What is Brno?
Brno is the second biggest city of the Czech Republic and at the same time the centre of the South Moravian Region. It is situated about 200 km east of Prague and 100 km north of Vienna. The population of Brno is 400 thousand and there are nearly 100 thousand university students studying at 14 universities.
Brno is not a tourist town, but there are a lot of nice cafés and pubs with reasonable prices.
Although you can find a small historical center here, the most significant buildings scattered throughout the city come from the 1920’s and 1930’s built in the functionalist style. A lot of amazing buildings from the first half of the 20th century can be also found in the vicinity of the Brno Observatory and Planetarium. For example, there is an unusual St. Augustine Church within eyeshot.
Another interesting place to visit is the Brno underground. Right in the city centre you can find a charnel house with over 50 thousand human remains. While in the square Zelný trh there is a labyrinth with an exposition of how we lived in the Middle Ages.
And you must not miss the Brno Horloge, nicknamed a little impolitely as the Phallus Clock. It is a memorial of the brave defenders of the city of Brno against the Swedish armies in 1645. A legend says that the Swedish commander Thorsterson promised to defeat the city by noon or withdraw empty-handed. When the next day, during the battle, the worst time came, the citizens of Brno rang the noon bell an hour earlier at 11 a.m., the Swedish soldiers really went away empty-handed. Since that time the Brno bells have rung the noon hour at 11 a.m. And if you are lucky, you can take away a glass ball released from the Brno Horloge clock mechanism at 11 a.m. every day. The only catch is that the clock mechanism is so complicated that nobody can say what the time is… but it just might be you that will make it.
The city of Brno is a place where famous people like the founder of genetics Gregor Mendel, composer Leos Janacek and engineer Viktor Kaplan lived and worked. It is the birthplace of the physicist Ernst Mach and mathematician Kurt Gödel. Brno also has an international trade fair centre and a motor racing circuit.
Do you want to take home an original souvenir from Brno? So take a 10 crown coin. It depicts one of the city landmarks, St. Peter’s and Paul’s Cathedral. It can be seen from almost any place in Brno. With probably the only exception, the hill of Kraví hora.
What is the Czech Republic?
The Czech Republic is a country in the middle of Europe. We speak Czech, but a lot of us can also speak English. Or a language that is sarcastically referred to as “Czenglish”. A few most important words: Hi = ahoj /ʌhɔɪ /, Beer = pivo /pɪvo/, Observatory = hvězdárna /hvjezda:rna/.
The Czech language has one of the most difficult vowels in the world, the vowel “ř“. For example, try to pronounce the name of one of the Brno city parts Žabovřesky /ʒʌbɒvrʒɛski/. And much better is the tongue twister “tři sta třiatřicet stříbrných stříkaček stříkalo přes tři sta třiatřicet stříbrných střech“ /trʒɪsta: trʒɪ ʌ trʒɪsɛt strʒɪ:brni:h strʒɪ:katʃɛk strʒɪ:kalɒ prʒɛs trʒɪsta: trʒɪ ʌ trʒɪsɛt strʒɪ:brni:h strʒɛh/. Translated into English “three hundred and thirty three silver fire nozzles were hosing down three hundred and thirty three silver roofs“.
We pay with Czech crowns or Czech korunas (code: CZK). An approximate exchange rate is EUR 1 = CZK 26 , USD 1 = CZK 21.
Cash machines (ATMs) can be found everywhere and most shops accept all major credit cards.
How much do things cost, approximately? A bottle of water is CZK 15, a cup of good coffee is CZK 30, a pint of beer CZK 30, lunch menu is CZK 100 and more and a room in a good hotel is CZK 1000 per night and more. A tip is not included in the restaurant bill and depends only on you. If you are satisfied with the service, the tip might be from 5 to 10 percent of the price.
A typical Czech dish is “svíčková na smetaně” (beef sirloin cooked with vegetables in cream sauce and dumplings, approx. CZK 130), “smažený sýr s hranolky a tatarskou omáčkou” (fried cheese and chips/fries, CZK 100) and “guláš s knedlíkem” (beef goulash and dumplings, CZK 100). If you like sweet dishes, we recommend a piece of „štrůdl“ (apple strudel, CZK 20).
Draft beer is served in pints. The local brand is called Starobrno (CZK 25), not surprisingly made by Heineken. Brno also has several “family breweries”, of which the best known is Pegas in the city centre. But be careful, if we say “Let’s go for a beer”, it certainly means more than one.
We also have delicious Moravian wine here. You must try it. A bottle costs CZK 100 and more. The best of local wines is Pálava (white) and Modrý Portugal (red).