Sunday, January 12, 2014

Mi Castle Es Su Castle

The Rotunda of St. Martin (11th Century), inside Vysehrad - Prague's "other Castle". 
According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the Czech Republic has the most castles per square mile of any country in the world. I am not quite sure if this is strictly speaking true: some on-line sources say that Belgium holds this title, and of course it also depends on your definition of the word castle. But one thing is for sure: the Czech Republic has a lot of castles and stately homes, more than one could possibly hope to visit in a lifetime. Some of the most famous Czech castles are listed here

Prague Castle is of course the most famous and it's also the biggest castle complex in the world. Even though I've been to Prague several times and have visited the outer sections of the castle, I've not been inside the castle yet - apparently you have to wait in line for hours, so I've never attempted it. Maybe on my next visit...

Prague also has a second, lesser-known castle: Vysehrad, which consists of more park than castle. It's a great place to spend time on a beautiful day.

In Ostrava, where I live, there's an adorable little castle called Zamek Zabreh that has been turned into a small hotel/spa/restaurant/brewery. I'm not a beer-drinker, but I've tasted the best beer ever there: honey beer. They do beer tastings in the same way as other places do wine-tastings. The spa treatments there also include beer baths! I hope to try the spa treatments there one day.

However, on the whole, Ostrava is not the most beautiful city in the Czech Republic. In fact, the opposite may be the case. When I've told Czech people who live in Prague that I live in Ostrava, they usually tell me that they've never been there and that they see no reason to visit. The "industrial town" reputation lingers on.

The best thing about Ostrava is perhaps not its architecture, but it's slower pace of living and its proximity to the mountains. It's a great place to live for those who like to ski, but it's also good for sports of all kinds: Ostrava was named the European City of Sport for 2014 and tennis legend Ivan Lendl is from here.

And if you wish to visit castles, they're just a short train ride away...


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