The Czech Republic
Czech Republic: 10.2 million
Prague: 1.188 million
The vast majority of the inhabitants of the Czech Republic are Czechs (94.2%, out of which 3.7% claimed Moravian ethnicity and 0.1% Silesian in the 2001 census). The largest minorities are Slovaks (1.9%), Poles (0.5%), Germans (0.4%), and Roma people.
The Czech Republic, along with has one of the least religious populations in the European Union. According to the 2001 census, 59% of the country is agnostic, atheist, non-believer or no-organized believer, 26.8% Roman Catholics and 2.5% Protestants. According to a 2005 Eurobarometer poll, 30% of Czech respondents do not believe in a god, spirit, or life forces. 50% believe in some sort of spirit or life force, and 19% believe in a god.
The Czech Republic is divided into thirteen regions and the Capital City of Prague. Each region has its own elected Regional Assembly (krajské zastupitelstvo) and hejtman (usually translated as hetman or "president"). In Prague, their powers are executed by the city council and the mayor of Prague. The older seventy-three districts (okresy) including three 'statutory cities' with the status of districts and the city-district-region of Prague remain as territorial division and remain the seats of various branches of state administration.
AREA SIZE AND GEOGRAPHY
With a total area of almost 79,000 square kilometers, the Czech Republic is a midsize European country. Its size is comparable to Austria or Ireland. The country could fit 122 times within the area of the United States.The Czech Republic makes up 2% of the European Union.
The country comprises three historical lands - Bohemia, Moravia (the biggest city is Brno where Masaryk University is located) and Silesia. Bohemia is the largest, the area of Moravia is half the size of Bohemia, and the smallest land, Silesia, has an area of approximately 4,500 square kilometers.
From a geographical point of view, the Czech Republic lies on the boundary line of two mountain ranges. The hilly western and middle part of Bohemia is formed by the Czech highlands and the slightly higher mountain ranges of Šumava, Český les, Krušné hory, Krkonoše (where one also finds the highest point in the country, the Sněžka at 1,602 metres), Orlické hory and Jeseníky. The West Carpathian Mountains (Beskydy) lie in the eastern part of the country.
WEATHER AND CLIMATE
The Czech Republic has a temperate, continental climate with relatively hot summers and cold, cloudy winters, usually with snow. Most rains are during the summer. The temperature difference between summers and winters is relatively high due to the geographical position - no access to sea. The annual average temperatures differ a lot with the altitude. At the highest peak (Snezka, 1602 m) the average temperature is only -0.4°C, whereas in the lowlands of South Moravia, the average temperature is as high as 10°C. The coldest month is usually January followed by February and December. During these months there is usually snow. The warmest month of the year is July, followed by August and June. On average, the summer temperatures are about 20°C higher than during winter. Especially in the last decade, temperatures above 30°C are not unusual. Summer is also characterized by rains and storms.
Capital city PraguePrague (in Czech Praha) is the capital and largest city of the Czech Republic. Situated on the Vltava river in central Bohemia, it is home to approximately 1.2 million people not counting an additional estimate of 300,000 commuters. Nicknames for Prague have included "city of a hundred spires" and "the golden city". Since 1992, the historic centre of Prague has been included in the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites. According to Guinness World Records, Prague Castle is the largest ancient castle in the world. Since the fall of the Iron Curtain, Prague has become one of Europe's (and the world's) most popular tourist destinations. It is the sixth most visited European city after London, Paris, Rome, Madrid and Berlin. Prague suffered considerably less damage during World War II than some other major cities in the region, allowing most of its historic architecture to stay true to form. It contains one of the world's most pristine and varied collections of architecture, from Art Nouveau to Baroque, Renaissance, Cubist, Gothic, Neo-Classical and ultra-modern.
BrnoBrno is the second-largest city in the Czech Republic. It was founded in 1243 although the area had been settled since the 5th century. Today Brno has over 370,000 inhabitants and is the seat of the Constitutional Court of the Czech Republic, Supreme Court, and Supreme Prosecutor's Office. It represents the centre of the province of Moravia, one of the historic lands of the Czech Crown.
