Czech Republic

 

The Czech Republic is also known as Czechia is a nation state in Central Europe bordered by Germany to the west, Austria to the south, Slovakia to the east and Poland to the northeast. The Czech Republic covers an area of 78,866 square kilometres (30,450 sq mi) with a mostly temperate continental climate and oceanic climate. It is a unitary parliamentary republic, has 10.5 million inhabitants and the capital and largest city is Prague, with over 1.2 million residents. The Czech Republic includes the historical territories of Bohemia, Moravia, and Czech Silesia.

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 Přemyslid dynasty. In 1002, the duchy was formally recognised as part of the Holy Roman Empire, becoming the Kingdom of Bohemia in 1198 and reaching its greatest territorial extent in the 14th century. Besides Bohemia itself, the king of Bohemia ruled the lands of the Bohemian Crown, he had a vote in the election of the Holy Roman Emperor, and Prague was the imperial seat in periods between the 14th and 17th century. In the Hussite Wars of the 15th century driven by the Protestant Bohemian Reformation, the kingdom faced economic embargoes and defeated five consecutive crusades proclaimed by the leaders of the Roman Catholic Church.

Following the Battle of Mohács in 1526, the whole Crown of Bohemia was gradually integrated into the Habsburg Monarchy alongside the Archduchy of Austria and the Kingdom of Hungary. The Protestant Bohemian Revolt (1618–20) against the Catholic Habsburgs led to the Thirty Years’ War. After the Battle of the White Mountain, the Habsburgs consolidated their rule, eradicated Protestantism and reimposed Roman Catholicism, and also adopted a policy of gradual Germanization. With the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire in 1806, the Bohemian Kingdom became part of the Austrian Empire and the Czech language experienced a revival as a consequence of widespread romantic nationalism. In the 19th century, the Czech lands became the industrial powerhouse of the monarchy and were subsequently the core of the Republic of Czechoslovakia, which was formed in 1918 following the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire after World War I.

The Czech part of Czechoslovakia was occupied by Germany in World War II, and was liberated in 1945 by the armies of the Soviet Union and the United States. The Czech country lost the majority of its German-speaking inhabitants after they were expelled following the war. The Communist Party of Czechoslovakia won the 1946 elections. Following the 1948 coup d’état, Czechoslovakia became a one-party communist state under Soviet influence. In 1968, increasing dissatisfaction with the regime culminated in a reform movement known as the Prague Spring, which ended in a Soviet-led invasion.

The first separate Czech Republic was created on 1 January 1969, under the name the Czech Socialist Republic within federalization of Czechoslovakia, however, the federalization was implemented only incompletely. Czechoslovakia remained occupied until the 1989 Velvet Revolution when the communist regime collapsed and a democracy and federalization were deepened. On 6 March 1990, the Czech Socialist Republic was renamed to the Czech Republic. On 1 January 1993, Czechoslovakia peacefully dissolved, with its constituent states becoming the independent states of the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic.

The Czech Republic joined NATO in 1999 and the European Union (EU) in 2004; it is a member of the United Nations, the OECD, the OSCE, and the Council of Europe. It is a developed country with an advanced, high-income economy and high living standards. The UNDP ranks the country 14th in inequality-adjusted human development. The Czech Republic also ranks as the 6th most peaceful country, while achieving strong performance in democratic governance. It has the lowest unemployment rate of EU members.

Location: Central Europe

Capital: Prague

Population: 10,627,448 (July 2014 est.)

Ethnic Make-up: Czech 81.2%, Moravian 13.2%, Slovak 3.1%, Polish 0.6%, German 0.5%, Silesian 0.4%, Roma 0.3%, Hungarian 0.2%, other 0.5% (1991)

Religions: Roman Catholic 39.2%, Protestant 4.6%, Orthodox 3%, other 13.4%, atheist 39.8%.  [/wptab]

 

The climate differs markedly among the various regions of the Czech Republic, depending on the height above sea level. Generally speaking, the higher you are, average temperatures may drop more and rainfall is more likely. Many other factors also play a role in this – the border mountain ranges, for example, significantly influence ground-level air flow and rainfall.

