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CZECH REPUBLIC

The Land of Castles - Czech Republic, a country of outstanding natural beauty in Central Europe notable for its splendid rock formations, mysterious underground spaces full of stalactite and stalagmite formations, curative mineral springs, unspoilt forests, rolling plains, mountains, hills and plateaus, was born on the 1st of January, 1993. Graced with impregnable fortresses, fairytale chateaux, whimsical summer palaces and even entire towns that give the impression of being comprehensive artefacts- the small country with an area of 78,867 sq km boasts 12 UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Traditions such as falconry, the colourful Shrovetide processions in the Hlinecko region, the men's folk dance verbuok and the unique festival known as the Ride of the Kings represent the Czech Republic on the UNESCO list of intangible cultural heritage. The "UNESCO superpower" brags of the world's first beer museum, the first brewing textbook and some of the world's best beers.

Made up of the historic regions of Bohemia, Moravia, and part of Silesia, forests cover 33.3% of the land area of the country. The linden tree is the national tree par excellence. The hare, marmot, otter, marten and mink live in the wild. Birds such as hazel grouse, Ural owl, pygmy owl, white-backed woodpecker, crossbill, black redstart, common buzzard, siskin and brambling can be spotted.

Birthplace of renowned music composers Bedrich Smetana, Antonin Dvorak, and Leos Janacek, the country has a rich cultural heritage. The Czechs have always had a passion for dance and music. The most familiar folk dance is the polka that features accordions, clarinets, trumpets or French horns, sometimes bass or trap drums and almost always, a tuba. Marionettes and puppet show has been one of the traditional forms of theatre. The glass making industry along with porcelain production has a very long tradition. The country is widely known for its many quality festivals such as the Prague Winter Festival, Carodejnice (witch night), Prague Spring Festival, Straznice Folklore Festival, Cesky Krumlov Celebration of the Rose, St. Sylvester's Day.

Influenced historically by the surrounding regions, Czech cuisine is centred on cereals, legumes and potatoes usually served with pork, beef or poultry, or with freshwater fish. The Olomouc curd cheese syreèky has been registered as an internationally protected designation of origin. Records documenting the production of syreèky date to the 1500s.

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