Of the two regions that make up the Czech Republic, the better known is the westernmost one, Bohemia. It is the land that gave Europe its favorite catchall term for free spirit: "Bohemian." Despite being beaten into submission by successive Austrian, German, and Soviet hegemony, that spirit has lived on. In the 14th century, the region's capital, Prague, was the seat of the Holy Roman Empire under Charles IV. So Bohemians maintain their collective historical memory that they too, at least briefly, ruled the world. Even under the domination of the Austrians, Bohemia's industrial base was world-class, and in the peace between the two world wars of the 20th century, independent Bohemia, especially Prague, created some of the greatest wealth on earth.

Much was lost in the destruction of World War II and the 4 decades of Communism that followed. The good news is that Bohemia is slowly returning to its earlier prominence, leaving behind its reputation as a satellite in the former Eastern Bloc and forging a more familiar role as a crossroads at the heart of Europe.