Various height levels of the sun during the year cause the changing of the seasons, differentiated from each other mainly by the development of temperatures and precipitation. Similarly to the whole moderate northern band, the beginning of the year in the Czech Republic is also characterised by a cold winter. After this comes spring, followed by a warm summer and chilly autumn. The alternation of the seasons has a marked effect, above all on vegetation. The climate of the Czech Republic can then be labelled as moderate, of course with great local diversity seen throughout the year.  

The Czech Republic has some of the highest numbers of atheists, agnostics, and people with the religious indifference of any nation in the world. Before the second half of the 20th Century, Christianity, more specifically the Roman Catholic Church, dominated the country. Since then, the state religious affiliations have declined that many of the citizens do not identify with any religion. Research indicates that by 2050 religion in the Czech Republic might be extinct due to the increasing tolerance to indifference towards religion. The people of the Czech Republic believe they are subject to the authority of the state and not religion. 

The official language of the Czech Republic is Czech, which is spoken by over 96% of its inhabitants. But don’t worry, nowadays you should have no problems communicating in English in most towns, and to a lesser extent in German. Older people often speak Russian and German. But French, Italian or Spanish are not very much spoken by the locals.
Czech is a Slavic language, this category also includes Polish, Slovak, Russian, Slovenian, Serbo-Croatian…… Although the Czech language is a very difficult one, we recommend that you try learning a few phrases. The Czechs will welcome your effort and will be all the more willing to help you. 

Food in Daily Life. The traditional Czech diet may be considered heavy, with an emphasis on meat, potatoes, and dumplings and the use of substantial amounts of animal fats, butter, and cream. Meats— primarily pork, beef, poultry, and organ meats such as liver, kidneys, brains, and sweetbreads—are frequently prepared with gravy and eaten with potatoes or dumplings ( knedlík, pl. knedlíky ). Soups are an important part of the noon meal. Potato and tripe soup are favourites, as well as beef or chicken broth with tiny liver or marrow dumplings. The most commonly used vegetables are carrots, peas, and cabbage. Salads were eaten only seasonally until recent years.

Czechs have always enjoyed sweets. The most common are fruit dumplings (made with plums or, in winter, preserved apricots) served with grated farmer cheese and bread crumbs browned in butter, with sugar sprinkled on top. Dumplings often are served as a meal. Popular sweet baked goods include buchty (sing. buchta ), small, roughly rectangular yeast buns with a filling of jam or preserves; koláče (sing. koláč ), small cakes made of white flour with an indentation on the surface for a filling of poppy seeds, plum jam, or sweetened farmer cheese; a semi sweet cake ( bábovka ) made of yeast dough and baked in a fluted tube pan; thin pancakes spread with jam, rolled, and topped with powdered sugar ( palačinky ); small raised pancakes ( lívance ); and apple strudel ( jablkovýzávin or štrúdl ).

The national beverage is beer ( pivo ); some good domestic wines are produced in Moravia. The domestic plum brandy is called slivovice (slivovitz).  

Social interaction is not much different from that in other central European countries; This formality is in part caused by the Czech language, which has two forms of the second-person personal pronoun. The “familiar” form is used to address a member of the family, a good friend of long standing, or a child or by a child addressing another child. The “polite” form is used in more formal situations. It is not uncommon for colleagues of similar age in neighbouring offices to use the formal form when talking with each other.

The tendency toward a formal behaviour is strengthened by the tradition of using titles. The use of someone’s first name is limited to older family members addressing younger ones and to very good friends. It usually takes daily contact over a number of years before people are on a first-name basis. Much less informal contact reinforces the social distance between people. Because Czech apartments are small, invitations to visit and casual dropping by occur only among good friends.

Czechs stand at arm’s length from each other unless they are conveying information that should not be overheard. Like other Europeans, Czechs do not show as much consideration as one finds in Britain or in smaller cities in the United States when several people are boarding a streetcar, bus, or train or waiting to be served in a store. Their tendency to get ahead of others may reflect the experience of the socialist years, when people had to stand in lines for scarce goods.

Because there are no significant differences in social equality by virtue of position or ethnic background (with the exception of the Romany [Gypsies], who are disapproved of for allegedly committing petty thefts), the rules of etiquette are alike for all members of the society. Because Czechs emphasise cleanliness, most remove their shoes when entering private homes. They eat in the Continental style, with the fork in the left hand and the knife in the right, and there is no special attempt to converse at meals. 

