If you’re asking Santa for a trip to Prague next year, or if you’ve got a traveler on your holiday shopping list, you might want to add these items to your list, as well!
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The Coronavirus pandemic grounded planes and closed borders for most of 2020, but we all hope to be be able to travel – or at least begin to travel again – in 2021. Prague is hoping for the return of visitors from Europe for a greater part of 2021 than was possible this year, and we hope that Americans will be able to enter the EU again, too! I already have a few clients from the U.S. who have booked tours for next year. So if travel is on your mind for the New Year, here are some gift ideas for you.
Greetings from Prague as we move into the Holiday Season!
Another Spike in the Autumn
In Prague and throughout the Czech Republic, we had another outbreak of the Coronavirus when children returned to school (and locals returned from their summer travels elsewhere in Europe). This caused the government to again enact strict measures to contain the virus, with eventually everything closed except for grocery stores, pharmacies and medical facilities. This time around we even had a curfew imposed from 9:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m., and unlike the first shutdown in March, ALL shops were closed on Sundays.
If you’ve been following my blog, you’ll know that this summer I spent a lot more time traveling than I usually do. As a tour guide, my summers are usually spent working – a lot – so the tourist season is normally not that for me! Sadly, due to the Coronavirus, my tour business was virtually nonexistent this year, so I decided to hit the road. But the pandemic also made travel outside of one’s country a bit difficult or impossible – so I did something I hadn’t done since I first moved to Prague: I traveled around the Czech Republic.
I mentioned in my last blog post that I’ve been using my free time - resulting from (sadly) the lack of tourists - to travel around the Czech Republic. My first stop was Hluboka Chateau, next was the fairy tale-like town of Český Krumlov.
Český Krumlov is one of my favorite places – not just in the Czech Republic, but in the world. In fact, though it had been more than a decade since my last visit, I realized that this was my 11th visit to the town, and with the exception of one business trip, all were for pleasure. It’s a great weekend escape from Prague.
Located in Southern Bohemia near the Austrian border, you’ll notice an Austrian feel in Český Krumlov (Krumlau in German). With a castle that sits atop a bluff overlooking a hairpin turn in the Vltava river, sloping medieval rooftops and a Rumpelstiltskin tower, this medieval town is dripping with charm. And the views from the castle are simply stunning. No matter where you’re perched on it, each view offers a picture-perfect photo op – or plein air site for the artists among you.
There are many places in the Czech Republic beyond Prague that are well worth a visit. And due to the Coronavirus and related travel restrictions, I don't have a lot of tour clients at the moment, unfortunately. But that means I have a lot more time on my hands in the summer than I usually do, so once we eased restrictions earlier this month, I hit the road!
While Prague continues to open up from its strict Coronavirus lockdown, it still has not fully opened to foreign travel – for either visitors coming in or Czechs wishing to go abroad. So for the first time since the days of communism, really, locals are having their city to themselves.
In efforts to promote domestic travel & tourism, hotels & tourists sites are offering all manner of discounts & coupons, with some luxury brands that previously catered almost solely to foreigners, such as the Four Seasons, offering special packages to suit a local budget. The government has also issued coupons for hotels to give to guests that provide reduced entry into various sites.
After two months in COVID lockdown, Prague is opening up!
And things are happening quickly.
Just this month we’ve seen:
In my last blog post, I reported that the Czech Republic had begun to ease Coronavirus restrictions. This decision was made after we had good results from a five-week strict lockdown.
So Far, so good
Naturally, there was some concern about whether easing too soon might tempt people to let down their guard completely, given that we had all been indoors isolating for so long and the spring weather was beautiful.
If you’ve been following my blog, you know that I’ve been documenting the Czech Republic’s response to the Coronavirus outbreak. You will also know that the results have been pretty good, and that continues to be the case.
For more on the steps that have been taken since the beginning of the outbreak, see my earlier blog posts:
March 4, 2020
March 9, 2020
March 12, 2020
March 13, 2020
March 16, 2020
March 20, 2020
March 23, 2020
March 31, 2020
I’d like to give you another update on the Coronavirus outbreak in the Czech Republic.
The Results Continue to be Positive
As I reported in my last post, the strict measures that were enacted by the Czech government when it realized that: a) Italy’s infection rates were exploding and its hospitals were overwhelmed, and b) lots of Czechs were in Italy on skiing holidays for the winter school break have been paying off.
From our first three cases diagnosed on March 2nd to March 30th, we now have 3,001 confirmed cases of COVID in the Czech Republic. Although that's a big increase, we've not seen exponential growth, and our hospitals still have the capacity to treat the sick.
Sadly, since my last post, we’ve now had our first deaths – the number is now 23. Almost all deaths were people over 70 and/or with underlying health issues. Twenty-five people have recovered from the disease.
I am an American who has been living in Prague for two decades. After a long career in international finance, I left the business world to pursue other interests. I now works as a writer, mentor and guide to the city.