Saturday, 24 May 2008

Czech Top Ten

No, not pop songs.
Tourist attractions; castles, historic towns, caves, national parks, museums, festivals, activities, soaking up the local life, food and drink…and so on.
What would be your top ten suggestions for someone who is visiting the Czech Republic for the first time?

I guess the standard list would be something like:

  • Prague castle
  • Charles’ Bridge
  • Prague’s old town square
  • Český Krumlov castle
  • Wandering Český Krumlov
  • Kutná Hora’s bone church
  • Prague’s astronomical clock
  • Prague’s Jewish quarter
  • Karlovy Vary’s hot springs
  • Czech beer

But I think we can do better.

Most people only go to two or three places in the whole country. So that’s all they know. I’m curious to know what those of you who have travelled more extensively, or lived here for a while, would have on your Top Ten lists.

It’s a bit of an odd exercise I know, but quite a few people have been stumbling across this blog by searching for “Czech Top Ten” and I plan to soon write a post to answer their implied question, which is “What are the 10 best things to do or see on my visit to the Czech Republic?”

I’m wary though of just nominating my favourite 10 things, because everybody is different. Not everyone has a sweet tooth for example (!?) and I’m undoubtedly (and unapologetically) biased towards Moravia. So I’d like to consult with others before I write this post up, and I struggle to imagine a better group of people to consult with than you guys, especially (but not exclusively) those of you who are active solvers of ‘Where the Czech…?’ challenges.

So what would be on your Top Ten list? Some of my 10 favourite things are on the list above. And some aren’t. What about yours?

NB. See the Czech Top Ten resulting from this discussion here


Michael said...

Plzen and the Pilsner Urquell brewery. Only an hour from Prague, half as cheap, and the best beer in the country.

One of the national parks - Sumava, Cesky Raj or Bohemian Switzerland.

The view of Prague's bridges from Letna.

Kutna Hora and Cesky Krumlov, yes. Karlovy Vary, probably.

My biggest tip for first time visitors would be to come back soon - and next time get out of Prague ;)

Michael said...

Do I qualify for another beer if I suggest a two night stay at the Poets Corner? ;)

Captain Oddsocks said...

No beer this time, mate, I'm afraid. The poets have the suggesting pretty well covered. If you can find a way to get people to listen to the suggestions, that's another matter. I might have to look into the price by the barrel...

The view from Letna, the parks and the brewery are good tips. But do you still think PU is the best beer since SAB took over and replaced the old wooden fermenters with stainless steel?

sansIcarus said...

It's a pretty big ask, Oddsocks. When you're making the list, I'm sure you can group the astronomical clock and the old town square in prague together.

For something close to Prague - I really enjoyed Karlsteyn. It's tourist heavy, yes, but there's a good reason for that.

Outside of Prague, (besides Olomouc of course) I was thinking of nominating Telc (because it's pretty) or Trebic (because I always saw Trebic), but i'm going to have to go for Litomysl.

Captain Oddsocks said...

A couple of those would be in my personal top ten too, SansIcarus.

So Prague's square and clock would be in yours?

Mags said...

I think you should have no more than 2 items from Prague in your list. After all, it's the Czech top 10, not the Prague top 10. My recommendation of places of interest is the series of caves at Macocha, and close by Kutna Hora there is an living museum where you walk around a village that's been recreated to show you how life was in the past. I forgot the name of the museum, however. I hope someone can help with that. Folk culture is an attraction to a lot of people. One from your list should reflect that, I think. --Margarete from FGSlovakia

Jay said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Captain Oddsocks said...

Couple of very good points there, Margarete. Thanks!

Those caves will have pretty good chance to make the final ten, I think. SansIcarus, you've been there, what do you think?

The closest outdoor museum to Kutna Hora that I know of is Vesely Kopec, near Hlinsko. That's quite a distance away though, so probably not the one in question?

Jay said...

