The Czech Republic: Western-Style Living for Less
Since the 1989 Velvet Revolution, the Czech Republic has rapidly approached Western living standards. However, costs are substantially lower than in the country’s western neighbors, Germany and Austria.
Tourists rediscovered its capital, Prague—which was compared to Paris in the 1920s—cheap and arty, with its history, culture, and architecture. Prices rose, of course, as the world’s writers, artists, tourists, and investors came in greater numbers. But few ventured outside the capital, and, even today, the Czech countryside remains somewhat undiscovered.
Prague the Golden, the City of a Hundred Spires—what Goethe called the “prettiest gem in the stone crown of the world.” No doubt about it, Prague (Praha to its citizens) is one of Europe’s most wonderfully atmospheric cities.
The Old Town is a bedazzlement of gilded statuary, Gothic spires, pastel-colored houses with russet roofs, and baroque palaces adorned with cherubs. Cross the Vltava River over Charles Bridge—lined with watchtowers and ornate statues turned to blackened stone—and you’re in the equally historic Castle district.
The Czech Republic divides into the regions of Bohemia and Moravia. Blessed with hot summers and Christmas-card winters, Bohemia is a spellbinding mosaic of romantic castles and towns straight from sword-and-sorcery tales.
Frescoed houses and Rapunzel-style turrets are fairly common throughout Central Europe—and Bohemia has its share.
The countryside is studded with wildflower meadows…dense forests of silver birch and spruce…and ponds full of fat, lazy carp. You’ll also see fields planted with hops, enough to meet the Czech thirst for beer.
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- Population: 10,627,448
- Capital City: Prague
- Climate: Temperate; cool summers; cold, cloudy, humid winters
- Time Zone: UTC+1 (6 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
- Language: Czech
- Country Code: 420
- Coastline: Landlocked
- Location: Central Europe, between Germany, Poland, Slovakia, and Austria
For decades the Iron Curtain divided Europe in two. Folks in the U.S. and Western Europe were afforded only glimpses of life in the Eastern Bloc. The political situation severely restricted travel. And half of Europe became an uncharted and unknown land. Then the Berlin Wall fell and a dozen or so nations opened up, embracing new freedoms. Visitors were welcomed and discovered a history going back thousands of years, regions of untouched natural beauty, and a seriously low cost of living.
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Wrought-iron spires pierce the sky and ghastly gargoyles gaze down on the tourist throngs. The Czech capital, Prague, is one of the world’s most visited cities, home to historic palaces, theaters, and stately houses.
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It’s a Tuesday morning in the Czech Republic and I’m sitting up in the light and airy third floor cafe above one of Prague’s most renowned theaters, trying out their special red espresso alongside a warm slice of juicy, black currant tart. From the long wall of windows to my right, I can see the sparkling Vltava River with its parade of long green, white and red boats.
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My hands stained purple with blueberry juice, I stop to watch a group of older Czech women. All bent double, they’re picking berries and singing Wallachian folk songs, imperfect voices made perfect by easy happiness.
Hidden cafés on cobblestone lanes, window sills bursting with flowers, medieval castle views at sunset…. I find the neighborhood where I live near the center of the Czech capital of Prague every bit as enchanting today as it was four years ago, when I first moved here.
If you love House Hunters International, you’ll love this idea: In the Czech Republic they remodel castles.
In this issue of the Lifetime Society Communiqué, we stroll the cobbled streets of one of Europe’s most atmospheric and beautifully preserved cities. History hangs on every corner. You can see it in the decorative art of the churches and cathedrals, and even feel it in your feet on the old town’s cobbled streets. This is Prague. A concentrated blob of pure baroque unscathed by the Second World War. It’s a glorious place where beer is still brewed by monks and the stories of mad kings, tragic queens and foul monsters are still told.
A new nose in Prague…a facelift in Thailand…a curvier chest in Mexico…cosmetic surgery used to be for the rich-and-famous only. But these days, it’s so affordable overseas, the middle-class masses are picking up their passports to seek a better-looking physique oceans from home.
In the buildup to the 2012 Olympics, London is turning into the world’s most tourist-friendly city. Long gone are the gray days of an unhealthy city with bad food, high prices, and serious-looking people.
If you have kids and are in Europe this summer, the best fun to be had is in Prague. Don’t wait any longer to enjoy the last few weeks of summer, especially as many of these activities are low-cost, offer discounts for kids, or are even free-and the Czech Republic is still an economical place […]
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After checking into the Europa Hotel in downtown Wenceslas Square (at $62 a night), I went straight back into the cold to check out Monday evening in Prague. It was wintertime, so most Czechs were tucked up in bed. All I could hear were American, British, and Irish voices. Following a ban by the authorities […]
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With low-cost airlines such as the new Czech Smart Wings offering discount travel, a large beer costing $1.50, plenty of “girly bars,” and a McDonalds on (nearly) every corner, Prague has certainly changed over the years. Still, downtown Prague seems to have been largely unassaulted by the times; the modern buildings fit in with the old, and the city is still among the most beautiful in the world. A maturing property market makes Prague the…