Sunday, 9 May 2010

Top Ten daytrips from Brno

The Caves of the Moravian Karst are one of the premier natural attractions of the Czech Republic. The first part of the tour is like any other cave visit, then after coming out into the sunlight at the bottom of the Macocha Gorge it's back into the caves and into flat bottomed boats for a 20minute ride along the underground Punkva river. Don't get to do that every day do you? (28km, train and bus via Blansko to Skalní mlyn)

Boskovice was one of the four big Moravian Jewish towns before WWII. Strolling the streets of the old Jewish quarter, a roam around the extensive overgrown cemetery and a visit to the synagogue are the musts here, but the ruined hilltop castle, the collosal church of St James on the main square and a visit to the wonderful little coffee shop Kafirna Dogvill round out the daytrip. (42km, bus or train via Skalice nad Svitavou)

Moravský Krumlov is home to the Slav Epic, painter Alfons Mucha's masterpiece series of 20 paintings that took sixteen of the last years of his life to complete. The canvasses are beautiful works of art that recount the history of the Slavic peoples more eloquently than any other medium I can imagine.

Technically the canvasses belong to the city of Prague, but the soul of the paintings clearly belongs somewhere between the Balkans, the Ukrainian steppe and rural south Moravia. There are plans afoot for the epic to be carted off to the capital and commercialised, but it's just not going to be the same when that happens. Nearby Ivančice was Mucha's home town and daytrippers with their own transport could easily stop off to admire the brilliant white church that features in the 4th painting of the Epic. (38km, direct buses and trains)

Veveří castle at the western end of the Brno dam makes a good destination for a summer afternoon of cycling. From central Brno, cycle trail #1 leads along the Svratka river valley to the dam, which is crisscrossed by a ferry service and surrounded on any warm day by hundreds or thousands of sunbathing Brno-ers enjoying their local riviera. The 13th century castle itself is open six days a week in summer. (25km round trip; it's probably best to go counter-clockwise around the dam to enjoy the long slow descent back along the southern bank)

Austerlitz is the site of one the great battles of European history. Napoleon Bonaparte's 1805 defeat of the combined armies of Austria and Russia became known as the Battle of the Three Emperors. It's remembered by an exhibit at the chateau in Slavkov U Brna (where the peace settlement was signed) and a peace monument and memorial on the hill from which Napoleon commanded his troops. There's also a yearly reenactment of the battle itself in early December and the hugest toy soldiers you're ever likely to see at a concrete plant just off to the left of the Brno-Olomouc main road. (28km, bus to Slavkov u Brna, also a good daytrip for cyclists)

Pernštejn Castle is one of the most extensive and best preserved Gothic castles in central Europe. Under the powerful Pernštejn family it repelled the Swedish army in the Thirty Years War. Its halls, chapels, towers and courtyards are now open to visitors six days a week May through September and on weekends in April and October. Travellers with their own transport could call into the monastery at Tišnov on the way back to Brno. (46km, train to Nedvědice then 20mins walk along the yellow-marked trail from there)

The Lednice-Valtice area is one of Moravia's seven UNESCO world heritage sites. The 200-plus square kilometres are dotted with neo-gothic chateaux, man-made lakes, vineyards and even a 60 metre high minaret designed by pencil maker Josef Hardtmuth. Valtice is a town of wine cellars and the surrounding forests are rich with animal and plant life. Cycling from Břeclav is an ideal way to visit the area and Břeclav tourist info have bikes for hire including tandems for 300Kč per day. (65km, train to or via Břeclav)

Dolní Kounice is the most impressive of the small historic towns within easy reach of Brno. Set in the deep valley of the river Jihlava, Dolní Kounice's premier attractions are the weedy courtyards and roofless Gothic church of the ruined monastery Rosa Coeli. But there's also a chateau, the Church of saints Peter and Paul, a synagogue and Jewish cemetery and a gentle trail leading up to a hilltop chapel that offers sweeping views across the countryside south west of Brno. (24km, bus via Modřice)

Dalešice brewery is the daytrip for any beer lover or fan of Bohumil Hrabal's novels. The location for filming Cutting It Short, the Dalešice brewery grounds are the setting for one of the iconic scenes of Czech film; Maryška and Pepin's billowing ascent of the malthouse chimney. The current brewery offers tours of the modern and historic works, holds regular weekend festivals and events and quenches generous thirsts in the onsite pub. (64km on the infrequent direct buses or 88km via Třebíč)

Mikulov is another of the four old Moravian Jewish towns. While the synagogue and cemetery are perhaps not quite as atmospheric as those at Boskovice, Mikulov's other attractions are many. There are nice walks to two nearby hilltops, one of which is capped by a pair of chapels; the other by the ruins of the 'Goat castle'. The walk to the chapel hill is partly through vineyards and the wine cellars and bars of Mikulov are as good a place as any to sample an underrated drop of Moravian Wine.

A former church on the square is now an elaborate tomb for the Dietrichstein family, the church of St Wenceslas has a small ossuary to the public and the Renaissance chateau contains one of the largest wine barrels in Europe. There's so much to see and do in Mikulov it might even be better to base yourself here and make a daytrip up to Brno. (59km, frequent direct buses)

Related posts:
Top ten daytrips from Olomouc
Bone churches in the Czech lands
Top six daytrips from Prague

Brno Accommodation: Hotels Hostels


tuckova said...

Thank you, Captain. This is a really handy list to have!

Jenna Francisco said...

Great stuff. I've never heard of Dolní Kounice but it sounds really nice. Last time I was in Brno, my friend who lives there drove me to Uh. Hradiste (pardon my lack of diacritics). It was a beautiful drive thru the hills and on the small roads, and we stopped at the chateau in Slavkov and later drove right past Buchlov and Buchlovice (who doesn't love them?!). A great little outing. I love that area.

Captain Oddsocks said...

Cheers ladies, I do hope the list comes in handy.

Jenna, I hope you're not dissapointed that I left Moravske Slovacko out of this list. I love that region too, but I don't think it deserves to be considered a daytrip from Brno any more than Olomouc is a daytrip from Prague.