Around the 4th century B.C. the present-day Czech Republic was populated by Celts. They were the first ethnic group to arrive in the area, according to historical evidence. The Celtic Boii tribe gave the country its Latin name - Boiohaemum (Bohemia). They were pushed out by the German tribes (Marcomanni, Quidi) before the beginning of our era.
At the end of 5th and the beginning of 6th century Slavs settled in the territory of Bohemia and Moravia during the period known as the Migration of Peoples. The first half of the 7th century marks the first successful attempt to unite Slavonic tribes. The so-called "Samo's kingdom" resisted the pressure of the powerful Avar empire centered in the Hungarian lowlands, and defended its territory against the forces of the Frank attackers from the west, with partial success.
The Czech state was formed in the late 9th century as the Duchy of Bohemia under the Great Moravian Empire. After the fall of the Empire in 907, the centre of power transferred from Moravia to Bohemia under the Přemyslids. In 1004, the duchy was formally recognized as part of the Holy Roman Empire, becoming the Kingdom of Bohemia in 1212. During the reign of the native Premyslid dynasty, the Czech state gradually grew in strength.
The kingdom of Bohemia reached its height of power and prestige during the reign of Charles IV (1346-1378), the second Luxembourg on the throne of Bohemia: In 1344, the Prague Archbishopric was founded. He established Charles University in 1348 - it was the first university founded north of the Alps. Charles IV was crowned Roman Emperor in Rome in 1355.
Several conditions led to the creation of the Hussite reform movement. The first was the economic and political crisis during the reign of Wenceslas IV (1378-1419), the successor of Charles IV. This crisis was exacerbated by the problems in Europe of this time (the Great Schism, criticism of the Church). The Hussite movement was inspired by the ideas of Master Jan Hus, a preacher who was burnt at the stake in 1415 at Constance. Despite his death, his supporters successfully continued in their efforts to reform the Church.
Heir to the crown of Bohemia, the Roman Emperor Sigismund, tried to defeat the growing revolution with force, but the Hussites defeated his five consecutive crusades in the years 1420-1431. Only the victory of 1434, when the moderates defeated the radicals, opened the way for a temporary agreement between Hussite Bohemia and Catholic Europe. This agreement, The Compacts of Basle was proclaimed in 1436 and confirmed the Hussite denomination, and would later be paralleled by the Reformation of the 16th century . The Hussite movement changed the structure of society in many ways. It created religious dualism for the first time in Christian Europe.
The Habsburgs of Austria succeeded to the throne of Bohemia when the Jagellon line died out . The Habsburg rule brought the re-introduction of the Roman Catholic faith, centralization and the construction of a multi-national empire. The Habsburgs included the Crownlands of Bohemia in their monarchy, and they remained a part of the Habsburg empire until 1918.
When Rudolf II (1576-1611), during his reign, left Vienna for Prague, Bohemian capital grew into an important center of European culture. The Czech Estates forced Rudolf II to issue a decree - so called "Maiestatus" - proclaiming freedom of religious confession. The Emperors Matthias and Ferdinand tried to limit this freedom and their efforts sparked a civil war between the Estates and the Catholic Emperor which later spread into Europe underthe name of the Thirty Years' War. The Czechs elected an independent king.. The Estates were defeated in 1620 at the Battle of the White Mountain and the Kingdom of Bohemia lost its independence for the following almost 300 years. The period of the Thirty Years' War brought political disorder and economic devastation to Bohemia which had far-reaching consequences on the future development of the country. The people of Bohemia were forced to accept the Catholic faith or to emigrate. The throne of Bohemia was made hereditary in the Habsburg dynasty and the most important offices were transferred permanently to Vienna.
In the years during World War I Czech politics took a turn towards radicalism as a result of the activities abroad of T. G. Masaryk and E. Benes, the future presidents. The defeat of the Austria-Hungary cleared the way for the foundation of an independent state of Czechs and Slovaks (28.10.1918). The Czechoslovak Republic became one of the ten most developed countries of the world. A period of twenty years of democracy and prosperity was ended by the aggression of Hitler's Germany. The conference in Munich and the following German occupation in March 1939 brought the end of the independent Czech state.
After World War II, the restored republic became part of the Soviet sphere of power. A period of "limited" democracy was ended by a Communist takeover in February 1948. All private property was expropriated and political and human rights were supressed. The gradual decay of the Communist regime and the Soviet empire, and the mass protests and demonstrations of the Czechoslovak people culminated in the overthrow of the Communist regime in November 1989. The changes were confirmed by the election of Vaclav Havel as president of the republic.
