The Křivoklát Castle is an attractive tourist destination; it was founded at the beginning of the 12th century by Prince Vladislav, photo by: Archiv Vydavatelství MCU s.r.o.Prague - Malá Strana, Vltava River, and Charles Bridge, photo by: Archiv Vydavatelství MCU s.r.o.Prague towards the northwest, photo by: Archiv Vydavatelství MCU s.r.o.The beauty of the countryside, known as Bohemian Paradise, has enchanted many artists, photo by: Archiv Vydavatelství MCU s.r.o.Český Šternberk Castle, photo by: Archiv Vydavatelství MCU s.r.o.Koněprusy Caves, the largest cave system in Bohemia, photo by: Archiv Vydavatelství MCU s.r.o.Mělník Chateau and tower of the Church of St. Peter and Paul as seen from the historic locks in Hořín, photo by: Archiv Vydavatelství MCU s.r.o.
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Brief history of Central Bohemia

The Slavs settled this area sometime in the beginning of the 6th century and created several administrative centres here (Roztoky u Prahy, Budeč, Levý Hradec, Šárka, and the area of today’s Malá Strana in Prague).

Central Bohemia and the Přemyslids

An important event for the development of the region (and the entire Czech nation) was the adoption of Christianity in the 9th century by the Přemyslid princes and the (rather violent) unification of the country under their rule. From that point, the importance of Prague as the centre of power in Bohemia increased rapidly. The Přemyslids built a fortified settlement on the rock promontory above the Vltava River, which expanded over the centuries into a magnificent residence for the nation’s rulers. Prague Castle fulfils this role to this very day.

A city grew around the castle, one supposedly marked by extraordinary lavishness and richness as early as the 10th century. By 1306, when the Přemyslid line was terminated by the sword, the Bohemian landscape, even beyond Central Bohemia, had changed beyond recognition – hundreds of cities, towns, villages, castles, fortresses, and monasteries had emerged. Most of them are responsible for the character of the distribution of the country’s population even today.

Central Bohemia under the reign of the Luxembourgs

The glory and power of the Přemyslid rulers was significantly influenced by rich silver deposits around Kutná Hora from the mid 12th century. The power of other noble families also increased, however, and they built their own fortified residences. This period of prosperity continued throughout the entire 14th century under the reign of the Luxembourgs, especially due to Charles IV, the “Father of the Nation” (1316-1378). The following period in the 15th century brought the Czechs one particular primacy – Jan Hus was more than a hundred years ahead of the European Reformation with his teachings. This cost him his life, however, and our country was cast into long decades of war, general chaos, decline, and deprivation.

The ascension of the Habsburgs

The ascension of the Habsburgs (1526) opened the door to the Renaissance, which is mostly visible in the country’s architecture. The impregnable and cold castles of the aristocracy slowly made way for comfortable chateaus surrounded by gardens. Trade and crafts developed, and the middle class grew in power. Under the reign of the art-loving Rudolf II (1552-1612), Prague managed to experience one of the highlights of its period of prosperity. This was also supported by Rudolf’s Letter of Majesty which guaranteed religious tolerance. The ruler’s death ended this reconciliation, however, and the succeeding Habsburgs increased their efforts to centralize, counter-reform, and recatholicize the Bohemian Lands. This met with resistance among the Protestant Czech noble class, leading to a dispute which culminated in the defeat of the Czechs in the Battle of White Mountain (1620) and the bloody vengeance of Ferdinand II with the Old Town execution of 27 insurgents on 21 June 1621. The result was a Europeanwide conflict that lasted a long 30 years (1618-1648). Prague and Bohemia were especially affected by these events – the population dropped by a half, and members of the aristocracy, intelligence, and middle class who did not accept the Catholic faith were forced to leave the country.

Central Bohemia in the Baroque

All the same, the Counter-Reformation and Recatholization did bring the Baroque to Bohemia, leaving us with many architectural treasures (Cathedral of St. Nicholas in Prague, sculptures on Charles Bridge, Santini’s Church of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary in Kutná Hora – Sedlec in Baroque-Gothic style, etc.).

National cultural revival in Central Bohemia

The following 18th century was marked by a national cultural revival as a response to the increasingly strong efforts to Germanize the Czech nation. The population continued to divide into Czech and German nationalist camps, however, which later reached a tragic climax.

Central Bohemia in the 20th century

The 19th century can be characterized by efforts to restore Czech political rights. The end of the First World War in 1918 finally brought freedom and independence to the Czech nation and was the definitive end of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy. The following period of the free first republic lasted only a short time. The Munich Agreement of 1938 was seen as a great betrayal, and cost Czechoslovakia a large part of her borders, later to be completely occupied by Nazi Germany. Freedom was gained shortly after the Soviet and US military liberations in May of 1945, but this did not last long.

The coup in 1948 brought the Communist Party to power, then hopes for better times at the end of the 1960’s were obliterated by the occupation of Czechoslovakia by the armies of the Warsaw Pact. Democracy in Czechoslovakia finally emerged victorious in November of 1989. In 1993, after 75 years of co-existence as a single nation, the Czechs and Slovaks parted ways.