Ask anyone to name a city in the Czech Republic outside of Prague and at a push you might hear maybe Ostrava or Brno. But what most travellers, even the most experienced of European explorers, don’t realise is that there’s a whole region of the country – southern Bohemia – to explore just a couple of hours’ drive south of the capital.
It contains not only some highly invigorating rural activities off the beaten track but one of the most visually impressive old cities you’ve never heard about.
I’ll come to all that later though. My first night in the Czech Republic starts like so many visits to the country in its perennially wonderful capital city, which stands up against the likes of Rome and Vienna, still attracting almost six million visitors annually – five times its resident population.
A segway tour – an increasingly popular way of touring the city centre – is decided upon for my group’s mode of transport. After limbering up in a square we first traverse the bank of the River Vltava, then up to a park overlooking most of central Prague, then straight back down into and around it for a whistlestop tour of its key sights, from the UNESCO-protected castle to quirkier stuff like the unique ‘Fred and Ginger Building’ and Lennon Wall, although that’s sadly been scrubbed clean of its colourful graffiti in the months since.
And no visit to Prague is complete without a visit to the famous Charles Bridge, which on a sunny day can feel like you’re sharing with half the country. Its epic statues, river view and performing artists more than make up for the bustle though.
That night we indulge in something else the Czech Republic does very well: beer (officially the world’s biggest beer drinkers). So what better way to spend the evening than in the home of market-leading Staropramen, enjoying a tour of its brewery before sampling several glasses of its wares.