Liberec Region: To the Crystal Valley for the Beauty of Czech Glass

Glass goes with Czechia like porcelain goes with Meissen, whisky with Scotland and chocolate with Belgium. Discover glass as a fascinating material: crystal clear or colourful, in the form of cut stones, shiny chandeliers, jewellery, tiny pearls, petite figurines and engraved jewels. Visit glass and jewellery workshops, museums of glass and jewellery or manufactories where fragile Christmas ornaments, inscribed by UNESCO, are created. The glass beauty travels from Bohemia to the whole world but you can admire the craftsmanship of old master glassmakers only here.

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The Crystal Valley – Destinations Offering Unique Experiences

Become a Glassmaker

Learn all you need to know about glass blowing at the Pačinek Glass manufactory in Kunratice u Cvikova. Watch the masters of handcrafting in the grinding mill and traditional glass factory and try to make something as well. Remember to visit the beautiful glass garden! Lasvit in Lindava, a glass factory that makes the Tour de France trophies, has a gallery for visitors where they can watch the hot liquid glass mass getting transformed into a fragile beauty in the hands of master glassmakers. If you want, you can make your own mug or vase using the blowpipe and then have a little something to eat from the factory’s kitchen.

Or visit Rautis in Poniklá. The local manufacture of Christmas decorations made from blown glass beads is inscribed by the UNESCO in the intangible cultural heritage list. You can watch the whole production process – blowing from blowpipes, applying silver, dyeing and cutting pearls, as well as the final assembly. Make your own bead decoration in the creative workshop.

You can look forward to a lot of experience at glass-making festivals, such as the Glass Village in Železný Brod that takes place every September. Try out different glass-making techniques in the creative workshops.

In search of glass

The oldest continuously working glass factory in the world, Novosad a Syn in Harrachov, has one of the largest and most valuable glass collections in the country. You will see hand-shaping of glass right at the furnace and you can arrange making your own product under expert supervision. After that, you might enjoy the famous beer from a local brewery or relax in the local beer spa.
Don’t think glass and gastronomy go together? The Novotný Glass Centre in Nový Bor will make you change your opinion! The local Huť glass factory restaurant has some great food and when you finish your meal, you can walk up the stairs to the glass museum with a beautiful view of the factory.


Make Your Own Jewellery

The largest public collection of glass Christmas decorations in the world can be found in Jablonec nad Nisou: the World of Wonders is in the Museum of Glass and Jewellery, and you can also visit the Bead Manufacture Museum in the Nisa Factory, one of the largest manufacturers of glass beads in the region. You will see how beads are cut and polished and you can make your own jewellery or a glass mosaic picture in the modern creative workshops.
And if you would like to learn all about the Jablonec jewellery, visit the Crystal Paradise where you can also make your own necklace or bracelet in one of the many specialised creative workshops.

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České Budějovice Fighting for the European Title

Come see that České Budějovice is not only the home of the world-famous Budvar beer. The South Bohemian capital will amaze you with the picturesque countryside, rich history and fascinating architecture. We have chosen a few places you should definitely see when visiting this royal town.

A Giant in the City Centre

České Budějovice has 247 cultural monuments which makes it one of the most important tourist attractions in the south of Bohemia. The main square lined with Baroque houses and an arcade is undoubtedly the most beautiful place in Budějovice. You won’t find a larger square in Czechia. It is even one of the largest squares in Europe!

A Fight with a Lion at the Square

Not only one of the most beautiful Czech city halls, which you can visit, makes the square beautiful, but also the impressive Samson fountain. You can’t miss the spectacular Baroque landmark, dominated by the sculpture of Samson taming a lion. The shell on the fountain is so large that the workers had troubles transporting it to Budějovice due to its huge dimensions! However, the fountain was not installed purely for aesthetic reasons; it supplied the city with water from the Vltava River.

Watch out for the Erratic Rock! Boo!

Only a few steps away from the fountain, there is a rock with an engraved cross inserted in the pavement. It is called the Erratic Rock; not only it is the only remnant of the original pavement, but it also marks the place where executions used to take place! Be careful when you walk by after dusk! People say if you cross the rock after 10 p.m., you’ll never find your way home and you will have to ramble through the streets of České Budějovice until the morning comes! We recommend visiting the Gothic Black Tower during the day and having a good look at the square and the whole city. It might help you if you get lost later…

A Beer in a Salt Warehouse

When walking through the city centre, visit the beautiful St. Nicholas Cathedral or the Gothic salt warehouse with a battlement. You can refresh yourself with beer, supplied through an underground beer line!

Face to Face with Joseph

Right next to the salt warehouse, you will find another Budějovice gem – one of the oldest and most valuable landmarks in the area, the Dominican Monastery. It was built in the thirteenth century when the city was founded! Remember to walk through the garden when touring the monastery. It is where you will find five Baroque sculptures by Josef Dietrich, the author of the sculptures on the Samson Fountain. Find St. Joseph; allegedly, Dietrich used his own face to make the sculpture. And if you are interested in modern art, visit the Gallery of Contemporary Art and Architecture at the main square.

