Roughly six years ago the Czech publishing house Kartografie set out to publish a series of tour guides outlining unique sites in the Czech Rep, from castles to cities to natural wonders. The series began with the title "111 Best Historic Sites" and worked its way down to the 10th and final release this week "The 111 Best... of the Czech Republic". It's been a long journey for authors Petr David and Vladimir Soukup, but Radio Prague learned, they never shirked at lacing up their hiking boots, visiting every site.
"To find a single place in the Czech Republic without something interesting would be a truly Sisyphean task. There is so much to discover, and we always visit sites ourselves, with our backpacks! Now the series is over: it was like watching a child grow up. It's reached its final test and we're satisfied. But, of course it's not really an end. There will be other books, other series after that."
The "Best of..." series has always attracted a mass audience and now has a faithful readership, with fans enjoying the books' lay-outs, countless photos, and straight-forward text. And it wouldn't be Kartografie publishers not to include high-quality maps: for planning routes for visiting the Czech Republic's tourist sites. Vladimir Soukup again:
"Of course the latest book includes the tallest mountain, the longest bridge, the deepest gully: it's all there. But there are other, more curious listings too. Natural wonders, industrial triumphs, as well as interesting geographical locations. You can have the northern-most point, or even a castle that boasts the most hunting trophies. Or the oldest nativity scene."
Does Vladimir Soukup have a preference: natural or man-made?
"I'd say it was fifty-fifty. I love both. I love, for example, the area known as Cesky raj, or Czech Eden, famous for its beautiful sandstone cliffs. But, I also love the way historic buildings like old castles and even old-fashioned cottages interact with the landscape, giving it new meaning. If I have to choose, I prefer a symbiosis."
It is clear from the pages of their newest book that the authors love the Czech Republic: as Vladimir Soukup admits, he would only really be satisfied if they could publish a book describing every corner, stone, and brook. But, if that's not possible, the "Best of..." series is the next best thing. Co-author Petr David:
"We really love what we do. I love travelling - I've been in places like Nepal three times. But, I always love coming home, seeing places and meeting people here. I'm proud of that. Vlada Soukup and I feel the same on this. There's no difference between us on that. "
The "Best of..." books - nine out of ten of them - are only available in Czech. If you've mastered the language and are a fan of encyclopaedias / atlases / tour guides they should provide rich entertainment. For everyone else, there are always the maps at the back. You don't have to speak Czech to read those. One book, though, 999 tourist highlights, does have an English edition and you can find more information about availability at www.kartografie.cz
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