What draws two Americans from Kansas to spend a holiday in the Czech Republic? First and foremost, it's the people. Family and friends, as well as strangers, made us feel welcome and took us places we would have likely never found otherwise. Our family gathering was also a highlight, bringing together over 40 persons who […]

What draws two Americans from Kansas to spend a holiday in the Czech Republic?
First and foremost, it's the people. Family and friends, as well as strangers, made us feel welcome and took us places we would have likely never found otherwise. Our family gathering was also a highlight, bringing together over 40 persons who shared a common family ancestry in the surname Vondracek. Even though most present at this gathering spoke little or no English (with three exceptions) that was only a small barrier for two native-English speakers, who have also been learning Czech. We shared photographs of the same ancestors, as well as a love of the delicious food served. Our veins have the same blood running through them, which helps to overcome any differences.
Beyond any personal connections, why choose Czechia rather than some more popular western European destination, say France or Switzerland?
Czech Republic is Prague, Karlovy Vary and Cesky Krumlov, but it's so much more than that.
Czechia is winding roads, rarely straight for more than a kilometer or two, which whiz past corn and other fields, through forests, and up and down hills. It's yet another village after another village followed by another village, where quiet homes hold deep memories of world wars and foreign occupations.
Czechia is the smell of bread, its yeasty aroma tempting you to stop as you walk down streets of about any city. The country's longstanding love affair with bread, for us at least, was best represented in the sack, we saw, containing three or four different types of breads, lovingly hanging from the doorknob of a home we walked by in Kostelec nad Orlici one Sunday afternoon. It's the smell of tobacco, a different blend than here, interspersed with the heady aroma of Czech kitchens (both domestic and restaurants) wafting down cobblestone streets.
Czechia almost always has a beer in one hand, whether it's at a restaurant, walking down the street, midday, or at home after work. Beer sections here are large and spacious and also include options for non-alcoholic beer.
Czechia is full of people, a country 1/3 the size of Kansas, with more than 3 times as many inhabitants. It's a land of many wonders. It has tree top walks, observation towers everywhere, innumerable cathedrals, fourteen UNESCO sites, a history that dates back to Celtic tribes in the 4th Century, many caves, and kilometer after kilometer of well-kept and well-signed pedestrian/cyclist/equestrian trails, just to name a few of its treasures.
We know that we have yet to discover the many gems which await us here. We are thankful to have had a glimpse of a country which in many ways is well-ahead of America while in other ways represents a step back in time to a place with deep, cultural and historical roots.