Posts Tagged ‘tourism’


Czech It Out: the Konopiste Castle

In Architecture,Czech Tourism on May 5, 2011 by Petr Bokuvka Tagged: ,

Tired of Prague? Did you come to see interesting places, not dark clubs and strip bars? I am starting a series of tips for tourists who visit Prague for several days and wish to explore interesting places within a reasonable distance. This time: one of the most famous Czech castles – the Konopiste Castle.

It is just forty minutes by comfortable trains from Prague’s main station. One-way “group ticket” (even two people are group) is CZK 102. You need to ask for “Benesov u Prahy”. The castle is just under two kilometres from the train station in Benesov – follow the yellow trail.

Konopiste is a former fortress the purpose of which was to guard Benesov. Its original style resembled that of French “castels”. It was rebuilt by several owners throughout history. The most famous personality associated with the castle is Archduke Franz Ferdinand d’Este, successor to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian Empire who was assassinated in 1914. Today, the interiors of the castle are decorated with hundreds of hunting trophies (as hunting was the Archduke’s hobby).

Visitors are offered several versions of the tour, depending on which part of the castle they want to see the most. They can make qualified decisions based on photos displayed at the entrance. Certain versions of the tour feature many “hunting rooms” which animal lovers might not enjoy very much – it can be really disturbing… From what I heard in person, the guides speak English.

There are two restaurants near the castle. I would NOT recommend them, however. One of them looks like a pre-1989 skiing lodge dining room (high prices for ordinary food) and one of them is a pub-like establishment that is good for a quick beer only.


New regulation will ban street performances. Artists protest

In Brno,Culture,Entertainment,Music,Travel on June 4, 2010 by Petr Bokuvka Tagged: , , , ,


Hundreds of artists, performers and ordinary people are going to protest against a new regulation in the streets of Brno on Friday afternoon. The lawmakers meant well: they wanted to get drunk individuals who beg for “some change” out of downtown Brno. The regulation would apply to drinking in public in general, i.e. to foreign tourists who would enjoy a can of beer on a park bench (even though the Mayor of the borough argued that the purpose of the regulation is not to harass tourists, a cop having a bad day could fine them…).

The regulation equally applies to buskers – i.e. to people you can find in every major city in the world. You can’t even imagine some cities without them, e.g. Kenny G.-like saxophone players near Pont Neuf in Paris.

While some cities encourage street performances because they contribute to their atmosphere, any guitar case on a sidewalk with coins in it will mean trouble for the amateur musician who does not beg. He or she just lets people decide themselves. If you like it, your kind contribution will be appreciated…

It is a common thing in the Czech Republic that laws and regulations have unwanted side effects. When a new regulation was adopted according to which it was illegal to hold a cell phone while driving, I found out that the regulation would equally apply to drivers of siren-and-light emergency vehicles en route to accidents, crime scenes etc… The same seems to be the case here… the councillors wanted to eliminate begging for money and they ended up harassing street performances.

The Mayor of the City of Brno (not to be confused with the aforementioned Mayor of the borough) admitted that should the regulation cause trouble he is prepared to amend it… How typical…


Politicians: Bicyclists should be allowed to drink alcohol

In Czech Tourism,Law,Life,Nature,Travel on May 10, 2010 by Petr Bokuvka Tagged: , , ,


The South Moravian Region is known for its vineyards and viniculture as such. One of the most successful ways to attract tourists are wine trails: bike paths among vineyards and villages with almost zero traffic where bicyclists can ride across the region.

However, it is illegal to be “under the influence” or “intoxicated” while riding a bike. According to wine cellar owners, this  is a huge paradox: bicyclists-tourists come for wine sampling but the law says they cannot drink alcohol…

Social democrats smell a chance to impress their voters. They want to adopt a law accordig to which a certain amount of alcohol would be tolerated, the Brnensky denik daily wrote. Member of Parliament Jiri Petru argues that the legislators who want to propose the amendment sought inspiration in Austria, where bicyclists can ride their bikes ever after they’ve had a few glasses (samples) of wine. Unions of wine producers approve the efforts.

However, opposition politicians argue that traffic rules should apply to bicylists everywhere and that it is not possible to have an extra set of rules for “wine trails” and another set of rules for roads bicyclists have to cross or use to get from one wine trail to another…

Photo: (c) (Bike Journeys)


Late summer near Brno

In Brno on August 24, 2009 by Petr Bokuvka Tagged: , , ,

Fotografie 0069

Fotografie 0071

The best place for a romantic walk in Brno. Three small lakes in a row, narrow asphalt roads on both sides, perfect for biking and walking. A baby-friendly place with a huge playgrounds and small goats that kids can feed.


Avoid cabs in downtown Prague that charge CZK 99 for one kilometer

In Cars,Economy,Prague,Travel on July 17, 2009 by Petr Bokuvka Tagged: , , , , ,

A group of “prominent” (see the sarcasm?) Prague cab drivers engaged in a huge fight with the police because of a long-term dispute over spots where these cabs used to pick up tourists. TV Prima has the raw video:

The Municipality of the City of Prague has recently evicted the taxicab company from its spots on the Old Town Square. Here:

One of the reasons what the the company repeatedly violated a city regulation that stipulated maximum prices for one kilometer. The cabs departing from the Old Town Square (Staromestske namesti) might charge CZK 99 – so make sure you avoid them and hail a regular one! According to the news server these cabbies have previously been fined for excessive price escalations and many of them failed to pay.

