When we started our link the country was Czechoslovakia, but then it split in two - emphasising the fact, which wasn't too apparent to many westerners, that there were in fact two countries forming this central European state. Two countries drawn together by a common history and often united in a bigger state throughout the years whether it was the Great Moravian Empire which came out of the dark ages, the Holy Roman Empire of Medieval Europe or the Hapsburg Empire of the last few centuries.
The Czechs and Slovaks became independent together in 1918 after the First World War and went through almost every political option known to mankind thereafter. From Imperialiasm to Liberal Democracy to Fascism to Communism and back to Capitalism they’ve seen it all. No wonder there's an unhealthy scepticism about politics in those countries today.
The first place people tend to visit these days, and probably always, is Prague. The relatively unspoilt capital of the Czech Republic and the ancient lands of Bohemia can be a fairy tale of a city - if you go to the right places. Undestroyed by the Second World War the city retains the varying architectural styles of the last 1000 years centred on the medieval Charles Bridge and ranging from the Hradcany Castle to the 19th century Opera Houses to the modern utilitarian designs all linked together by a totally integrated public transport system.
Two hours along the Vltava River to the south is the South Bohemia town of Ceske Budejovice - home of Budweiser (Budvar) beer and close to the Austrian border and the whispering Sumava Hills. A town where we have contacts going back twenty years and a very pleasant place where apparently most Czechs wished they lived!
But our favourite town has to be Uherske Hradiste in Moravia. Obviously because it’s our twin town but a nicer place you couldn't find. For a start it’s in Moravia – so a big cultural difference already from Bohemia, with its folklore tradition and its emphasis on the wine growing – not to mention the slivovice (plum brandy) that oils its citizens and its proximity to the Slovakia border which adds to the character of the region. UH, as it’s now known (due to generations of Bridgwater English teachers not being able to pronounce it) holds a famous Film Festival every summer and a Wine and Open Monuments Festival every September.