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National Geographic publishes in 20 languages around the world. Who better to point you to the best places to see in their countries than the editors of our international editions? Each month a real insider reveals five must–see destinations.
Czech Republic
Tomas Turecek

Editor Tomas Turecek faces a number of challenges as he prepares for next month’s launch of the Czech Republic’s local-language edition, not the least of which is the magazine’s name. “Since our divorce from Slovakia, we still have not come up with a shorter name for our country, and that’s a hot topic for Czechs,” he says. “I’d like to go with Ceskowhich means Czechland or Czechia—as the country’s official name and title the magazine accordingly. The problem is that 50 percent of the population likes the word, but the rest don’t. So instead of National Geographic Cesko, the edition’s name will be National Geographic Ceska Republika.”

That’s just the beginning. Turecek and his staff of six are doing everything possible to ensure that their publication is their country’s rightful heir to the National Geographic image. “Many people consider Koktejl, another national publication, to be the Czech National Geographic,” he says. “It’s a strong competitor, so we will be greatly challenged to prove its readers wrong and sway them in our direction.”

The team hopes to achieve that by producing local stories and introducing Czechs to the country’s undiscovered places. “Before 1989 many areas close to the national borders were restricted,” says the editor. “This is a wonderful opportunity to share these places with our readers.”

Czech Republic

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Turecek is happy to introduce our audience to his five favorite places in the Czech Republic, a country known as much for its travel-loving citizenry as for its great beer. Here are his choices:

1. Prague Castle
I’ve lived in our capital city for more than ten years. Still, after all that time I get the same feeling about Prague Castle as people on their first visit. It is my number one choice when I want to walk in the historical center of one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. The reasons are very simple: It’s not just an old castle but the best place to get a spectacular view of the entire city, to meet friends, or to just take a rest in the shadow of St. Vitus’s Cathedral. And believe me, you’ll need a break. This is the largest castle complex in the world, and it takes at least half a day to go through the buildings and discover such treasures as the crown jewels, art collections, and priceless manuscripts, books, and historical documents. To get there, take the scenic route through the picturesque Mala Strana district, which dates back to the mid-13th  century. Then cross Hradcany Square and enter the castle via ornate Matyas Gate. That vantage point guarantees the best view of the city. The offices of the president of the Czech Republic are located in the next two blocks of the complex’s buildings. Just past there you will end up directly in front of St. Vitus’s Cathedral, the largest church in Prague and the final resting place of the remains of patron saints, sovereigns, noblemen, and archbishops. I love standing there and allowing my eyes to climb to the top of this architectural beauty and beyond.”

2. Karlovy Vary (Carlsbad)
Feel tired? Go west to Karlovy Vary, the largest spa town in the Czech Republic. Since the mid-1300s when the Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV discovered hot springs in the area, the city has been a favorite mineral baths retreat. Today the resort city, set in a river valley encircled by wooded hills, is a popular place to spend a relaxing vacation—so much so that a number of international visitors have settled there. It may well be the most international city in the country, with new residents coming from Russia, Germany, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates. Karlovy Vary takes on a special flavor when the influence of its multinational residents blends with the city’s eclectic mix of baroque, Empire, and art nouveau architectural styles. It is one of the most interesting cities in Bohemia.”

3. The Village of Holasovice
This picturesque village in South Bohemia sits on the northern border of Blanensky Forest, surrounded by peaceful marshland. When I am in this part of the country, I feel as if I’m in an open-air museum. But even though time seems to move slowly, the village is very much alive. The most remarkable thing about Holasovice is its folk architecture, a unique style called rural baroque that is based on baroque, rococo, and classical elements. The profusion of pastel-painted buildings with rounded roof gables and facades decorated with rural motifs has earned the village a place among UNESCO’s World Heritage sites. Sometimes I ask villagers if they know about this recognition and what they think of it. They answer with surprise: ’Oh, is it? It’s nice to hear that our simple houses belong to the world heritage.’”

4. Beskydy Mountains
In the eastern region of Moravia, the Beskydy Mountains form one of the most beautiful areas in the country. The influence of shepherds who settled there in the 12th century blended with that of the regional farmers and gave rise to the unique style of folk architecture used to build the colorful timber houses found throughout the area. The local people are known not only for their warm hospitality but also for the variety of folk art they produce. In the town of Stramberk visitors can find some of the best examples of traditional handcrafted furniture. Or they can learn how painted eggs, called kraslice, are made in Vnorovy.”

5. Lednice Château
The château, one of nearly a hundred Moravian estates belonging to the Liechtenstein family, is one of the best examples of high romanticism architecture in the Czech Republic. Since its construction began in the 12th century, the opulently furnished castle has undergone a number of style changes, including Gothic, Renaissance, and baroque versions. Today the grounds serve as a public park that blends seamlessly into the surrounding landscape. Visitors can enjoy touring through a greenhouse filled with specimens of the world’s exotic plants and strolling around the fish ponds, which double as nesting places for waterfowl. The estate, as well as the town of Lednice, is a UNESCO World Heritage site.”

Photographs by Massimo Listri, CORBIS (left), Morton Beebe, CORBIS (center), and Peter M. Wilson, CORBIS (right).

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