A Barrel of Fun
Do you know that the polka and beer have more in common than the "Beer Barrel Polka"? They've either originated or been developed in Bohemia. The former kingdom of Bohemia now lies within the Czech Republic, along with its neighbors Moravia and (part of) Silesia. Thanks to the extensive network of CD Czech Railways and the Eurail Czech Republic Pass, travel from Prague through west and south Bohemia is easy.
If you have a taste for the suds, (barley) and hop a short train ride from Prague to either Plzen (two hours) or CeskeBudejovice (under three hours). These names become more clear when you think of the Germanic wording for each (Pilsen and Budweis).
Budejovice has long been well known for the beer brewed there since the 13th century, and for a time the town was the royal brewery for the Holy Roman Emperor. Along with Plzen's Pilsener, one of the country's best-loved lagers, brewing remains a major industry in Bohemia. CeskeBudejovice is a convenient base for exploring south Bohemia by train, including Cesky Krumlov one hour away.
Although the station in Cesky Krumlov is a short taxi ride from the town center, you will be glad to have made the effort. The city is one of the loveliest in Bohemia, and was named to the UNESCO World Heritage Sites for its history and physical beauty.
A highlight of the visit would be the Cesky Krumlov Castle resting high atop a nearby hill, and reputedly the second-largest in Bohemia.
Another famous hill castle, along the train route to Plzen, is the Karlštejn. Founded in 1348, it was built by Czech King and Roman Emperor Charles IV as a place to store royal treasures, especially Charles's collection of holy relics and imperial crown jewels.
Ready to soak up the atmosphere? The spa town of Karlovy Vary, also known as Carlsbad, can be reached in just over three hours (from Prague ). On arrival at the "upper" station (Karlovy Vary Horni) it is a short 5-minute taxi ride, or 15-minute walk, into the town center.
The famous spas contain the hot mineral springs of the area, and offer a variety of treatments or packages. You may see visitors sipping the mineral water from special drinking cups around town, and into the surrounding forests and parks. You may even spot a celebrity or two without a shirt on. Why? The Karlovy Vary International Film Festival is one of the oldest filmfest's in the world, and one of Europe's biggest.
There's a reason "Bohemian" has come to mean "different." Come see castles, have a beer or two and share a bath with a movie star. And live the Bohemia lifestyle.
Contributed by: Eric, Specialty Desk Agent, loves to frequent European events on visits with family in wonderful Kassel and Dortmund.