Brno is known as a students' city: there are six public and other private universities. The biggest of them is Masaryk University - the second biggest public university-type school in the Czech Republic and the first in Moravia. Today, it consists of nine faculties, more than 190 departments, institutes and clinics. It is recognised one of the most significant institutions of education and research in the Czech Republic and a respected Central Europe university with democratic traditions advocated since its establishment in 1919. An other of them, for example, is the Brno University of Technology, established in 1899, has been developing the Czech Technology Park since 1995. Brno is also known as a cultural centre: there are many theatres and galleries and a lot of concerts are also taking place in this city.
Brno has a rich history: with regard to this fact, there are many historical buildings. Špilberk Castle is one of the principal monuments, as is the Cathedral of St. Peter and Paul, also known as Petrov. The cathedral was built during the 14th and 15th centuries. Its bells ring noon at 11 a.m., a tradition since the siege by Swedes in 1645. Villa Tugendhat, a unique example of modern functionalistic architecture, designed by Mies van der Rohe and built in the late 1920s close to the centre of the city, was designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2002. Another renowned architect who changed significantly the modern shape of Brno was Arnošt Wiesner. Many of his functionalistic buildings can be found all around the city.
The Brno Exhibition Centre with its eighty-year tradition is a venue of many international trade fairs, exhibitions and congresses, and as such plays a significant role in the social and economic life of the whole city. The City of Brno regularly holds various cultural events, festivals - e.g.Ignis Brunensis, an international fireworks competition, is held each end of May. The show attracts more than 200,000 spectators regularly. The town has also a long history of motor racing. The first races were run as a checkpoint for the Vienna – Breslau race in 1904; in the 1920s, the town hosted the Brno – Soběšice hillclimb race; and in the 1930s, all races were held on the street course called Masaryk Circuit, which led through the streets of the western part of the town and neighbouring villages. At the present time, Masaryk Circuit, among other events, hosts the Moto Grand Prix series of road motorcycles. Brno is also a city of modern shopping and entertainment centres. Every September, Brno is home to a large wine festival (Slavnosti vína) to celebrate the harvest in the surrounding wine-producing region.
Moravian KarstThe territory of lime-stone character situated 35 km to the north of Brno was the first in Moravia declared as the Protected Landscape Area . Its Punkevní Caves are the most famous in Czech Republic and were discovered between 1909 – 1933 by professor Absolon. They have very rich stalactite and stalagmite decorations. The cableway takes the visitors also to the top of the Macocha, a world famous gorge, 138 m deep. Trough the gorge flows the subterranean river Punkva.
Lednice-Valtice areaBetween the 17th and 20th centuries, the ruling dukes of Liechtenstein transformed their domains into one large park, where the baroque and neo-gothic architecture of the castles meet with the small outbuildings in the romantic style and the countryside fashioned according to the English principles of landscaping. This whole extensive area (ideal for hiking and cykling) is protected by UNESCO since 1996. Lednice Chateau is a remarkable testimony to aristocratic culture in the area of Romanticism. The originally Renaissance chateau was converted into Neo-Gothic residence (1846-1858) with romantic interiors by the Prince of Liechtenstein. Valtice is a large Baroque chateau complex, former residence of the Lichtenstein family with splendidly furnished interiors. Artistically, the most precious parts of the chateau are the chapel, with fine stuccowork and paintwork, the marble dining hall, and the Spanish Stable with valuable rococo stoves. Valtice lies in the very heart of the Moravian winegrowing region.
Slavkov (Austerlitz)This famous place lies about 20 km far from Brno and is well–known for the Battle of Tree Emperors in 1805 and staying of Napoleon after the battle, as well as for its baroque chateau with nice park. Main attraction of the chateau is an oval grand hall with magnificent fresco decoration, picture gallery with one of the oldest collections of paintings in Czech Republic from the 17th century and an exhibition devoted to the battle in 1805.The town still has a preserved baroque church, several Renaissance and baroque burgher's houses and a town hall dating from the end of the 16th century.
PernštejnOn one of the rocky promontories of the Bohemian-Moravian Highlands, about 30 km to the west of Brno town, is one of the most preserved and most beautiful castles in Central Europe - the Pernštejn castle. The castle has been preserved till today in its unharmed gothic-renaissance look in which it was built in the first half of the 16th century.
The origins of the castle date back to the 13th century (probably between 1270 and 1285). At that time it was built as a typical promontory castle on a place that well suited its purpose: from three sides it was protected by a steep rocky promontory.
Nowadays the castle is a national property. The fact that it was being built over centuries and was never conquered and destroyed enable visitors to make a clear picture of what the residence of a prominent aristocratic family of the country looked like long time ago.