Country Tours and Shtetls of Bohemia
Terezin (6 hrs.)
This visit is essential to understanding the complicated history that unfolded here in 1941, when the region’s thousand-year-old Jewish communities were deported through Terezin to death camps. Terezin was completely different psychologically and physically from any of the 632 other camps. You will visit the Gestapo prison, the Terezin Museum, the Crematorium, the hidden synagogue (only recently uncovered), and the newly opened exhibition at Magdeburg Barracks. Understand what happened to so many innocent people through actual artifacts, children’s drawings, poetry, and other rare items which survived their owners to speak so eloquently for them.
On the way back, for a change in atmosphere, you might want to stop at:
Nelahozeves Castle (an additional 3 hrs. with Terezin, or a separate half-day program)
Located along the Vltava River, Nelahozeves is the birthplace of the famous Czech composer Antonin Dvorak. The castle was built in the Renaissance style and there is a wonderful collection of art (paintings by Cranach, Rubens, Veronese, etc.). You can have lunch in the castle restaurant there as well (lunch is not included in the price). UPDATE: Since reconstruction work in 2007, much of the artwork stored there has now been moved to the Lobkowicz Palace in Prague.
Karlovy Vary (approx. 9 hrs.)
An historic spa town, this resort was at the height of its popularity in the 18th and 19th centuries, when Peter the Great, Liszt, Wagner and Goethe were among its famous visitors. You can visit the glass exhibition at the Moser factory and then continue to the spa with its 12 thermal springs and famous colonnades.
Kutna Hora (approx. 6 hrs.)
A pretty town now listed by UNESCO, Kutna Hora lies 65 kilometers from Prague. It was a silver mining town, founded in the 13th century, and was once second in importance to Prague. You can visit the old mint and the impressive late Gothic St. Barbara‘s church. You can also visit the Sedlec Ossuary, where you can see pyramids, chandeliers and fonts made from 40,000 human skeletons.
Kutna Hora + Kolin (approx. 6 hrs.)
In addition to Kutna Hora, you will see Kolin, a beautifully preserved medieval town that has been declared a National Landmark. One of the oldest Jewish settlements in the Czech Republic, Kolin’s 300-year old synagogue, the ancient cemetery (where Rabbi Lows’s son and Morchedai Maisel’s nephew are buried), and the picturesque “Golden Lane” in the Jewish Quarter offer a window back into Jewish life in Bohemia. On this tour, you will visit a combination of Jewish and non-Jewish sights.
Cesky Krumlov (approx. 9 hrs.)
A UNESCO Heritage site about 250 kilometers from Prague, Cesky Krumlov lies in the serene, rolling hills of southern Bohemia. A medieval town on the Vltava river with a wonderful castle, it is the second largest of its kind in the Czech lands. It looks straight out of a fairytale.
Konopiste Castle (approx. 6 hrs.)
A lovely hunting castle, built in the 14th century and rebuilt in the 19th century. It was formerly owned by the Arch-Duke Franz Ferdinand, whose assassination in Sarajevo triggered the First World War.
Karlstejn (approx. 6 hrs.)
This archetypal fairytale castle, originally a medieval fortress, was established by Emperor Charles IV in 1348 to house the coronation jewels and relics.
(Karlstejn and Konopiste can be combined in a one-day tour.)
A Journey Through the Ghetto Gates (Boskovice, Velke Mezirici, etc.) (9 hrs.)
You’ll visit one of the oldest Jewish settlements in the Czech Republic: from the 11th Century. See three synagogues and walk through the ghetto gates to view a former center for Talmudic study. You will also see the birthplaces of several famous Bohemian Jewish personalities.
On the Track of Oskar Schindler (Svitavy region) (9 hrs.)
Immortalized in Steven Spielberg’s film, investigate the past of Oskar Schindler, the man who single-handedly saved 1,200 Jews from extermination in the death camps of Eastern Europe.
The Shtetls of Bohemia (Humpolec, Drevikov, etc.) (9 hrs.)
You’ll discover the well-preserved tiny Jewish villages dotting the Bohemia countryside. See three village synagogues and the former Jewish ghetto where Rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise, the founder of American Reform Judaism, studied the Talmud. Visit a typical Jewish village that is now part of an open-air museum.
Bohemia’s Ornate Synagogues (Pilsen, Rakovnik, etc.) (9 hrs.)
See three spectacular synagogues, including the third largest temple in the world, which has recently been restored to its former splendid beauty. Included in this tour you will see the small Shul where the father of American Reform Judaism, Rabbi Wise, began his journey.
The Jewels of Southern Moravia (Trebic, Mikulov, etc.) (9 hrs.)
Southern Moravia’s Jewish Quarters are well worth discovering. Visit the once largest Moravian Jewish community, a European center of Jewish education, and see one of the precious few preserved Ukrainian-style synagogues in the country.
Olomouc (approx. 10 hrs.)
Olomouc is one of the most important towns in a region of the Czech Republic called Moravia. It is the regional center of the Hana district. Olomouc was founded on the site of several early settlements and finally chartered in the 13th century. It was the center of the Moravian branch of the Premyslid (Premyslovci) dynasty. Since 1253 it has been known as the Royal Town. It was the capital of Moravia until 1641. The ancient center, with its great number of historical monuments, has been declared an urban conservation area. You can see the remains of a Romanesque castle, many churches, the town hall, and many Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque buildings. There is also a university, which was founded in 1573. Today several festivals and exhibitions take place there. Jewish communities most probably first moved to the territory of Olomouc in the 11th century. There is still a Jewish Community there today.