More than 8 million tourists a year visit Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic. They jostle among the overcrowded streets and bars, but few of them venture beyond the city. Yet just an hour away by train is the unspoilt region of East Bohemia. An area jam-packed with picturesque towns, historic castles, spectacular countryside, and much more…
The Towns of East Bohemia
The capital of East Bohemia is Pardubice, a beautiful city with a medieval castle and historic racecourse. Then there is Litomyšl, with its UNESCO designated castle (I’ll be writing more about both places in the next few weeks). But the smaller towns are equally interesting. Irrespective of size, every town has a central square surrounded by ornate and colourful buildings, a harmonious blend of different architectural styles.
Don’t miss Vysoké Mýto. This is one of the so-called “dowry towns”, which medieval kings gave to their wives to provide them with an income. It has the largest town square in the Czech Republic, and some of the gates and towers remain from the medieval fortifications. In more recent times the town has been known for car manufacturing, and you can explore the history of the industry in the Museum of Car Bodywork, housed in the old town hall and jailhouse.
Then there is Polička, of particular interest to me because its 14th century city ramparts are still intact, making them the best preserved walls in Central Europe (regular readers will know of my obsession with old walled towns…) You can walk on a section of the walls with a guide (enquire at the Information Centre), or take a walk around the outside, noting the nineteen towers and the remains of the moat.
Castles of East Bohemia
I’ve never seen a region with so many castles. There are romantic ruins, medieval and Renaissance castles, and even castles you can sleep in. There is the World Heritage Site of Litomyšl Castle, and the rococo charm of Nové Hrady Chateau (more about these soon…)
Some of the castles are not grand buildings, but small hilltop fortresses. A walk to Kunětická Hora takes you past a game reserve with deer and bison. And if you climb up to the Gothic ruins of Oheb Castle you will be rewarded with spectacular views over the Seč Dam.
Other Activities in East Bohemia
For me, the towns and the castles were the highlight of the region. But there is much more to East Bohemia than this. If you’re looking for an active holiday, there is walking and cycling, or more adventurous pursuits like the Podhůra Rope Park. And I stayed in two hotels with excellent spa facilities – the Hotel Jezerka at Seč and Kunětická Golf and Spa.
Of course, there is also the food, and the beer for which the Czech Republic is famous. Go to East Bohemia, and discover it for yourself.