Czech Republic and Slovakia Celebrate Centennial
Although they are now separate countries, the Czech Republic and Slovakia are united in marking 100 years since the creation of Czechoslovakia, the nation that arose in 1918 following the end of World War I.
For travelers who want to explore the charms of old-world Central Europe both countries have much to offer, with historic town squares, booming cultural scenes and breathtaking landscapes.
Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic, is the starting point for most visitors to the region. Be sure to visit the 9th-century Prague Castle and the ornate St. Vitus Cathedral, a noteworthy example of Gothic architecture. Walk across the landmark Charles Bridge, lined with statues, and stroll through the beautifully preserved Old Town. Also, check out Prague’s outdoor markets, where you’ll find everything from cheese and fruit to handmade crystal and glass jewelry.
About an hour from Prague, Pilsen is the home of Pilsner beer and a 2015 European Capital of Culture. Czechoslovakia proclaimed its independence on Oct. 28, 1918, and the city has planned a weekend of festivities from Oct. 26-28 to coincide with the anniversary. Events include special tours, performances and fireworks. Pilsen also has a historic city center filled with cafes and restaurants. History buffs and beer fans alike will enjoy a tour of the Pilsner Brewery. Also worth a visit is Karlovy Vary, about two hours from Prague and famous for its hot springs. Brno, a university town about 2½ hours south of the capital, has a lively café and club scene, with museums and microbreweries.
Slovakia is home to the cosmopolitan city of Bratislava, but also offers lots of activities for travelers who want to experience the outdoors. The small country has nine national parks, with ample opportunities to explore lakes, forests, waterfalls, mountains and caves. Also worth exploring are Slovakia’s many castles and picturesque wooden churches that dot the countryside.
Bratislava, the capital, stretches along both banks of the Danube River. Bratislava Castle, on a hilltop above the Danube, is home to a museum and offers panoramic views of the city and surrounding area. In the Old Town, don’t miss the Primate’s Palace, with its famous Hall of Mirrors. One of Bratislava’s biggest annual events, the Cultural Summer and Castle Festival, takes place from June 1 to Sept. 30, with performances of music, theater and dance, and traditional handicrafts on display.
While Czechoslovakia was dissolved on Jan. 1, 1993, an act known as the “Velvet Divorce,” Slovakia and the Czech Republic remain on good terms. The two countries are working together on a number of cultural projects to mark the centennial. Museums in both countries, including Prague’s National Technical Museum and the Slovak National Gallery, in Bratislava, will have exhibits highlighting everything from art and agriculture to industry and technology. And Prague will host a day of open-air concerts on June 27 culminating in a performance by the Czech Philharmonic, joined by musicians from Slovakia.
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