Welcome to Spotlight, Radio Prague's travel programme taking you on a continuing journey through the Czech lands. In today's edition, though, not a destination but a look at trends in tourism. This week, the state-run agency CzechTourism, together with the private Association of Czech Travel Agencies, released tourism statistics for 2005 as well as the forecast for 2006. According to the survey, the outlook for the Czech tourist industry this year will once again be favourable.
The very last day of 2005 brought unexpected tragedy to the High Tatra Mountains in Slovakia. Seven Czech climbers died in the early hours on Saturday when an avalanche buried their tents. Only one of the eight-member group managed to dig himself out of the snow and run for help. But it was too late and mountain rescue teams retrieved the dead bodies of six men and one woman in their 20s and 30s. The tragedy raised the death toll of Czech tourists in the High Tatras to twelve in the past year.
For this week's Spotlight we're in one of the most beautiful regions of the Czech Republic, the Krkonose or Giant Mountains, straddling the Czech-Polish border, a hundred kilometres north-east of Prague. These are the Czech Republic's highest mountains, rising well over a thousand metres, and at this time of year, they are decked with a thick blanket of snow. The Giant Mountains is a wonderfully poetic and evocative name... and indeed Krkonose does have its very own legendary giant, known as "Krakonos" in Czech and "Ruebezahl" in German.
Over the past decade or so, visitors have been flocking to Prague in ever-increasing numbers. Many of them have been attracted by tales of the city's beautiful, well-preserved architecture, which embraces many different styles ranging from the imposing gothic grandeur of St Vitus' Cathedral to the baroque opulence of St. Nicholas' Church. This upsurge in tourism has resulted in a swathe of development projects across the Czech capital aimed at meeting the demands of visitors to the city. Critics say such initiatives pose a threat to the architectural
Situated some 100 kilometres north of Prague, the town Jablonec nad Nisou has a lot to be proud of - predominantly its glass and jewellery -two major export articles that have made it renown all over the world. Last week Jablonec hit the headlines as the first Czech town to get its own town "anthem" on the occasion of its 140th birthday next year. Contrary to what you might expect the lyrics are not about glass or jewellery - they are about apples and love!
Today we travel to eastern Bohemia where I visited one of the country's regions that's true to its name - Cesky Raj, which translates as Bohemian Paradise. It's an area that encompasses sandstone rock formations that somewhat remind us of Stonehenge or miniature Grand Canyons, fairy tale hills that hide precious stones, romantic castles and chateaux with a colourful history, and picturesque folk architecture - to name just a few of the region's attractions. It is not hard to see why the Bohemian Paradise was given the honour of being labelled a
One of the most beautiful towns in Moravia and historically an important location in the Czech Republic is Znojmo - a town whose foundations date back to the 11th century. For centuries Znojmo guarded the regions of southern Moravia, part of an elaborate chain of defending castles along the Dyje River and the border with Austrian lands, developing from a promontory fort to medieval stronghold and local seat of administration for the Premyslids - the first line of Czech kings. By the mid 1200s Znojmo was dominant, complementing neighbouring castles
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.
In today's special programme we meet Joyce Pritchard, an American woman who recently went back to her roots, when she visited the isolated Czech villages in Romania from which her great-grandparents emigrated a century ago. She and 14 other Americans of Czech-Romanian descent met long-lost relatives and experienced old Czech customs in a region somewhat left behind by the modern world. It was, says Joyce Pritchard, the trip of a lifetime.
During the summer season many towns around the Czech Republic compete for tourists by putting on all kinds of festivals. Some towns have arts festivals of various kinds, while others celebrate all kinds of Czech folk traditions. Food and drink are also common themes, with Trebic for instance holding an annual potato festival. But surely one of the most unusual events of its kind has to be the "festival cesneku", or garlic festival, held every year in the town of Buchlovice in south Moravia.