To the east side of Prague on the banks of the River Labe, the industrial town of Kolín is somewhat nondescript. Nonetheless, it is still a handy stopping off point for anyone travelling from or to Kutná Hora. It also boasts a splendid main square featuring a town hall from Renaissance times, along with the impressive St Bartholomew Gothic Church, the glorious choir, which was created by Petr Parléř.
František Kmoch, born in 1848, was the most famous son of the town and his name is revered by fans of brass band music all across the globe. Czech band-masters virtually held a monopoly over Austro Hungarian military bands, and Kmoch was the most supreme amongst them. A tribute is paid to him in June each year, when enthusiasts from across the globe travel to Kolín and fill the air with the upbeat sound of trombones, tubas and trumpets.
Just 16 kilometres from Prague, Průhonice is a village renown for its’ huge landscaped park and its’ castle. This castle is not usually opened to the public. It is occupied by Botanists from the National Academy of Science, who have a fantastic range of shrubs, trees and other vegetation to study in the huge park that they work in.
Průhonice Castle was built during the Middle Ages, although the current structure is a romantic building in the style of the Czech neo renaissance. Count Ernst Silva Taroucca constructed this castle during the late nineteenth century, and he was also involved with laying the park out (each day April to October 07:00 to 19:00, November to March 08:00 to 17:00). This was a great landscape design accomplishment with vistas, lakes, an alpine garden, walks and, more than anything, innumerable trees, both exotic and native.
Průhonice also features the family-friendly Aquapalace water-park (open each day from 10:00 to 22:00; www.aquapalace.cz).
Orlík is located 68 kilometres south of Prague. Numerous buses leave each day from the Na Knížeci station in Prague, approximately every 1.5 hours. This town’s castle is only 1 of the numerous attractions of the South Bohemian area. There is also a man-made lake, and this area has acquired a reputation as a holiday destination, frequented by hikers and windsurfers. Orlík Castle (open June to August from 09:00 to 18:00, the hours vary for the remainder of the year; www.schwarzenberg.cz) cuts a striking silhouette in front of the lake. Constructed as a castle for royalty in the 13th century, its’ facade is bright white, with classical circular turrets in a Gothic Romantic style. This castle is in walking distance of the biggest village of the area, Orlík nad Vltavou, where a plethora of holiday rentals, restaurants and water-sports concessions are found.
The Castle at Okoř
Okoř is located only 14 kilometres to Prague’s north. Open June to September from Tuesday to Sunday, shut Monday; October to December and April to May 10:00 to 16:00. 5 to 75 Kč. www.hrad-okor.cz. Buses leave every 2 hours from Dejvická, approximately forty minutes.
These fortress ruins are within convenient reach of Prague. The area surrounding the ruins is also ideal for a stroll in the afternoon. This castle, that dates back to the thirteenth century, underwent phases of both Renaissance and Gothic Incarnations, prior to being seriously damaged during the 30 Years War. After this, it was rebuilt as Mikulov Castle in a Baroque style. These ruins provide the ideal location for 1 of the medieval fairs of the region during the summertime, which is maybe the best period to visit (www.festivalokor.cz).
Discovering Lake Lipno
This man-made lake, the Czech Republic’s largest area of water and the River Vltava’s source, is literally a seaside in a land-locked location. It spans out for 17 kilometres, with cottage communities and sandy beaches set against the leaning pine trees. The Lipno nad Vltavou town has a dam, and is a popular location for water-sports in the summertime (windsurfing, sailing and water-skiing), and skiing during the winter months (visit www.lipnoservis.cz for more details about fees and rentals).
Frymburk, a nearby town, is an excellent place to set-up camp (figuratively or literally). Walk down its’ charming main street, where you will discover numerous small hotels that offer easy access to the wooded trails and the beach. Catch the ferry over the river to trek from Frydava, across the 12 kilometre trail, right up to the Vítkův hrádek fortress ruins, which sit on top of a hill. Here, you will get extensive views of the whole lake and, in the other direction, a panoramic view of the Austrian Alps. Situated in Lipno nad Vltavou, 161 kilometres to the south of Prague. Numerous buses leave each day from the Florenc station in Prague; approximately 6 hours (passing through Český Krumlov).