The Czech Republic (Czech: Česká republika), a member state of the European Union (since May 1, 2004), is a landlocked country in Central Europe. The country has borders with Poland to the north, Germany to the northwest and west, Austria to the south, and Slovakia to the east. The historic city of Prague (Czech: Praha), a major tourist attraction, is its capital and largest city. Other major cities include Brno, Ostrava, Zlín, Plzeň, Pardubice, Hradec Králové, České Budějovice, Liberec, Olomouc, and Ústí nad Labem.
The country is composed of two entire historic regions, Bohemia and Moravia, parts of Silesia and small sections of historic Lower Austria.
The Czech landscape is quite varied; Bohemia to the west consists of a basin, drained by the Elbe (Czech: Labe) and Vltava rivers, surrounded by mostly low mountains such as the Sudeten with its part Krkonoše, where one also finds the highest point in the country, the Sněžka at 1,602 metres (5,256 ft). Moravia, the eastern part, is also quite hilly and is drained predominantly by the Morava river, but also contains the source of the Oder (Czech: Odra) river. Water from the landlocked Czech Republic flows to three different seas: the North Sea, Baltic Sea and Black Sea.
The local climate is temperate with warm summers and cold, cloudy, humid winters, typified by a mixture of maritime and continental influences.
The Czech economy gets a substantial income from tourism: in 2001, the total earnings from tourism reached 118.13 billion CZK, making up 5.5 % of GNP and 9.3 % of overall export earnings. The industry employs more than 110,000 persons - over 2% of the population.
There are several centres of tourist activity: The historic city of Prague is the primary tourist attraction, and the city is also the most common point of entry for tourists visiting other parts of the country . Most other cities in the country attract significant numbers of tourists, but the spa towns such as Karlovy Vary and Mariánské Lázně are particularly popular holiday destinations. Other popular tourist sites are the many castles and chateaux, such as those at Karlštejn, Pernštejn and Český Krumlov. Away from the towns, areas as Český Ráj, Šumava and the Krkonoše mountains attract visitors seeking outdoor pursuits.
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