GTO’s Feature Writer, Brenda Watkinson, was delighted to be returning to the Czech Republic in September following a highly successful trip to Ostrava in the east of the country two years ago. This time, Brenda together with 20 journalists and photographers from the UK, Spain and Scandinavia headed to Prague and then on to the region of Moravia. Brenda was pleased to be flying to Prague with KLM and Czech Airlines, enabling her to travel from her regional airport of Bristol via Amsterdam. After a quick check-in at the Hotel Pyramida, a four star hotel conveniently located within walking distance of the city centre, the group were soon heading off to explore the capital with their guide, Stefan Blaho. Stefan certainly brought the city’s history to life as the group toured Prague Castle, which dates from the 9th century and was a seat of power for kings of Bohemia, Holy Roman emperors and the presidents of Czechoslovakia. One of the highlights of Prague for Brenda was Charles Bridge, which connects the Old Town with the Little Quarter. Flanked by statues, this pedestrianised bridge is so wide that once four carriages could travel along it. In the evening, the group dined on board one of Prague Boats riverboats for a totally different perspective of the city.
On the second day, the group left early for their journey to Kroměříž in the south-east of the country. Arriving at lunchtime, a hearty meal at the Hotel Octarna was very welcome. Kroměříž is a small town in Moravia featuring several UNESCO World Heritage Sites. After a short tour of the town by road train, Brenda’s group arrived at the Kroměříž Renaissance Castle Gardens, for a fascinating tour of these recently renovated gardens. The gardens and castle are an exceptionally complete and well-preserved example of a European Baroque princely residence and its gardens. Then, on to the Archbishop’s Castle, Library and Picture Gallery, the former summer residence of the Archbishops of Olomouc. The group had dinner at the Černý Orel restaurant in the heart of Kroměříž before settling down to a most comfortable night at the Hotel Octarna.
The next morning, it was just a short coach trip from Kroměříž to Zlín in Central Moravia. The town is known for its well preserved Functionalist architecture and should be high on the list for any group interested in shoes! It was here that Tomas Baťa founded the Bata Shoes company in 1894. One of the original Baťa buildings now houses a most noteworthy Shoe Museum, ‘The Baťa Principle’ featuring over 1000 exhibits. Here, Brenda’s group learned about the Baťa company (1884–1945) and also the history of the development of the whole town. As well as Bata shoes, a unique collection of shoes from around the world is also on display along with manufacturing equipment from the last century. The company grew into one of the world’s biggest multinational retailers, manufacturers and distributors of footwear and accessories and during the 1930s, the so-called Baťa Skyscraper was built to house the company’s headquarters. At 77.5 metres, ‘Building 21’ was the second highest building in Europe at that time. Brenda’s group traveled to the top in a rather quirky room-sized lift complete with desk and handbasin, once the office of the boss. From the top, the panoramic view of Zlín made it easy to understand how the town developed during the Baťa years. There was also time to enjoy a hot drink in the roof top cafeteria before lunch at the Potrefená Husa restaurant in the heart of the Zlín.
After lunch, the group continued on to Vizovice where they visited Rudolf Jelínek Distillery Land and discovered how not only plum brandy, but also pear brandy, cherry brandy and other spirits are produced. Archaeological finds have confirmed that spirits have been produced here since the 14th Century. Groups can chose a standard one-hour guided tour or an in depth longer tour, both with a tasting session to end.
The group’s final night in Moravia was spent at the four-star Alexandria Spa & Wellness Hotel in Luhacovice where there was time for the group to enjoy a relaxing hour in the spa complex before dinner in the hotel’s French Restaurant.
Returning to Prague the following day, the group enjoyed a final lunch at the Strahov Monastic Brewery near Prague Castle before making their individual journeys home.