Take a B as a Souvenir!

And what souvenir from České Budějovice to take home? Naturally, one thinks of Budvar… But how about a Koh-i-noor Hardtmuth pencil, ideally with hardness B; it will be much easier to pack! And why a pencil? Koh-i-noor Hardtmuth, a global manufacturer of writing supplies, has its headquarters in České Budějovice! Hardness B actually refers to the German name of the city, i.e. Budweis.

Did You Know?

Two Czech cities have won the title of the European Capital of Culture in the past thirty years: Prague in 2000 and Plzeň fifteen years later.

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Enjoy the Carnival with All It Takes!

Carnival Processions with a UNESCO Hallmark

As we have said before, the feast during the Shrovetide is linked with a ceremonial masquerade procession accompanied by music, dance and glee, walking through the towns and villages in Bohemia and Moravia. The carnival processions have pretty much been preserved in their original form in the Hlinecko region in East Bohemia, namely in Hamry, Studnice, Vortová and Blatno. The character and form of the masks are the same as a hundred years ago; thanks to their originality, the carnival processions were inscribed in the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage by UNESCO and the Betlém conservation area in Hlinsko even has a special museum.

Join the Carnival

Would you like to take part in a Shrovetide carnival? No problem. Several interesting options are available this year. You can go check out the Letná Carnival in Prague. The carnival procession starts at the National Technical Museum after noon on 26 February and it will bring music, theatre performances, dance shows, as well as the traditional carnival costumes. The carnival also includes a programme at the National Museum of Agriculture. But that is not everything: if you come dressed up, you can visit the museums (and other places) for free!

Another interesting carnival in a beautiful historical setting takes place in Český Krumlov in South Bohemia. The traditional carnival procession must have some music, singing and tasty food. Therefore, the procession this year also includes a fair where you can taste some pork specialties from the traditional pig-slaughtering. The Krumlov Carnival starts on 26 February, and it will end with a procession of masks on 1 March.

How about something more rustic? An orthodox village carnival with uninterrupted historical roots? The traditional Shrovetide door-to-door procession inscribed by UNESCO takes place in the Veselý Kopec Open-Air Museum in East Bohemia. What can you expect there? At the beginning of February, on the 5th, the local folklore groups perform the door-to-door procession as it has been done for hundreds of years. There is one more nearby Shrovetide procession that is also inscribed by UNESCO. The procession in the village of Hamry in East Bohemia, one of the villages where the custom of old Bohemian masquerade has been preserved, will walk through the village on 12 February. The door-to-door procession has been spontaneously taking place in an almost unchanged form for generations, with traditional Shrovetide masks. You won’t usually find women and children in the procession; it is mostly men who dress up.

 And where to go in Moravia? You can visit Olomouc on 19 February. You can look forward to a carnival fair, pork and other Shrovetide specialities, Moravian folklore ensembles, ice sculptures if the weather permits, and a whirl of Shrovetide masks. Or go to Rožnov pod Radhoštěm where the Little Wooden Town also comes to live with Shrovetide customs on Saturday, 19 February. However, we recommend checking with the event organizer prior to your trip with regard to the current government measures.

Traditional feast

In the past, the fun used to start during Shrove Sunday, which is the last Sunday before Ash Wednesday, with a rich lunch and feast for the wider family. The meals that were eaten definitely could not be called healthy, quite the contrary. The tables were laid with a lot of fatty meat, and sweets were also a necessary part of the carnival menu. With the long fasting during Lent before Easter in mind, everyone enjoyed a bellyful of exuberant cheer, singing and dancing – and naturally, food and drinks.

Pork specialties – hog killing

It is not a coincidence that it was the time of many a hog killing, which is still a living tradition in the Moravian countryside when family and friends meet to kill and process a whole pig in a single day. Not so long ago, people would have their own pig, fatten it up over the year, and the butcher would come and kill it at the break of day. However, a simpler method has been taking over this tradition in recent years – people order a pre-fattened pig from a farmer. It takes a whole day to process the meat, from the nose to the tail, and make specialties such as white and black pudding (something like kielbasa), boiled belly pork, collared pork, crackling, a special hog-killing soup or goulash. In short, nothing gets thrown away, but everything gets processed to the very last bit. The freezing weather used to be ideal for a hog feast as there were no refrigerators and freezers in the past, and butchers were extremely busy at that time. Beer and homemade brandy, usually plum brandy, are served throughout the day to keep everyone warm!

The hog-killing feast is not just a specialty of rural family meetings, you can enjoy it at many restaurants that focus on traditional Czech cuisine. They offer a full hog-killing menu – belly pork soup, collared pork, white and black pudding, sausage meat, roasted knee or goulash.

Collared pork is usually available in traditional pubs as a beer snack all year round. This pork specialty contains different types of pork and other parts of the pig (such as the liver, tongue, skin or feet). It consists of small pieces of meat in aspic made from cooked connective tissue. It is usually served with onion and vinegar.

