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The summer is around the corner, and if you plan on travelling around in the Czech Republic or  elsewhere in Europe by train, it may be a good idea to sign up for the In-Karta with Ceske Drahy.   Because I recently moved to Vienna, I have signed up for an IN25 card (with Rail Plus), which gives me a 25% discount on all of my regular tickets and returns.  All I have to do is show my card when I purchase my ticket and again when the conductor checks for tickets on the train.  I paid a total of 990 Kc, for a three year card.

There are different types of programs you can sign up for: N25, IN 50, IN 100, IN senior, IN junior or IN business application has been recorded where you can purchase discounted reservations for SC Pendolino trains.  The cool thing about an InKarta is also, that it allows you to use it as an electronic wallet and charge it up with money, and then purchase your tickets around the Czech Republic at the vending machines or the ticket office – and you get a bonus for utilizing this function.  If you are living in the Czech Republic, you also have many other discounts available to you on public transport and event cultural events.

Overview of In-karta card discounts

IN 25 (Cost depends on your age and how many years you want to purchase it for, check here, you will pay 150Kc for a year if you are 15-26 yrs old) is intended for all passengers, including children, students who take the train regularly to school or work. It is also worthwhile for frequent travel. With an In-karta IN 25, passengers receive a 25% discount on one-way, return and commuter tickets (in weekly, monthly and quarterly variants), and a discount on SporoTiket Česko and ČD Promo tickets, and discount on reservations for SC trains as well.

IN 50 (Cost depends on your age and how many years you want to purchase it for, check here – you will pay 1,300 Kc for a year if you are 15-26 yrs old) is suitable mainly for regular trips by youth from 15 to 26 years of age and adults, with a special price for pensioners. With an In-karta IN 50, passengers receive a 50% discount on one-way and return tickets, a 25% discount on commuter tickets, and a discount on SporoTiket Česko and ČD Promo tickets, and discount on reservations for SC trains as well.

IN 100 (Cost is 22K per yr, 45K for 2 yrs, 67K for 3 yrs, more here)
is intended for regular travel with a higher level of comfort. Without having to purchase additional travel documents, passengers are entitled to unlimited travel on ČD trains in 1st or 2nd class, a discount on reservations and tickets to destinations abroad (with the RailPlus discount), discount on reservations for SC trains, the option to transport one piece of oversized luggage free of charge, free travel on Airport Express connections, and free use of the ČD cableway at Ještěd.

IN business
is a version of the IN 100 discount (without RailPlus) suitable for corporate clients. The card is issued to the company (not to an individual), is transferable and helps resolve issues surrounding business trips.

IN senior
is intended for passengers over 70 years of age. With the IN senior discount, passengers need not purchase any additional travel documents for travel on local (Os) and limited-stop (Sp) trains. For journeys on fast (R) trains and higher-category trains, passengers can take advantage of a 50% discount off the regular fare or the return fare, 25% discount off the commuter tickets and a discount on SporoTiket Česko and ČD Promo tickets, and discount on reservations for SC trains as well.

If you plan on travelling abroad the Czech Republic and you apply for the In Karta, you must be sure to let them know at the ticket office, as you can only get discounts on international travel with the Rail Plus option.  It just means you need to purchase your discount for a longer period of time, rather than just a 3 months period for example.  So for the IN25 discount that I got, I had to sign up for 3 years, which totaled at 990 KC, still very much worth it.

More details about the In Karta can be found here.  Whether you decide to purchase the discounts or not, be safe and bon voyage – or shall I say šťastnou cestu!

Now that the temperatures have climbed back up and it is bearable to be outside once more, what better way to get the blood flowing than to go cross country skiing.  Cross country skiing is a very popular winter activity in the Czech Republic with infinite trails around the country.  It would be impossible to list all the trails so I will just highlight the popular regions to get you started.

Krkonoše

Krkonoše Mountains
Located at the Czech-Polish border near Germany (about 1-2 hours north of Prague) and ideal for all winter sports.  Here you can pick a trail of any distance, ranging from  beginner to advanced.  If you are up for the challenge, and don’t mind the hills, Krkonoše is known for these type of trails.

Need a rest from all the hard work?  Wellness centers can be found all around these mountains.  For example, Hotel Aqua Park in Špindlerův Mlýn has great facilities including a pool, sauna, and water slides.  Another good center is Komplex Loko in Trutnov.

We can’t forget fun for the kids.  There are many great sledding slopes and even a small skiing slope with a lift.  SKI PEC is ideal for the whole family.

Jizerské Hory

Jizerské Hory
Located 60km west of Krkonoše and an hour north of Prague (by Liberec). Very ideal for cross country skiing with many great and maintained trails.  Want hills? No problem.  Want long, straight trails?  Check.  Want both?  Done.

Another great feature of these mountains is that you can even cross country ski at night. In Jablonec nad Nisou you can find a cross country arena Břízky where you can do a few laps.

You shouldn’t miss the stone observation tower Štepánka on top of the hill called Hvězda, in my favorite village of Příchovice.  Breathtaking views await you there.  If you want to check out what the current conditions are in Jizerské Hory before heading out there, you can do so online.  Most cameras can be found here.

Šumava

Mountains of Šumava
Another superb place for cross country skiing.  It is located further southwest, by the German-Austrian border.  The mountains here have a lower elevation but resorts are cheaper and less crowded.  You can even find moderate hills but nothing too extreme.

For inspiration, visit the cottage of Kateřina Neumannová, a retired, cross country skiing Olympian, where she showcases her gold medals.  You can even rent a room and stay a little longer.