I've just returned from Znojmo (after a recommendation) and I certainly wasn't disappointed. I think it would definitely be in my top 10. There is something about it that has a different feel than other Czech cities, and I'm not just talking about the wine and Hostan beer. :)

I also visited Vranov, which set in spectacular scenery.

Captain Oddsocks said...

Znojmo's great, isn't it?

I know what you mean by 'different'. Maybe it's because there's so much Gothic (and even Romanesque!) architecture, when most other attractive towns and cities tend to be Renaissance, Baroque or even more recent styles?

sansIcarus said...

The Old Town Square and immediate surrounding streets in Prague are pretty damn impressive, especially if you can find someone to spin you a few yarns about the place.

The only other Prague thing I'd put in would be the Castle area, which is equally as impressive. Sure, the Charles Bridge is good, but you get to see that on the way from the Old Town Square to the Castle.

Michael said...

But do you still think PU is the best beer since SAB took over and replaced the old wooden fermenters with stainless steel?

That's how globalisation works, I guess. Take a given point - say, absolute mediocrity - then ensure everything else tastes exactly the same. PU's gone downhill, sure - but it's not quite Starobrno yet.

I liked the Moravsky Kras, though they're a bugger to get to.

Michael Svec said...

The Plzen brewery tour was better than the Cesky Budejovice although I really enjoyed the city of Cesky Budejovice. Tabor was a nice laid back place to spend a night in a BB. Kutna Hora is a good place to stay overnight also, I enjoy wandering the streets at night without the tourist, it makes it easier to hear the ghosts of my ancestors. The folk museum Roznov pod Radhostem was good family fun as were the Moravian Karst. Hiking around Lednice-Valtice and up to the ruins of Devicky was beautiful, and the Moravian wine helps. The one place I would add to any Prague list is the Municipal House, I love the style and art, especially Mucha's work in the Mayor's Room. The Wallenstein palace also impresses especially if you can catch an evening concert.

Captain Oddsocks said...

Some good suggestions there. The Plzen brewery's been mentioned a couple of times now, as have the caves of the Moravian Karst.

Those caves would be on my personal top ten list, as would a visit to Litomyšl.

And it seems like a good idea to include some exposure to folklore, but are the outdoor museums at Rožnov or Stražnice really among the ten best things to see in the country? I don't know.

So far, Margarete is the only member of the fairer sex to have commented. It's not supposed to be the Czech top ten just for guys though, so are there any more girls out there? Nina, Ester, Jo?

Captain Oddsocks said...

Also, we're all foreigners so far. Any Czechs out there who'd like to suggest anything? Kamila maybe?

Nina said...

All of my favorite towns have been mentioned (Znojmo, Litomysl, Kutna Hora, Krumlov), so I'll try a few other things.

For me, top ten would include going to the National Theatre. Seats seem cheaper than in Western Europe, and the building itself is beautiful. And for anywhere outside of Prague, I'd recommend seeing jazz. (In Prague it's great too, of course, but out of Prague is significantly cheaper, and usually more of a town affair).

Top ten also includes trying svickova and going to a bourcak festival. I also love the area around Vranov nad Dyji.

Michael Svec said...

I think another common thread is music. It is everywhere and of the highest quality. The jazz is great wonderful especially in Olomouc. I saw the South Bohemian Chamber Philharmonic perform Carmina Burana and was impressed especially by the conductor. The Moravian Philharmonic was also great. They performed in Olomouc as the soundtrack to some old silent Hollywood films in the local theater. You would never have that quality of music that accessible so often. The singing in the pubs is also enjoyable although I still have not heard the call of the dudy.

Captain Oddsocks said...

That's great gang, thanks!
I think I;m pretty close to having afinal ten now. I just need to work out a way to include culture; I'd like to work theatre, music, film, literature, painting, sculpture and animation into one, but I want to have some concrete suggestions that anybody on a first visit can follow.

Expect to see it sometime after the 10th June, when I finish this leg of my cycling trip (if I survive the mountains and the traffic, that is)...

Nina said...

If you put Litomysl into your top ten, you can reference the Olbram Zoubek statues around town-- they really made the town for me!