The Czech Republic is a relatively tolerant destination for gay and lesbian travellers. Homosexuality is legal, and since 2006, same-sex couples have been able to form registered partnerships. Prague has a lively gay scene and is home to Europe’s biggest gay pride march (www.praguepride.cz), normally held in August. Attitudes are less accepting outside the capital, but even here homosexual couples are not likely to suffer overt discrimination. 

Prague and the Czech Republic have been slow to encourage and adopt sustainable tourism practices. Part of the blame, like everything else, goes to Communism. For 40 years from 1948 to 1989, industries, roads, and vast public housing tracts were built up with scant concern for their effect on the environment. By the time of the Velvet Revolution in 1989, the city and country were on a downward ecological spiral. Large areas in the north of the country had been destroyed by strip mining and acid rain produced by rampant coal burning. In Prague, the air was unbreathable during winter inversions, when slow-moving high-pressure systems would trap dirty air in the lower atmosphere. On those days children would be bused out of the city to camps in the countryside. The city was still pumping raw sewage into the Vltava River.

The good news is that the city authorities have taken big steps toward cleaning up the air and the river. Much of the city is now heated by natural gas, not coal, leaving the air much cleaner in the winter months — though a huge increase in car ownership has mitigated some of these gains. Sewage is now treated before it’s released into the river. The water is still too polluted to swim in, but every year brings an improvement in water quality.

Auto exhaust remains a significant source of air pollution. In the outlying areas, property developers have transformed large swaths of land into residential and office complexes, destroying green areas and adding more roads and cars to the mix. The massive increase in tourism in the past 20 years has contributed to a form of cultural environmental damage, where once thriving urban areas in the center have been transformed into largely tourist-only zones. High-rent souvenir shops, selling cheap glass and T-shirts, have forced out legitimate shops and services, and high rents have pushed ordinary Czechs into other parts of town.

There are signs that the national and municipal authorities are aware of the problems, but are still at odds at how best to solve the problems while keeping the city’s economy, particularly its very important tourism industry, on track. The 2009 global economic recession didn’t help matters.

A small but growing number of hotels have adopted sustainable practices, such as kerbing unnecessary water use and recycling, but there’s still much room for improvement on this front. The Czech government is taking toward protecting the environment.

While there is not much you can do as a short-term visitor, it’s at least good to be aware of the impact your trip is having on the local economy. In general, when shopping, try to avoid the dozens of shops in the centre, especially along Karlova Street, that traffic in cheap, mass-produced items like factory-made puppets, Russian nesting dolls, and fake KGB hats that are not made locally and have little connection to the Czech Republic. Seek out instead the smaller stores, away from the action, that offers genuine, high-quality Czech made goods, like handmade puppets and jewellery from Czech garnets. 

Phrases
English Czech Phonetic
Yes Ano Ah-no
No Ne Neh
Good Morning Dobré ráno Do-breh rah-no
Good Day (formal hello) Dobrý den Do-bree Dehn
Hello (informal), Goodbye (informal) Ahoj, čau Ahoy, Chow
Good Evening Dobrý večer Do-bree veh-chehr
Goodbye (formal) Na shledanou Nah skledah-noh
Good night Dobrou noc Do-brooh nots
Nice to meet you Těší mě Tye-shee Mye
How are you? (formal) Jak se máte? Yak seh mah-te
How are you? (informal) Jak se máš? Yak seh mahsh
I’m well Mám se dobře Mahm se do-breh
What is your name? Jak se jmenujete? Yak seh ymenooyete
My name is…. Jmenuji se … Ymen-oo-ye seh
Do you speak English? Mluvíte anglicky? Mloo-veeteh ahngleetskee
I don´t speak Czech Nemluvím česky Neh-mloo-veem cheskee
I don´t understand Nerozumím Neh-rozoo-meem
Excuse me; forgive me Promiňte Promeenyuh teh
Thank you Děkuji Dyekooyee
Please; you´re welkome Prosím Proseem
How much is it? Kolik to stojí? Koleek toh stoyee
Bill, please Účet, prosím Oocheht, proseem
Bon appetite Dobrou chuť Do-brooh khutye
To your health (cheers) Nazdraví Nah zdrah-vee