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GREAT E SCAPE Czech Republic

Experience old-world Prague, explore the snow-draped forests of Bohemia’s mountain regions, and admire misty spires and turrets across the land. Then look more closely, and find an unexpected side to the Czech Republic, from a regenerated neighbourhood in the capital to the singular second city of Brno

Take an up-to-date view of ever-evolving Prague, from the charms of the Old Town to post-flood Karlín, now a gourmet destination

IN A STONEWASHED SKY, the winter sun drops slowly towards the spindly spires on Prague’s red-tiled horizon. It’s a generous view, wide enough for sharing – which is just as well. Streams of jacketed, woolly-hatted camera-wielders patrol the 600-year-old cobblestones of Charles Bridge, braving the chill to admire mottled copper domes high on the riverbank. In the river appears a smudged relection of the bridge, lamp posts crowned with orange halos. Dusk is prime swagger time for this famously beautiful city; spotlights draw the eye to the elaborate castle and churches. ‘Prague never lets you go,’ wrote Franz Kafka, one of the city’s notable progeny. ‘This dear little mother has sharp claws.’

Its prettiness belies its steeliness, but this 1,400-year-old town knows something of resilience. Once capital of the Holy Roman Empire, it was also the birthplace of the Bohemian Reformation, which predated the Protestant Reformation. It was occupied by the Nazis and then endured four decades of Communist rule. And still she stands. Since the Iron Curtain came down 30 years ago, the city has been open to the world, and the world has turned up, drunk Prague’s beer and marvelled at her beauty.


Looking south over Prague, with the Straka Academy – the Neo-Baroque seat of Czech government – and its copper dome in the foreground, and the 16-arch Charles Bridge

‘For me, Prague’s architecture is wrapped up with real happenings,’ says Zdeněk Zacpal, a guide with a truly encyclopaedic knowledge of the city, as he leads a tour round the Old Town, pointing out Romanesque arches here, a magniicent Gothic lying buttress there. ‘I admire Baroque architecture, for example, but I can’t forget it happened at the same time as one of the worst times in Czech history. It feels recent.’ The Thirty Years’ War, fought initially between Protestant and Catholic states across the Holy Roman Empire, may have taken place four centuries ago, but it remains one of the most destructive conlicts in European history.

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Find the complete article and many more in this issue of Lonely Planet - January 2019
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