostel Panny Marie sněžné
) in Olomouc, the place of pilgrimage Svatá Hora (Holy Mountain), near Příbram, and Zelená Hora, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Czech Baroque style fundamentally changed the appearance of towns and villages throughout the land. The churches in Jaroměřice nad Rokytnou and Vranov nad Dyjí are two famous examples of the many Baroque churches in the country.
The fine-lined Rococo style gradually replaced High Baroque and was applied foremost in interior decoration before making way to neoclassicism emanating from France in the mid-18th
Century. Prominent examples of Rococo architecture in the Czech Republic include the Archbishop’s Palace in Kroměříž and Lednice–Valtice Cultural Landscape, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and also the colonnades of spa towns.
The architecture of the 19th
Century, influenced by the historic romanticism of the period, was not a style in itself, rather a mixture of previous architectural styles inspired first and foremost by movements in England and Germany. Nevertheless, the heritage from this period is ubiquitous in the form of many manors, palaces, town halls, churches, theatres and spa buildings. The Chateau of Hluboká nad Vltavou, and the new quarters of the Karlštejn Castle are prime examples from this time.
Century can be described as a century in search of a totally new architectural expression in response to the accelerating tempo of life. This resulted in the Art Nouveau style, known as “Secese” in Czech, in which the Czech form came to lead Europe in terms of quantity and quality. In 1910 emerged Cubism, a unique Czech style and movement characterized by circular and crystal shaped derivatives from geometric shapes.
The following architectural styles were void of decorative elements and monumental features, and sought their style in simplicity. Austere Functionalism of the inter-war period was one such example, superseded following World War II by Socialist Realism. The current era is that of modern banks, commercial centres and residential areas.
The Czech Republic has a mild continental climate with relatively warm summers and cold winters. On average the coldest month is January, followed by February and December. During those months the mountains in the country are usually covered in snow. Snowfall in lower lying areas is also common. Temperatures usually rise quickly in March, April and May, when the weather changes from day to day.
July is the hottest month, followed by August and June. Average temperatures in the summer are usually around 20 degrees higher than in winter. In recent years especially, temperatures above 30 degrees are not uncommon. Storms and rain are quite frequent in summer. Autumn begins in September, which is usually still warm and dry. In October temperatures drop to 15 or 10 degrees, then the first frosts come in November.
The currency unit of the Czech Republic is the Crown (1 Crown = 100 Hellers). Currently in circulation are banknotes with values 5,000, 2,000, 500, 200 and 100 Crowns, and coins with values of 50, 20, 10, 5, 2, and 1 Crown.
Statistics show that in comparison with other large European cities (Paris, Rome, Madrid), Prague has lower levels of crime. Walking through Prague at night is relatively safe. As with all cities where large crowds congregate, it’s advisable to take good care of one’s belongings.
The Czech Republic is in the Central European Time zone (CET = GMT+1). Summer Time (GMT+2) begins in the last week of March and ends at the end of October.
Now in Czech Republic