On January 1, 1993, the Czechoslovak state was peacefully divided and the independent Czech and Slovak Republics were founded. Václav Havel was elected its first president. In the following years the Czech Republic joined the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development-OECD (1994) and joined the NATO (1999) and EU (2004). The Czechs have now completed the transformation of the formerly centralized state system into a parliamentary democracy and market economy.
Geography and Climate
The Czech Republic is comprised of three historical regions: Bohemia, Moravia, and a part of Silesia, and is divided into several districts. Czechs like to think of their country as "the bridge between East and West". It is geographically located in the center of Europe and borders four other countries: Poland to the north, Germany to the north and west, Austria to the south, and Slovakia to the east.
The terrain is typically hilly with wide rolling plains. The western part of the Czech Republic has more low mountains and plateaus than Moravia, which tends to be flatter. Extensive forests provide for an active lumber industry; a delightful system of mountain hiking and biking trails; and shelter for a rich supply of game animals including deer, roebuck, wild boar, pheasant, and rabbit. Thirty-four percent of the Czech Republic is forested.
The Czech Republic is located in a climatically favorable position in the Northern Hemisphere. Because of its unique position on the European continent, this relatively small country enjoys a diverse countryside with rich and varying landscapes. The charm of the countryside; the richness of the forests and protected nature areas; and the abundance of mineral water springs are some of the reasons that the Czech Republic is so popular with tourists. The Czech Republic is home to 1,248 protected natural areas encompassing 2,793,570 acres. The country's largest natural park, at 3,900 acres, is Krkonoše National Park.
The climate of the Czech Republic can be described as typical European continental influenced climate with warm, dry summers and fairly cold winters. January is the coldest month with daytime temperatures usually around zero, but in some cases winter months can be very cold with temperatures far below zero and strong, cold winds.
In summer daytime temperatures reach 20-25°C, but sometimes quite higher, 30°C or more. In most of the time is dry weather with sunny spells, although sometimes heavy Thunderstorms can occur at the end of the day, especially in the mountainous regions. July is the warmest month with an average Temperature of nearly 20°C
The weather is best May-September, when days are warm and the nights are cool, although it rains more in Spring than in summer. Autumn is usually a little chilly and wet, and the Winters can be very cold, damp, snowy and often foggy.
Prague is the capital and largest city of the Czech Republic. The city is home to about 1.24 million people, while its larger urban zone is estimated to have a population of nearly 2 million. The city has a temperate climate, with warm summers and chilly winters. Prague has the lowest unemployment rate in the European Union.
Prague is home to a number of famous cultural attractions, many of which survived the violence and destruction of 20th-century Europe. Main attractions include the Prague Castle, the Charles Bridge, Old Town Square with the Prague astronomical clock, the Jewish Quarter, Petřín hill and Vyšehrad. Since 1992, the extensive historic centre of Prague has been included in the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites. Prague is the fifth most visited European city after London, Paris, Istanbul and Rome.
The winters in Prague are relatively cold with average temperatures at about freezing point, and with very little sunshine. Snow cover can be common between mid-November to late March although snow accumulations of more than 20 cm (8 in) are infrequent. There are also a few periods of mild temperatures in winter. Summers usually bring plenty of sunshine and the average high temperature of 24 °C (75 °F). Nights can be quite cool even in summer, though.
Prague public transport is cheap, efficient and highly integrated. It is safe to travel around Prague by tram and the metro, both during the day and at night. Public transport in Prague consists of metro, trams and buses, plus suburban buses (lines from no.300 to no.400). The Prague Petřín funicular is a part of integrated transportation system (PID) as well.
The majority of the 10.5 million inhabitants of the Czech Republic are ethnically and linguistically Czech (95%). They are descendants of Slavic people from the Black Sea-Carpathian region which settled in the sixth century into Bohemia, Moravia and parts of present day Austria. Other ethnic groups include Germans, Romani, Poles and Hungarians. Historical minorities like those of Germans and Poles are declining due to assimilation. The Roma community is growing, while there is also a growing Vietnamese community. Other ethnic communities like Greeks, Turks, Italians and Yugoslavs are found in its capital city, Prague. Since the dissolution of Czechoslovakia, Slovaks staying in the Czech Republic have comprised roughly 3% of the population.
Czech language (divided into three dialects in Bohemia, four dialects in Moravia, and two dialects in Czech Silesia) is the official language of the state. There is also the transitional Cieszyn Silesian dialect as well as Polish language in Cieszyn Silesia, both spoken in Czech Silesia. Various Sudeten German dialects are currently practically extinct; present Czech Germans speak mainly Czech or Standard German.
Religion in the Czech Republic was dominated by Christianity until at least the first half of the 20th century; since then it has steadily declined and today the Czech Republic has one of the least religious populations in the world. According to the 2011 census, 34.2% of the population stated they had no religion, 10.3% was Roman Catholic and 10.2% followed other forms of religion both denominational or not. 45.2% of the population did not answer the question about religion.
Currency in the Czech Republic
The official unit of currency of the Czech Republic is the Czech crown (Kč, CZK), which is divided into 100 hellers. The Czech Republic uses coins in values of CZK 1, CZK 2, CZK 5, CZK 10, CZK 20 and CZK 50. Paper banknotes have values of CZK 100, CZK 200, CZK 500, CZK 1,000, CZK 2,000 and CZK 5,000.
You can get Czech crowns in banks, where you will pay at least 2% of the total amount to change money. The best rate you can find in a private bureau de change, but before exchange ask the staff there to tell you the precise amount that they intend to pay you. The sign 0% commission often does not relate to sale, but purchase of foreign currency. It can also happen that an advantageous exchange rate, which the bureau de change advertises to attract customers, only applies for exchange of money in excess of a certain amount (for example 100 euros) or you will be charged a fee for the exchange.
If you have an international payment card, you can of course make direct payments or withdraw money from a ATM. These can be found not only in busy city centres, but also in banks and in large shopping centres. The vast majority of them accept all regular international types of payment cards (Visa, MasterCard, Plus, Maestro, Cirrus and others). You can also use these cards to make payments in most shops, hotels and restaurants or at petrol stations.
Detailed information about the current CZK exchange rate with regards to other global currencies and a currency calculator can be found on web pages of the Czech National Bank.
The Czech Republic is one of the main transit points in Europe. The largest and main Czech airport is the international airport in Prague-Ruzyně, which changed its name to Václav Havel Airport Prague in 2012.
The Czech Republic has one of the densest rail networks in Europe and an elaborate system of public bus transportation. Connections by bus and train are reliable. Rail transportation is provided by both state and private companies, bus transportation is provided by several private carriers.
Timetables for trains and busses including their mutual combination with public transport can be found here
Large cities operate a system of public transport using tram, bus, trolleybus or metro routes operated by the local public transport companies. You can regularly purchase individual tickets for individual journeys, but if you are staying for longer, consider buying the more advantageous day tickets, two-day tickets or week tickets or even a long-term travel pass.
Other Useful Information
The only official language in the Czech Republic is Czech, which is a Slavonic language like Slovak, Polish, Serbian, Russian, Croatian and Bulgarian. Abundant usage of so-called diacritical marks is characteristic for Czech, i.e. hooks over certain letters and accents to indicate the length of vowels, which often change the meaning of whole words. English speakers find certain sounds very hard to pronounce. Fortunately, tourism and global commerce mean many Czech's speak English, particularly in Prague.
Mobile telephones in Europe work on frequencies of 900 MHz and 1,800 MHz. The network for mobile telephones in the USA uses a frequency of 1,900 MHz. Newer types of mobile telephones can already handle both the European network and also the network in the USA without any problems. The international dialling code for the Czech Republic is +420 (00420).
The electricity network in the Czech Republic has a voltage of 230 V and frequency of 50 Hz. Plug sockets have two round holes and one round pin. If for example you have a universal charger, all you will need is a simple connector between your system and the Czech system on the other end. If your appliance works on a different voltage or frequency, you will need a more complicated adapter.
Technology for broadband connection to the Internet is widespread in the Czech Republic. You can use all regular technical connection standards. Wireless connection via Wi-Fi is commonly used. You can easily connect up with a netbook, notebook or smartphone via Wi-Fi in restaurants, cafes, hotels and in many other locations.
State-run and private medical facilities exist in the Czech Republic. Most of them have concluded a contract with an insurance company on provision and settlement of costs for healthcare and only provide insured patients with the essential care subject to settlement of the excess as stipulated by law; this relates to citizens of the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein who have a European health insurance card. If you do not have permanent residency within the EU, you must conclude a commercial insurance policy. If you do not have this, you will have to pay for all care on the spot in cash. Healthcare is also ensured in the event of sudden illness or injury outside of surgery hours in the emergency departments in hospitals. In cases of sudden serious illness when the patient cannot make his or her own way to the doctor and when swift treatment is necessary, you must call the rescue service on the emergency phone number 112.
Restaurants, pubs or cafes are often open from late afternoon until late at night, often until 11 pm. During the summer, restaurants open gardens for you to sit outside, which are usually open until 10:00 pm. Bars or clubs are often open even long after midnight, especially at weekends. It is usual to leave a tip in restaurants, especially as an expression of your satisfaction with the services of the establishment. Tips usually represent 5 to 10 percent of the bill.