One of my favorite parts about experiencing a new country is learning how they vacation (or…how they go on holiday, if British English is your preference). In Germany, for example, I was introduced to a lesser-known perspective of Mallorca, Spain, as it’s where Germans tend to migrate when looking for a balmy week away. There are areas on the island where you’ll find more German speakers than Spanish speakers, and that’s all a part of the fun. The Czechs, h
owever, have found a way to make their go-to vacation spot a very regular part of their lives. If you ask someone on the streets how they spent their weekend in the spring, summer, or fall, you will get the same answer 90% of the time – at their cottage in the mountains, of course!
When the Czech Republic was not yet known as the Czech Republic and still under communism, there were not many places the citizens were allowed to travel to outside of the country. They could only go to nearby places that were also heavily influenced by the communist regime. Poland, for example, was fairly easy to travel to. But the rest of Europe, let alone other continents, was impossibly out of reach. So they found getaways inside their own borders, and cottages began springing up wherever they would fit. Most cottages were built or established in war-abandoned homes after the end of World War II, and have now become a staple piece of Czech culture.
One of the most common places you will hear Czech cottages are located in are the Krkonoše Mountains. These are both the tallest and the most visited mountains in the Czech Republic, so it makes the most sense that families would want their cottages here. But the country has more than enough rolling hills and breathtaking peaks in every region to find some land to call home. Mountain ranges run along nearly every border, making it easy to find vantage points from Germany, Austria, Poland, and Slovakia as well. One of the perks of living in Europe is the ease at which you can hop from country to country, be it in a car, boat, plane, or on foot through beautiful trails – an opportunity the Czechs take advantage of now more than ever.
Although the cottages were once a vacation destination for families, they are now considered a second home that is lived in almost as much as the first. My friends and students talk about the quality time they spend with family away from the responsibilities of work and school. Many of them have gardens that they tend to, both of the flower and vegetable variety. One of my students even has a pet that lives solely at the cottage – an outdoor cat who wanders when they’re gone and comes running to them as soon as they return for the weekend. They use the time to pursue hobbies, go on nature walks or more adventurous hikes, and just enjoy the quiet joys their country has to offer.
All in all, it would be wrong to say you’ve truly experienced Czech culture until you’ve spent a weekend at a cottage. What was once a necessity for any semblance of a vacation is now an integral part of living in the Czech Republic. Our April course had the opportunity to spend one of their weekends at a cottage in the Krkonoše Mountains, working on their TEFL assignments in between mini excursions. You can see some of their pictures on our Instagram page – @teflworldwideprague.
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