Carnival sweets

The carnival menu also contains a lot of different sweets. The most common delicacy are doughnuts fried in ghee. The sweet yeast dough from white flour is filled with homemade jam, and then it is fried until golden and sprinkled with sugar. Other sweets are baked or fried in different regions, such as angel wings pastry, biscuits, sweet rolls filled with ground walnuts, or pies with cottage cheese, poppy seeds or plum butter.

Angel wings – recipe

These traditional crisp pastries used to be prepared by our grandmothers and great-grandmothers and are today mostly made in Moravia. But they are definitely worth a try; the pastries are delicious!

Ingredients: 300 g all-purpose flour, a pinch of salt, 50 g butter, 20 g lard, 40 g caster sugar, 3 egg yolks, 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, zest of 1 lemon, 7 tablespoons of sour cream, 1 tablespoon of rum, ghee for frying.

Make crumble from the flour and cold butter with lard. Mix the cream with the sugar, salt, lemon juice, lemon zest, rum and egg yolks, mix and add to the crumble. Work out a smooth dough, wrap it in cling wrap and let it rest in the fridge for at least an hour. Roll out the rested dough into a thin layer, about 3 mm. Cut out traditional rectangular shapes with a cross in the middle. Heat the fat in a tall saucepan and gradually fry the angel wings on both sides until golden. Let them rest on a paper towel to drain away the fat for about a minute and then coat them with vanilla sugar.

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Jizerská 50 and Other Popular Cross-Country Skiing Trails

Winter Marathon through a Dreamy Countryside

One of the most important sports events in Czechia is taking place for the fifty-fifth time this year. Jizerská 50 is a traditional cross-country ski race for both professional athletes and amateur cross-country skiers. The participants and their supporters can look forward to a rich programme for the whole three days of the event, from Friday, 11 February, to Sunday, 13 February. In addition to the main fifty-kilometre-long race that takes place at 9 a.m. on Sunday, 13 February, the organisers also offer shorter tracks. For example, classic 50, 25 or 10 kilometres; freestyle 30 kilometres, or night sprint for 1.5 kilometres with ascent. Relay races and a track for the youngest skiers are also prepared. You can participate in one or more races. Enjoy the unique atmosphere of the Jizera Mountains! The race starts in Bedřichov in North Bohemia and runs almost through the entire mountain range. You will also ski along the latest edition to the UNESCO heritage list, the Jizera Mountains Beech Forest.

Jizerská 50 is the most famous cross-country ski race in the Czech Republic; it started in 1968. The event is the 1970 Peru Expedition Memorial, commemorating the tragic loss of fifteen mountaineers, with a remembrance service on Saturday. The race is a part of the world league of cross-country skiing marathons, the Worldloppet, and top Czech and foreign athletes as well as many famous people take part in it. In 2008, Jizerská 50 became a member of the Czech Ski Tour series and in 2011, it joined the Ski Classics series. It is the largest mass race in cross-country skiing in Central Europe!

Jizerská 50 without Participants

Didn’t make it to Jizerská 50? Or not feeling strong enough? No worries! You can follow in the footprints of the traditional race along the Jizerská route anytime, even without the support of fans. Leisure cross-country skiers can also manage the short version of the famous race. You will ski through the beautiful countryside of the Jizera Mountains and put your fitness to the test. Some of the most beautiful trails can be found around Kristiánov, Bedřichov, Nové Louky and Jizerky. The track is regularly groomed and there are orientation boards and signposts at each in intersection. Information centres will be happy to recommend the best route and you can also pick up a map there.

Unforgettable Krkonoše Views

The Krkonoše Mountains in North Bohemia are the highest Czech mountains. It is where you will find Sněžka, the highest Czech mountain, and the town of Špindlerův Mlýn below, a centre of winter fun in the Krkonoše Mountains. Several cross-country skiing trails starts in Špindl, as the Czechs call it. One of them – from Špindl to Luční bouda and back – will take you through one of the most beautiful parts of this majestic mountain range. The trail is designed for more experienced cross-country skiers. The second trail we would like to recommend is even more demanding. It leads along the main ridge of the east part of Krkonoše from Pec pod Sněžkou with the highest peaks of the Czech Republic – Mount Sněžka, Studniční and Luční. This trail is definitely designed for fit skiers and those who love distant views. Children and beginners should not attempt to take it.

Cross-Country Skiing through Untouched Šumava

The Šumava Mountains can be found in the south and west Bohemia. It is the largest Czech mountain range with native mountain virgin forests and deep peat bogs. It is also the coldest area in the country, freezing temperatures happen even in the middle of summer! So, the snow cover is quite stable in winter. And where to put on your cross-country skis? You can explore the surroundings of the village of Modrava in the centre of the Šumava National Park. There are two beautiful loop trails there – one leads through the valley of Roklanský stream and is eleven kilometres long. You can enjoy some ascending, beautiful downhill skiing and the untouched nature of the peat bog of Tříjezerní slať. The second Modrava trail runs through a nice countryside shaped by the Modrava stream and through the surrounding forests towards Březník, a cottage amidst forests and clearings, where the protected wood grouse utters the mating calls at the end of winter. So, be quiet as not to disturb them!

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