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                    History                    

   The history of the Czech state stretches deeply into the past. According the historical records, around the 4th century B. C. the first ethnic group came to the area of the present Czech Republic. The Latin name Boiohaemum (Bohemia) was given due to the Celtic Boii tribe who came to this area, but they were pushed out by the Germans (Marcomanni and Quidi tribes).
   During the period known as "Migration of nations" (the end of 5th / the beginning of 6th century) Slav people settled here (they came from the area of Dnieper and Vistula rivers). In the first half of the 7th century the first successful attempt to unite Slav tribes happened. We call it the period of Samo's Empire. It resisted the attack of Avar tribes who lived in the region of former Hungaria and of the Franks who attacked it from west. At these times the centre of the "country" was located in the Souther Moravia.
   In the late 9th century the Czech state was formed. The centre of power of the country was transferred from Moravia to Bohemia. The rule over the region was in the hands of the Premyslids. This dynasty held it for more then 400 years. In 1004 the Czech country was for the first time recognized as the part of Holy Roman Empire and since this time it is called the Kingdom of Bohemia. In the 13th century the Premyslid dynasty expanded continuously and the Czech state became stronger and more powerful. The Premyslids died out in 1306 and was succeeded by the Luxembourg royal dynasty.
   The kingdom of Bohemia reached its peak in terms of power and prestige during the reign of Charles IV (1346-1378) who was the second Luxembourg king on the Czech throne (but with "the half of blood" from Premyslid dynasty). In 1344 he founded the Prague Archbishopric, the Charles University (1348) as the first university to the north of the Alps. In 1355 Charles IV became the Roman Emperor.
   After his death the country fell into serious problems concerning a political instability which resulted in the Hussite reform movement. Wenceslas IV, the son of Charles IV, did not manage to overcome that crisis, worsened by problems across Europe (the Papal Schism, criticism of the Church). Then the Hussite movement came with the ideas of Master Jan (John) Hus. It was a Czech preacher who was burnt in 1415 at Constance. The Church was reformed but many people died during the Hussite wars and a number of buldings, especially churches were damaged or destroyed.
   The Hussite movement changed the organization of society. For the first time in Europe it was established the religious dualism. Wenceslas IV and his brother Sigismund were last kings from the Luxembourg dynasty. In the end of 15th century Jagellons were elected as Czech kings.
   After the death of the last Jagellon (1526) the throne went to hands of Austrian Habsburgs. Habsburg kings reintroduced the Roman Catholic religion and transferred the royal seat to Vienna. The Kingdom of Bohemia was included in the Habsburg empire until 1918.
   Prague as the royal seat was restored again and only for a limited time by Rudolf II (1576-1611). During this time Prague became an recognized center of European culture. The Czech Estates persuaded Rudolf II to issue a decree with the aim to secure the freedom of religious belief. His successor and brother, the Emperor Matthias, cancelled it. From this reason a civil war between the Czech Estates and the Catholic Emperor begun and the war involved the whole Europe (it is known as the Thirty Years' War). In 1620 at the Battle of the White Mountain the Czech States were defeated. During the war many people died, the number of inhabitans reduced almost by half. People were forced to be Catholics or to emigrate, a lot of noble families lost the property and lands. The most important offices were transferred to Vienna.
   At the end of the World War I the Austro-Hungarian Empire fell apart and the independent Czechoslovak Republic was established (on October 28, 1918). T. G. Masaryk became the first Czechoslovak president. The newly established Czechoslovak Republic became later one of the most developed countries of the world but this prosperity was terminated with the invasion of German army in 1939.
   In May 1945 Czechoslovakia was freed by Russian and US army. In February 1948 the Communist party won the election and took control of the Czech state. Communists seized almost all private property. But the peoples´s mass protests in the late 80ths, together with a development in all communistic countries in Europe, led to the overthrowing of the Communist regime in November 1989. The first freely elected president after 40 years was Vaclav Havel.
   On January 1, 1993, the Czechoslovak state was peacefully separated into Czech and Slovak Republic and the new era of democratic and free Czech republic began.

                    Geography and Climate                    

   The Czech Republic consists of three regions: Bohemia, Moravia and a part of Silesia, and is divided into several districts. It is located in the centre of Europe and has borders with four 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 plains and many forests. The western part of the Czech Republic is more hilly than flatter Moravia. You can find here a large system of hiking and biking trails. 34 percent of the Czech Republic is forested.
   The Czech Republic has a pleasant climate. Despite relatively small area the country has a diverse countryside. The landscape is really nice, with beautiful, deep forests and protected nature areas, the reach sources of mineral water and easily reached mountains. The Czech Republic has got 1 248 protected natural areas. The largest natural park (3 900 acres) is Krkonoše National Park.
   The climate of the Czech Republic can be described as typical European continental climate with warm, dry summers and cold winters. The coldest month is January (the daytime temperatures often around zero, but sometimes with temperatures far below zero).
   In summer daytime temperatures reach 20-25°C, but sometimes 30°C or more. The weather is dry and sunny, with sudden thunderstorms at the end of the day. The warmest month is July (the average temperature of 20°C).
   The weather is the most pleasant from May till September, with warm days and cool nights, and with more rains in spring. Autumn is usually a little bit wet and winters can be cold, snowy and foggy.

