Written by Zofia Froněk
Zofia Froněk sets off to the villages around Prague in quest to find the best places to live and visit in and outside of the city.
Summer in Czech Republic is known as okurková sezona (cucumber season). It´s the time when city-people desert the metropolis for their Chatas (cottages), and spend their moments lazing in the garden, splashing in lakes, tending their vegetables (yes, cucumbers), cycling, walking and enjoying the fresh air and greenery away from the dust and oppressive heat of the city. Why can´t it always be like this? These days, it can! More and more people, both Czechs and expats, are choosing to relocate out of the grime and pollution and make their home in one of the villages in the lush countryside just outside of the city. You don´t need to trek to the mountains to find fresh air and country living – there is a wide choice of pretty villages within a few km of the centre.
These days, the stigma attached to being a balík – a villager or ‘country bumpkin´- is lessening, as so many young professionals choose to relocate. No longer do you have to justify leaving the thrills of city-life to live in the place where ‘the foxes say goodnight´ (tam, kde dávají lišky dobrou noc), as the Czechs say; meaning the middle of nowhere, the boonies. Take a drive just about anywhere within fifteen minutes of the city boundary and you´ll find new houses springing up like mushrooms in every village. Jump on a bike and head off out of Prague in any direction and you´ll quickly become one of a vast number of enthusiastic cyclists enjoying the scenery. Welcome to village life!
But it´s not only the smell of cut grass and outward-bound activities that are luring city-dwellers away from their paneláks and fourth-floor flats (doh, the lift´s broken again). These days, village life is where it´s at. True, Tesco is further away and you may not be within earshot of the rumble of a tram, but there are many compensations. Firstly, the prices. Rents are, on average, roughly a third lower outside Prague city. In most cases, the further from the city you go, the less you pay. If you want to buy or even build a family house, the chances are that both choice of location and budget will force you out of the city centre. Secondly, many of the villages near Prague are thriving, with their own identities; and some offer unique services, such as international schools. If you work on the edge of the city anyway, it makes sense to avoid the rush-hour crush.
Thirdly, there are many more opportunities for relaxing weekend activities and sports right on your doorstep. For refreshment afterwards, village pubs offer a more laid-back atmosphere, usually with plenty of outdoor seating and good-quality food, and you´ll marvel at the little you have to stump up for your pivo. Fourthly, it is normal to actually speak to your neighbours. A novel concept, I know, but a pleasant one – having a chat over the fence and waving a cheery hello as you pass on the street is surprisingly good for the soul. As well as this, you can see the stars at night, and in winter you can go cross-country skiing straight from your door!
So, where to choose? I recommend a little exploring if you are thinking of moving out to live in a village. Go and tour round the area, eat in the local pub, check out the facilities (shops, schools, etc), test the bus route (weekdays are usually fine for public transport connections, but weekends can be another story), smile at the locals and if possible, strike up a conversation and ask them about their village.
If you´re a visitor walking or biking through the area, buy a good tourist map, as you can´t always rely on finding a friendly sign-post when you need one. For the best scenery, choose one of the villages along the river or on a route that will take you through the forest. Happy exploring!
So, I´m off to check out my first village – Nebušice. I´ll tell you all about it as soon as I get back…
Check back each Friday for in-depth looks at some of the villages in and around Prague.