is the capital of Moravia and dates back to the 13th century. It
is home to the fine Moravian Museum, an important
Augustinian Monastery where the geneticist Mendel
was Abbot, the Capuchin Church with its mummies,
and the Gothic Špilberk Castle. A large number
of trade fairs take place in the Brno Exhibition Centre.
To the northeast is the Moravsky krás, an
area of great limestone caves around Blansko. To
the northwest the Gothic castle of Pernstejn is
closest to most people’s idea of what a medieval castle should
look like; the hour-long train journey to it up the Svratka
Valley is an nice trip.
Southwest of Brno, three towns that stand out as tourist locations:
Moravsky Krumlov with its Mucha Gallery
including pictures, such as ‘Slovanska epopej’
(The Slav Epic), Slavkov (Austerlitz),
near the Napoleonic battlefield, and Bucovice,
whose castle houses the remarkable zajeci sal (The
Hall of Hares) with murals of hares revenging themselves
on dogs and men.
In the Vysocina (Bohemian-Moravian Uplands)
to the east, the towns of Telc (a UNESCO Cultural
Heritage Site) and Slavonice are perhaps the most
perfect examples of Renaissance towns in Europe. Telc,
including the Zamec (Castle),
was completely rebuilt after a fire in 1530; medieval arcades surround
the town square with its gabled houses. Slavonice is another town
founded on silver mining.
In Zdar nad Sazavou about 40km or 25 miles northeast
of Jihlava, the Cistercian monastery and pilgrimage
church dedicated to Jan Nepomucky (St John of Nepomuk) was designed
by Giovanni Santini, one of the greatest artists of the Czech Counter-Reformation,
who married Gothic and Baroque forms, often with a humour lacking
in other architects. Nearby in Ostrov nad
Oslavou he designed a pub shaped like the letter
‘W’ to honour a fellow architect, and the town church
at Obyctov, shaped like a turtle, one of the Virgin
Mary’s more obscure symbols.
The area between the wine-making towns of Lednice
and Valtice was once a possession of the Grand
Dukes of Liechtenstein. Several impressive castles, parks and structural
follies are dotted over an area of 250 sq km or 96 sq miles, separated
by numerous ponds and forests.
To the west, the area between Znojmo and Vranov
on the River Dyji (Thaya
in German) is an untouched river valley, now a joint National
Park on both sides of the Austrian border. Northeast of Brno, Kromeriz
(accessible as a day trip from Prague) is a beautifully preserved
Baroque town; its Bishop’s Palace includes an important art
collection (including paintings from the auction after the execution
of the English Charles I), and water gardens which run down to the
banks of the Morava river.
Despite many ecological disaster zones and the industrial centre
of Ostrava, northern Moravia has much to offer
the traveller. Olomouc, now recovered from its
era as a Soviet garrison, is again an attractive university town
noted as much for its parks as for its Baroque churches, sculptures
The surrounding Haná area is agricultural,
with many villages having attractive harvest festivals in September.
In the very north, the Jeseniky Mountains
are an eastern extension of the Bohemian Krkonose.
Lazne Jesenik is one of the famous Czech Silesian
spas founded in the 19th century; this area is great for hiking,
with rocky outcrops, cave systems and monuments.
To the east of Ostrava, the hilly Beskydy region
(extending through Poland into the Ukraine) is the area of the Vlachs
(Wallachs), whose culture survives in folklore and architecture.
This area is great for hiking and winter sports. The open-air skansen
(Folk Museum) at Roznov pod Radhostem, began in
1925 and is the largest in the country; another good skansen is
at Velke Karlovice. Valchs architecture can be
found to the south in the villages in the Vsetinska Becva
valley, including Bzove, Jezerne