                    Prague Capital                    

   Prague is the capital and the largest city. It has got about 1,24 million inhabitants.
   Prague has got a number of cultural attractions - the Prague Castle, the Charles Bridge, Old Town Square with the astronomical clock, the Jewish Quarter, Petřín hill and Vyšehrad castle. Since 1992 the historic centre of Prague has been included in the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites. Prague is the 20th most visited city in the world.
   The winters in Prague are cold with average temperatures at zero, with little sunshine. Snow cover could be usual from November to March but the snow accumulations of more than 20 cm are rare. Sometimes the winter can be mild. Summers are usually sunny, with average day temperature of 24°C, but nights could be quite cool.
   Prague public transport is not expensive and is really efficient. The public transport consisting of metro, trams and buses, plus suburban buses and trains, is safe during the day and even at nights. The Prague funicular (the the Petřín hill) is part of integrated transportation system (PID).

                    People                    

   The majority of more the 10 millions of inhabitants in the Czech Republic are ethnically and linguistically Czech (95%). Other ethnic groups include Germans, Romani, Poles and Hungarians. There is also a growing Vietnamese community. Since the dissolution of Czechoslovakia the Slovaks in the Czech Republic comprise cca 3% of the population.
   Czech language is the official language of the state. Children study English at school as the main foreign language from the age of 6.
   The Czech Republic has one of the least religious populations in the world. Only one tenth of the inhabitants has a religious affiliation.

                    Currency in the Czech Republic                    

    The official 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, 2, 5, 10, 20 and 50, banknotes have values of CZK 100, 200, 500, 1000, 2000 and 5000.
   
   You can get Czech crowns in banks, where you will pay the charge cca 2 % of the total amount. Better rate you could find in private exchange bureaus, but before changing your money ask the staff about you the net amount they will give you. "0 % commission" sign is often not concerning a sale, but a purchase of foreign currency. It may happen that better exchange rate advertised by the bureau is intended to attract customers and relates only exchange of money in excess of a certain amount, or they will charge you an exchange fee.
   In case of international payment cards there is a possibility to realize payment transactions or withdraw money from ATMs, which can be found in a city centre, in banks and in most shopping centres. All regular international types of payment cards are accepted (Visa, MasterCard, Maestro, Cirrus and others). You can realize payment transactions in almost all shops, restaurants, muzeums, hotels and tank stations.
   For more information about the actual exchange rate of CZK towards other currencies and a calculator for exchange see web pages of the Czech National Bank.

                    Public Transport                    

   The Czech Republic is a large transport point of Europe. The main Czech airport is the international airport in Prague-Ruzyně (Václav Havel Airport Prague).
   The rail and bus network in the Czech Republic is one of the densest in Europe, with reliable connections. Lines are operated by state or private companies.
   For timetables for train and bus connections (including their combinations, even with the public transport) visit here.
   Bigger cities have a system of public transport using tram, bus, metro or trolleybus lines which are operated by local transport companies. Usualy you can use the individual ticket for each journey, but in case of a longer stay there is also the possibility to buy tickets for 1, 2 or more days, even weekly or monthly tickets or longer. You can also buy "Prague Card" for 1, 2 or 3 days. The card includes the transport, entrance fee to a number of objects in Prague (museums etc.).
   

                    Other Useful Information                    

   The official language (and the only one) is Czech, which comes from the group of Slavonic languages (like Slovak, Polish, Serbian, Russian, Croatian etc.). The typical sign of a Czech language is using of plenty of diacritical marks ("hooks" over letters and accents for indicating of a length of vowels, which are important for the meaning of words. Certain sounds you could find hard to pronounce. But a lot of Czech people (mostly in big cities) can speak English.
   Mobile telephones here work on frequencies of 900 MHz and 1800 MHz which is different (as in the whole Europe) from the network for mobile telephones in the USA which uses a frequency of 1900 MHz, but newer mobile phones can handle it and work both in the USA and Europe. The international dialing code for the Czech Republic: +420 or 00420.
   The electricity network has following parameters: 230 V and 50 Hz. In plug sockets there are one round pin and two round holes. If you have the usual adapter it will work here without problems, but for different voltage or frequency devices you need a special adapter.
   Internet connection is widespread here, with commonly used wireless connection (via Wi-Fi). You can connect to internet via Wi-Fi in restaurants, hotels, cafes, museums and in many other locations, even in Prague trams.
   In the Czech Republic we have public and private medical facilities. Most of these facilities have a contract with health insurance companies and they provide the healthcare to insured patients in the framework of this insurance, without the need to pay for the general care, but people can be charged in special occassions stipulated by law. This concerns EU, Switzerland, Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein citizens having European health insurance cards, but there is a possibility to cover a part of these possible costs by travel insurance. People without permanent address in the EU must have a commercial insurance policy. Otherwise they will pay for the whole health care in cash directly at the spot. Healthcare is provided also in case of sudden accidents or illness at emergency facilities in hospitals e. g. during a night or at weekends, or there is a possibility (in necessary cases) to call the rescue emergency service on the phone number 112.
   Restaurants are open the whole day until 11 pm or later. Increasingly popular are outside gardens, open to 10:00 pm. Bars and clubs are open till 12:00 pm and sometimes later, especially at weekends. In case of your satisfaction with the service it is usual to leave some tip, reaching 5 to 10 percent of the payed amount.