If you are a complete newbie to cross country skiing and want to learn the right technique, which looks effortless on television, contact the experienced trainers at the Nordic Academy.

If cross country skiing is not your thing and downhill skiing is more your passion, no worries, many places around as well.  I have been neglecting skiing for the past few years so I am not an expert on the best places but this interactive map shows all the slopes in the Czech Republic as well as neighboring countries.

Also, here is another link that lists specific cross country trails around the country.  If and when Prague gets snow, you can find many people getting their cross country skis out and turning the many local parks to trails.  Sometimes you can go straight from your front door :)

Few cross country skiing etiquette tips:
1. Always let faster skiers pass.
2. Most trails are two-way, stay on the right.  Same as while driving.
3. Always say ‘thank you’ when someone lets you pass.
4. If you are passing, announce whether it is on the right or left.
5. If you have to stop, move to the side, off the trail.

We still have plenty of winter left, so get on those trails and slopes before it’s too late!

Introducing a fairly new website - Hello Czech Republic - launched by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Here you can get information on living in or visiting the Czech Republic straight from the source.   The website is available in 6 different languages and provides you with accurate and up to date information on a number of different topics.

Taking to the hills on horseback

October 6th, 2011 | Posted by Klaraz in Entertainment | Paul | Travel outside Prague - (Comments Off)

After six months since landing in Prague and going through the due processes of finding a place to live and a way to earn a livelihood. I have firmly established a routine. This routine is described as shuffling between the centre of Prague (The Anthill) and home (The Eeyrie).

The former being the place of work and entertainment, full of people scurrying around like ants out of various subterranean entrances like the Metro and ascending and descending in a multitude of lifts varying from the antique to the futuristic. The latter being the apartment in Barrandov looking down on the city, a place of restful contemplation. Familiarity as they say though breeds contempt and my mind was recently urging me to see what lay beyond the realms of the Prague Metropolitan area. 

As mentioned previously, making friends with Czechs is definitely the best way to get to know the Czech Republic and take you beyond your familiar surroundings. This is how I came to spend Sunday morning atop a veteran equine plodding lazily through the Czech countryside, south of Prague near Tabor. An friend had called to ask us if we would like to go horse riding. I, if you’ll  pardon the pun, jumped at the chance. I had been a keen horse rider in my teens, but hadn’t sat on a horse for over a decade, However, to a certain extent, much like learning to ride a bike or learning to swim, riding a horse properly is something you don’t forget once learned. Or so I had convinced myself I got off to a good start swinging into the saddle with all the swagger of a latter-day John Wayne.

A few minutes later however, I wad being chastised by the young woman who was leading the hack to loosen my reins as they were to tight. This came from a bad childhood memory of being shouted at for doing the reverse and having ‘reins like washing lines’ according to my battleaxe of a riding instructor. 

However with this issue corrected we headed off into the hills for a pleasant hour, taking in low-wooded hills (avoiding low hanging branches on the way!) , verdant farmland and a couple of villages where the only activity we saw was the barking of dogs, angry at being roused from their

Sunday slumber. It was a very pleasant way to see the Czech countryside and is something I won’t be slow to do again.

More information:
Statek Tisem
Jan Fulín – tel. č. 604 58 40 21.

 

View from our cottage - Fall

I am probably going to be a little biased about this topic, given the fact that I have spent all of my summers and winters on the hills of Jizerské Hory (Jizera Mountains) since I can remeber.   Much like the French, Czechs are a nation of “chalupáři” [weekend get-away type of folks].   During the winters and summers in particular, Prague is lifeless in the residential areas due to the fact that about 80% of the population is at their own or a friends’ chalupa or chata [weekend / mountain house].  I happen to think it’s a wonderful tradition and it highlights the fact that Czechs are outdoors and nature oriented people.

Jizerské hory are in the Northern Czech Republic, a part of the Western Sudetes on the border between Czech Republic and Poland.  The name of the mountain range comes from the Jizera River, which runs through it.  The region has been known for glass making, which was established in the 16th century, tin-making, and textile – none of which, unfortunately, have much presence anymore.  As you travel through some of the larger towns such as Liberec, Turnov, Tanvald and Železný brod , to name a few, former wealth and status seep through the beautiful [yet, weathered] architecture which is typical of the First Republic.  Today, this region has a very high unemployment rate and lives off of seasonal income.  Liberec, which is the largest city in the region, and primarily known for the 60’s Ještěd TV Tower / Hotel, has slowly recovered over the years – attracting tourism as well as some businesses.

My sister and I - Learning how to skii

Whether you visit in the summer or winter, there is plenty to do in Jizerské hory.  Apart from skiing / cross-country skiing in the winter and hiking / mountain biking in the summer, you can also visit a number of castles, lookout towers and other historical monuments, museums, wellness centers and even theaters.

Lookout towers: There are many beautiful views of Jizerské hory, therefore it’s worth visiting some or all of the lookout towers that are in abundant numbers.  Here are a few:

Skiing / hiking: There are over 30 places you can skii in Jizerské Hory on the Czech side of the mountain range.  Granted, it’s not the Alps, but you can get some good skiing in for great prices:

Klara and Jane in Kořenov cross-country skiing

Cross country skiing / hiking / mountainbiking: A good way to get some excellent exercise and admire this beautiful mountain range, and the bordering Krkonoše, cross country skiing is by far one of my favorite activities.  Whether you are on skiis or on foot, you’ll be able to soak in some beautiful scenery.

ALL YOU WANT TO KNOW ABOUT TOURISM IN JIZERSKÉ HORY is HERE (how to get there, what to do, where to stay, and what not to miss!)

I hope you enjoy and see you there!

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