Europe

It’s Time to "Czech” Out Moravia

written by | Posted on January 31st, 2012

During one truly fabulous meal—accompanied by Moravian wines that just kept coming from the hotel’s extensive wine cellar—general manager Roman Tatak pointed out that Janacek composed some of his finest work here, including the opera masterpiece “The Cunning Little Vixen.” And from time to time, Tatak told us, the maestro would tuck into the hotel-once-a-monastery’s lovely St. Thomas chapel for additional inspiration.

With its gorgeous dark-green forest setting, beautiful woodland walks, and its pleasant, low-key, harmonious spa-town presence, Luhacovice is a very appealing place. Wellness is the primary pursuit here, where spa treatments typical to the town are peat wraps and dry carbonated baths during which you sit up to your waist in natural CO2 gas taken from local springs. But what knocks your visual socks off is the architecture: a mix of half-timbered spa hotels, Alpine villas, Slavic log cabins, pavilions and gazebos, topped with gabled roofs, draped in art nouveau ornamentation, fashioned with art deco styling, drawn from Carpathian folk architecture—all dolled up in a Disney-esque palette of fairytale colors. In the first third of the 20th century, leading Czech architects seem to have gone on a very special spa-building spree.

Just 20 miles north of Brno is Moravia’s number one natural attraction: the limestone region of the Moravian Karst, honeycombed with hundreds of caves, with Punkevni the most famous and most extensive cave system. Visiting here, you follow the pathway through the limestone caverns at the bottom of the Macocha Abyss, then board a little electric-powered boat to cruise along the subterranean Punkva River, passing extraordinary galleries of stalagmites and stalactites formed by that water dripping slowly through the limestone over millions of years. It’s a magical place.

For clients with ample time, suggest they head north from Brno to visit Kromeriz, whose Archbishop’s Chateau has a gallery chock-full of European masters such as Titian, Brueghel and Cranach the Elder; the medieval fortress of Pernstejn—a bizarre looking structure whose original 13th century castle still seems to shine through many additions and renovations—and the Moravsky Krumlov Castle, home to Alfons Mucha’s Slav Epic, arguably the finest work of the nation’s finest painter.