190km (118 miles) SE of Prague, 64km (40 miles) S of Brno

Most travelers blow through Znojmo, the wine and pickle capital of the Czech Republic, at about 97kmph (60 mph), tired of getting caught behind trucks and buses en route to Vienna. But it wasn't always that way.

Znojmo was settled as far back as the 7th century, and the town gained prominence in the 9th century, when the Great Moravian Empire took control. In the 11th and 12th centuries, Prince Bretislav I constructed a fortress here; in 1226, the town was granted rights (including collecting taxes and making wine) by the king -- even before the Moravian capital of Brno. Znojmo's position on the border made it a natural location as a trading center, and Czech kings always ensured that the town was taken care of, using it as a lookout over the Austrian frontier. Alas, the original town hall was destroyed during World War II, and the Communist-inspired sprawl that followed has taken away some of Znojmo's character. But the old center remains vibrant, with many religious buildings still intact. The Town Hall's 70m-tall (230-ft.) tower lets you take in a view of the city and surrounding area -- both old and new.

These days Znojmo is enjoying a rebirth as a regional hiking and cycling center, and trails fan out all along the border region with Austria. For maps and suggestions, ask at Informacní Stredisko .

And why is Znojmo considered the pickle capital of the Czech Republic? Simply because the pickles taste so good. They're made from the best cucumbers the country has to offer. And when put into a spicy sauce, as they are in Znojemský gulás, these sweet-and-sour pickles really taste great. You'll get pickle fever, too, I promise. When you do, and want to buy some, you'll notice just how many shops proudly display the Znojmo pickle.

And then there's the wine. If you're looking for the region's best vintages, try Frankovka (a smooth, full-bodied red) or Ryzlink (a light, dry white), with the Znojemské (from Znojmo) or Mikulov labels. These good wines are available almost everywhere; a liter costs no more than 150Kc. Wine bars often serve the best vintages straight from the cask. You can also fill up -- with both wine and fuel -- at some gas stations.

To best enjoy the town's wine and pickles, you should spend at least a few hours here, or overnight if you've got some time. Znojmo's location on the Prague-Vienna route makes it a natural place to stop. An added bonus is its proximity to Telc -- you can see both in 1 day if you want.