On the other hand, the cabbies claim the city had no right to replace the cab spots with handicapped spots due to a temporary injunction and due to some yet-unresolved contracts thanks to which the company claims to still have the right to use the spots.

Be it as it may, you just DON’T fight with a cop. What the cab drivers did there only adds to their negative image. Prague cabs’ reputation all over the world is really bad. They even ripped off the Mayor in disguise!


Weekend in Croatia: 26 hours on the bus, 12 hours on the beach

In Travel on June 13, 2009 by Petr Bokuvka Tagged: , , , , , , ,

A few people said I was crazy, but I just had to try it. I bought a return bus ticket  (why did I write the word “ticked” without noticing??) to Rovinj, Croatia for the next week.

Leaving on Friday night, the bus arrives in Rovinj at 7:30 a.m. on Saturday. I get to spend 13 hours in a beautiful town and on its beaches — and the bus back to Brno departs at 8:00 p.m., arriving in Brno on Sunday morning.  Hence, the total journey takes up some 25 hours while the rest-and-relaxation only lasts twelve.

But hey, the town is beautiful and the nude beaches are even better — plus I can sleep well on buses so the journey is not going to be exhausting…


Croatia to Czechs: We increased limits for meat and dairy product imports

In Economy,Travel on May 18, 2009 by Petr Bokuvka Tagged: , , , , ,

(c) Getty Images

(c) Getty Images

Croatia is the most favorite destination for Czech sea lovers. And since price is a huge issue for most Czechs, when it comes to holiday spending, Czechs like to bring their own food(stuffs) to Croatia. And they have become a laughing stock in this country, particularly due to their habit to eat their own food on beaches, instead of eating local.

Last year Croatia imposed strict limits as to how much tourists can bring into the country when it comes to meat and dairy products. And since Czechs liked to bring homemade schnitzels and Czech-bought canned food, they started to yell – even the Guardian noticed and made Czechs look like cheapskates. Deservedly.

Now, the Croatian authorities announced that these limits should be softer. Softer means 10 kilograms per person, instead of 1 kilogram.

I understand people have to save money to be able to afford foreign vacation and that they want to eat cheap. But I hate the attitude displayed by most Czechs who like to bring their own food to Croatia: That showed ’em, huh?, i.e. the confidence in their own abilities to outsmart the system.

By the way, trying to explain to them that tourism spending is a vital part of the industry as such would be pointless. Trying to argue that holidaymakers must spend money at the destination – to make the place running – is the same thing.


Czech travel agencies: forget last-minute bargains this year

In Economy on April 19, 2009 by Petr Bokuvka Tagged: , , , ,

(c) Getty Images

(c) Getty Images

This financial crisis forces people to give up things that need the least, of course. In case of Czechs: seaside-resort holidays. For many families and couples there will be no Croatia, Greece, Spain or Egypt this year. Lucky bastards who live in Florida. 🙂

Czech travel agencies still do offer their services…  but they recently announced they significantly reduced their capacities (i.e. numbers of beds and rooms…) they pre-ordered last year, or well ahead. It means two things: they will sell out what they have faster and they will offer almost no last-minute departures that can be described as “buy today, fly in two days”.

Last year one could wait until a Tuesday, pick a destination, pay a ridiculously small price and pack to depart on a Friday. Not only there will be no such thing this year, travel agencies also INCREASED their prices, which I don’t understand, considering the fact that people have LESS money.


Weekend photo-walk in Brno

In Brno,Photography on March 21, 2009 by Petr Bokuvka Tagged: , , , ,

A random selection of various parts of Brno during one 45-minute tram ride. Just point-and-shoot this time, with no real thought with respect to journalistic quality 🙂


Bystrc borough. A 20-minute tram ride to downtown Brno.


Bystrc borough. A 20-minute tram ride to downtown Brno.


Pekarska St.


Pekarska St.


Old houses on Mendel Sq. housing a tea room, a pub and an army store.


North Korea invites Czech tourists. Thirteen days, eleven nights, fifty grand

In Politics,Travel on March 19, 2009 by Petr Bokuvka Tagged: , ,

(c) Ahn Young-Joon/AFP

(c) Ahn Young-Joon/AFP

It is a magnet of this season and you shouldn’t hesitate if you want to go, a travel agent of an agency offering holiday in North Korea told me. The country, she said, is now offering group visa for European tourists.

Five nights in an all-inclusive hotel in Pyongyang.

But prior to that, three nights in Beijing, where the tourists can have “two days off” to arrange their own program, like the Forbidden City and other landmarks. And then they travel to North Korea by, big surprise, sleeper train.

And of course guided visits to all the creepy places everybody has heard about: museums, Demilitarized Zone, empty eight-lane boulevards with almost no cars.

CZK 50,000, i.e. some $2,300

It gets you thinking. How much of this money will actually go to the state budget from which the government finances its nuclear program, while regular people struggle with power outages, and lack of everything, including food, household needs… and democracy?

I was told that all groups of tourists are assigned a nice commie lady who follows them everywhere they go to make sure the foreigners only see what they can be allowed to see. And hear. And ask. And get answers to.

It is hard to swallow that you would pay some country to show you a place where its regime killed people in a military conflict.

A friend of mine who works in the United Nations repeatedly witnessed situations that might be described as “you can’t tell the North Koreans your truth about the human rights”.

A trip to North Korea for CZK 50,000 is for adventure seekers, so that they can say “Been there, seen that”. Not the best way to start the efforts to talk to the regime…

%d bloggers like this: