Otázka: The Czech Republic
Welcome to the Czech Republic
The CR is situated in the middle of Europe. It is often said that our country lies in the heart of Europe. The capital is Prague. It has a population of 10.2 inhabitants and covers an area of about 79 000 sq.km. The CR is surrounded by four countries: Germany to the west, Poland to the north, Slovakia to the east and Austria to the south. Our country is divided to three parts: Bohemia, a land of rolling hills and plains surrounded by mountains, makes up the western part of the Czech republic,while the lowlands of Moravia are in the east. Silesia, also a lowland region, lies to the north and stretches into southern Poland.
The borders of our republic are lined by many mountain ranges – the Šumava Mountains, the Ore Mountains, the Luž and Jizera mountains, Eagle mountains. The Giant Mountains are located in the north and there is situated the highest peak of the CR – Sněžka 1,602 metres high. And the Hrubý Jeseník and the Moravian-Sileasian Beskids are located in the north-east of Moravia.
The main rivers of our country are the Vltava river, the Elbe and the Morava river. The Vltava river springs in the Šumava mountains and flows through Prague to Mělník where flows into the Elbe. Also many cascades of dams were built on the Vltava river e.g. Lipno, Orlík, Slapy. South Bohemia is very rich in ponds (Rožmberk, Svět). A lot of Czech spas are known all over the world e.g. Karlovy vary, Františkovy lázně, Poděbrady etc.
Among the most beautiful natural places are: the Czech Paradise, Prachov rocks, the Czech Switzerland, the Boubín virgin forest, Koněprusy caves or Macocha abyss. There are also a lot of places associated with our history e.g. some historical towns such as Prague, Kutná Hora, Telč, Olomouc and many castles and chateaux such as Karlštejn, Křivoklát, Hluboká and of course Prague castle.
The Czech Republic has a humid, continental climate, with cold winters and warm summer.
The Czech lands have traditionally been among economically well-developed regions of Europe. The most important part of our economy is engineering (machine tools, locomotives, tractors, agricultural machines). Other important branches are metalurgical and chemical industries and tourism. Textile and glass industries have a long tradition as do cut glass and china. The main items of our agriculture are wheat, maize, sugar-beet, grapes, hops and fruit. In animal production, cattle-breeding and pig-breeding are the most important. The CR is heavily dependent on imported energy and raw materials. There are found deposits of lignit, hard coal, uranium, mecury or lead.
The CR adopted a new constitution, creating a parliamentary democracy in 1993. The president is elected by Czech citizens for a five-year term. The president appoints the Prime minister who acts as head of government. The president and the government represent the executive power. The main legislative powers are given to the national parliament. The Czech parliament consists of the chambers, the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate. All citizens over the age of 18 are eligible to vote. The judicial powers are given to courts of justice. The highest court of appeal is the Supreme Court. Our country is member of the North Atlantic treaty Organization and European Union.
Czech national anthem is called Where is my home? Czech flag consists of three national colours – red, blue, white.
The first settlers were Slavic tribes who arrived in Bohemia and Moravia in the 5th century. During the 7th century the Frankish merchant Samo, became the ruler of the first known Slav state in Central Europe. In the 9th century they founded the first state formation – the Great Moravian Empire. In 863 the Prince Rastislav of Great Moravia requested Byzantic ruler to send missionaries to evangelize his Slavic subjects. Then the state life was shifted to Central Bohemia and the power was taken by the Přemyslid dynasty and after that by the Luxembourg dynasty. One of the best and most important rulers was Charles IV who ruled in the 14th century. During his reign the Prague University was founded (1348), Prague New Town was built and the economy well-developed. The crisis of medieval Europe culminated here in the Hussite movement marked by the reformation teaching of Master John Huss who was burnt to death in 1415. The beginning of the 17th century was marked by the Thirty Years’ War which took place throughout Europe. After the Battle of the White Mountain in 1620, the country was Germanized and many non-catholic artists and scientist had to leave the country. The 19th century was the Age of Reason. Czech language became important again and fine pieces of Czech literature were born. At the end of World War I the Austrian-Hungarian Empire fell and in October 1918 the independent Czechoslovak Republic was proclaimed with T.G.Masaryk as the first president. In March 1939 Bohemia and Moravia were occupied by the Germans. In February 1948 the Communist Party took over the power. In 1968 a democratic wave within the Communist Party tried to institute certain democratic changes but the invasion of the Warsaw Pact Troops oppressed country again. Only in November 19889 did the people throw out the communists and after this “velvet revolution” Václav Havel was elected as the Czechoslovak president. Until 1992 our state was a federation of two republics. After the negotiations between the leaders of the two winning parties Czechoslovakia split into two republics and Václav Havel was elected as the first President of the Czech Republic.
The Czech Republic has rich traditions in the arts and music. Most towns in the country have a theatre, and in some cities one can attend excellent opera, ballet performances, or music concerts. As far as Czech literature is concerned it offers us outstanding values such as the Cosmas Chronicle from 12th century, Dalimil’s Chronicle, the Kralice Bible. When it comes to Czech writers we can mention Franz Kafka, but he wrote all his works in German. Other writers include Karel Čapek, whose play R.U.R. brought the word „robot“ into the English language, and Jaroslav Hašek, famous for his work „The Good Soldier Schweik“, a poet Jaroslav Seifert, who won the Nobel prize in literature.
In music we have beautiful middle-age chorals, great composers who have gained a high reputation outside the country e.g. Dvořák, Janáček, Smetana,Martinů.
Theatre of the Czech Republic has rich tradition in all genres, including drama, opera, ballet and dance, puppet theatre, etc. There are many famous theatres in Prague e.g. Estates theatre or National Theatre. The most famous Czech dramatics are Jaroslav Vrchlický and his play Noc na Karlštejně, Alois and Vilém Mrštík, Karel Čapek, Václav Havel or famous pair Voskovec and Werich.
There is a long tradition of film making in the Czech republic. An international film festival is held in Karlovy Vary.The country’s most celebrated film director is probably Miloš Forman, a winner of Oscars for his direction of the films „One flew over the cuckoo’s nest“ and „Amadeus“. Also we can mention Jiří Menzel or Věra Chytilová.
Only a few Czech painters are truly well known outside the country. They include Josef Mánes and Mucha.
Knowing the customs of a country is a guide to understanding the soul of the country and its people. Among the national dishes are: roasted pork, dumplings and sauerkraut, beef goulash or schnitzel. The Czech cuisine is considered to be very rich and fatty. Many Western fast food companies have opned restaurants in our country recently and more and more Czechs prefer this kind of alimentation. National beverage is definitely a beer. Czech beer is known throughout the world e.g. Pilsner Urquell, Budweiser or Gambrinues. Moravians make and drink wine. Many Czechs play or watch football. Families often spend weekend together visiting some interisting place or just hiking. Ballet, opera, theatre and musical performances are also very popular.
Prague is the capital, largest city, and commercial and cultural centre of the CR. It is a city full of very important landmarks such as Charles bridge, Prague Castle, squares, cathedrals etc. Every year Prague is visited by thousands of tourists. I have been to Prague 4 times and I considered it to be a beautiful city which offers lots of opportunities and I hope I will be studying there next year.
The city of Brno, in the south eastern CR, was founded in 9th century on the site where the Svitava and Svratka rivers converge. This Moravian centre is surrounded by farming and coal mining regions.
Other important cities include Ostrava, a centre for metallurgical industries, Plzeň, noted for its breweries, and Olomouc, a trade, educational and cultural centre.
Sport plays a significant part in lives of many Czechs. Two main sports are probably football and ice hockey. In both these sports there is held a national league every year. Czech sport includes a lot of talented sportsmen and sportswomen such as Jaromír Jágr, Petr Čech, Barbora Špotáková, Tomáš Berdych or Zuzana Hejnová.