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Czech Republic

CZECH REPUBLIC

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Czech RepublicThe Czech Republic, is a landlocked country in Central Europe. The republic borders Poland to the north, Germany to the northwest and west, Austria to the south, and Slovakia to the east. The country is composed of two older regions, Bohemia and Moravia, and part of a third one, Silesia. As of May 1, 2004, it is a member state of the European Union.
Capital and largest city is Prague with its castle, its old town and its waterfront along the Vltava river. Historic Prague, a major tourist attraction.
Official language - Czech, a member of the Slavic languages.

History

The Czech lands emerged in the late 9th century when it was unified by the Premyslids. The kingdom of Bohemia was a significant local power, but religious conflicts such as the 15th century Hussite Wars and the 17th century Thirty Years War were devastating. It later came under the Habsburg influence and became part of Austria-Hungary.
Following the collapse of this state after World War I, the Czechs and neighbouring Slovaks joined together and formed the independent republic of Czechoslovakia in 1918. This new country contained a large German minority, which would lead to the dissolution of Czechoslovakia when Germany successfully annexed the minority through the Munich Agreement in 1938, and Slovakia gained greater autonomy, with the state renamed "Czecho-Slovakia". Slovakia broke away further in 1939 and the remaining Czech state was occupied by the Germans.
After World War II, a reconstituted Czechoslovakia fell within the Soviet sphere of influence. In 1968, an invasion by Warsaw Pact troops ended the efforts of the country's leaders to liberalise party rule and create "socialism with a human face" during the Prague Spring. In 1989, Czechoslovakia regained its freedom through a peaceful "Velvet Revolution". On January 1, 1993, the country peacefully split in two, creating independent Czech and Slovak republics.
The Czech Republic joined NATO in 1999 and the European Union in 2004.

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Geography

The Czech landscape is quite varied; Bohemia to the west consists of a basin, drained by the Elbe (Labe) and Vltava rivers, surrounded by mostly low mountains such as the Sudeten with its part Krkonose, where one also finds the highest point in the country, the Snezka at 1,602 m. Moravia, the eastern part, is also quite hilly and is drained predominantly by the Morava river, but also contains the source of the Oder river. Water from the landlocked Czech Republic flows to three different seas: the North Sea, Baltic Sea and Black Sea.
The local climate is temperate with warm summers and cold, cloudy, humid winters, typified by a mixture of maritime and continental influences.

Demographics

The majority of the inhabitants of the Czech Republic (95%) are ethnically Czech. Other ethnic groups include Germans, Roma, Hungarians, Ukrainians and Poles. After the 1993 division, some Slovaks remained in the Czech Republic and comprise roughly 2% of the current population. The border between the Czech Republic and Slovakia is open for citizens of the former Czechoslovakia.

Major denominations and their estimated percentage populations are Roman Catholic (27%), Protestant (1%), Czechoslovak Hussites (1%), as well as a small Jewish community. A large percentage of the Czech population claim to be atheists (59%).

Tourism

Czech RepublicFor most visitors to the Czech Republic all roads lead no farther than Prague, the most westernized, cosmopolitan city, known for its wondrous charm and stunning beauty. Fewer than 10% of tourists explore the country outside of the capital.
If you really wish to discover the richness of this immensely cultured nation, however, venturing beyond Prague will be very rewarding. The magnificent, undulating landscape consists of mountains and upland plains, forests and farmland. Thanks to the fact that the country was spared widespread destruction during World War II, many of its cities and towns are a visual feast of medieval, baroque and art nouveau architecture and sculpture.
Bohemian spa towns and sleepy Moravian wine villages alike have a historical integrity and welcoming atmosphere that gives you the feeling of being immersed in an open-air museum. The country also boasts over 100 castles -- from craggy fortresses to more refined, aristocratic chateaus -- that are open to the public. Especially in Southern Moravia they grow great white wines (Moravia is famous for its wine).
Today, venturing off the beaten path no longer means leaving comfort and service behind. The number and quality of restaurants and hotels in large and small towns alike has soared over the past five years, attracting more visitors while remaining relaxed and uncrowded. And with the help of local tourist offices, the once-daunting task of arranging accommodation or gathering information about local sites is a lot easier.
Other famous old cities are Brno, Plzen, Karlovy Vary and the cities of Ceske Budejovice and Cesky Krumlov located in Southern Bohemia with their romantic medieval city centres. Other attractions include the magnificient gothic cathedral at Kutna Hora, the catacombs at Klatovy, or Sedlec ossuary.
Prague attracts large amounts of foreign, mostly British and German tourists, due to the exceptionally low costs associated with nightlife, especially beer. The availability of Absinthe, the leniency of law enforcement on drug use and prostitution, and the large number of bars and clubs, located close together and often open late, serve as additional incentive for tourists from Western Europe.
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