(Editor’s note: The Czech Republic is the next stop for our Staycation series as the pandemic limits travel in some European countries. You can see other staycation posts here.)
For expats living in the Czech Republic and looking for some staycation ideas this year, given the unpredictability of travel during Coronavirus, I have pressed some friends living there into service!
We’ve included some destinations less touristy than Prague and Český Krumlov.
The historic Bohemian town of Loket is about a two-hour drive from Prague and well worth a visit. Situated in the bend or “elbow” (from which it gets its name) of the Ohre River, the ancient town remains unchanged, as it is a national monument.
Its pièce-de-résistance is the Gothic castle, perched on a rock overlooking the town. You may feel you have been here, and you have if you are a James Bond fan and watched “Casino Royale.” The cobbled streets and lazy river will take you back to the the fairytale stories of childhood.
STUFF TO DO
• Loket Castle ~ The castle perched above the town offers plenty for the history lover from porcelain to guns to a torture chamber.
*opening dependent on restrictions.
Canoeing ~ There are several canoe rental places in the area, so you can explore the Ohre river and surrounding countryside.
Svatoš Rocks ~ Svatoš Rocks are a natural formation of granite in pillars and pyramids that, according to local legend, was once a wedding procession forever stopped in time by a disgruntled nymph. This area is popular for hiking, climbing and, of course, canoeing.
Ceramics ~ The local area is famous for its porcelain and the town of Loket has multiple ceramic stores to browse.
WHERE TO STAY
Karlovy Vary ~ There are several hotels in the town of Loket. But if you are looking for a busier location, then the bustling tourist town of Karlovy Vary – famous for its film festival, spas and thermal springs – is the place to hang your hat.
This is another spectacular location where “Casino Royale” scenes were filmed amid the colorful buildings, hotels and casinos.
The Renaissance town of Domažlice, just 15 kilometers from the German border, is the centre of the Chodsko region and accessible by car, a two-hour drive, or train from Prague. The beautiful town has plenty of history and tradition to entice travellers and is close to unspoiled forest.
The town is famous for its traditional music festival, sadly cancelled this year due to Coronavirus, and its delightful cobbled square, with bars and restaurants, which is dominated by the Church of the Nativity of the Virgin Mary. You can view the surrounding area from its slightly off-center tower.
The Bohemian Forest or Šumava National Park is a UNESCO biosphere just over an hour’s drive from Domažlice. Alternatively, close by the town, is Čerchov, the highest mountain on the Czech and German border. The Kurz Tower, once occupied by German and then Czech troops is now a lookout, which provides views across the forest.
• Chodsky Castle ~ This ancient castle, once the protector of the region, now houses a museum dedicated to local Chod folklore, an ethnic group from the area of western Bohemia with their local costumes and traditions.
• J. Jindrich Museum ~ An ethnographic museum collection that celebrates the Chodska.
WHILE YOU’RE ON THE ROAD ….
• Furth im Wald, Germany ~ Just a 30-minute drive from Domažlice you can cross the border into Germany and visit Furth im Wald, otherwise know as “Dragon City.” The town is famous for its dragon slaying folk play, which tells the story of St. George and the dragon. It also has a dragon museum that features the world’s largest walking robot. (Temporarily closed for renovation.)
• Horšovsky Tyn ~ This historic town, less than a 30-minute drive, was once in German-annexed Sudetenland. Following the end of World War II in 1945, the U.S. Army liberated the area, the German occupants expelled and the almost deserted area returned to the Czech people.
The scenic town centre includes the Gothic and Renaissance Horšovsky Tyn Castle, once owned by Count Maximillian, the key negotiator of the Westphalia Peace Treaty. It is one of the nations jewels. The castle runs several recommended guided tours which cover its rich history and its untouched interior.
It also has a picturesque 40-hectare park to wander freely, a tower to climb and view the surroundings, the 17th-century Loretta Chapel and the Summer House, which is closed to the public.
Once again, the countries we have chosen to live in offer us wonderful potential for adventures without even straying too far from the borders.
(Author’s note: All activities are dependent on local Coronavirus restrictions so check websites before you go.)
About the author:
Jackie Harding was born in the United Kingdom. As a longtime expat, she’s lived in Boston for 12 years and in the Netherlands for the past nine years.
Trained as a nurse in the U.K., she worked for nine years in the United States as a special education teacher’s assistant. Since moving to the Netherlands, she has discovered writing and photography.
Contributing to Dispatches since 2016, Jackie has written about her travels around Europe as well as about expat life and issues.
She also covered the Women’s March Amsterdam.
She’s married to British businessman Martin Harding and is the mother of two international adult children.