In Brno

Brno. A city with a population of around 400 000 inhabitants. The second largest city in the Czech Republic and the biggest one in Moravia. The city which I used to travel through on a bicycle following the trams, not to get lost. The city that has bewitched me with its charming small streets and saddened me with omnipresent advertisments of everything that has made it really complicated to take a nice shot. The city, which – as my host Ladislav said – might be said to be a Czech Sillicon Valley. A city that lies nex to three rivers (includig the one underground), sits between two castles (Špilberk Castle on the hill in the city centre and Veveří Castle on the Svratka River) and has one UNESCO Heritage building (Villa Tugendhat). A city that is part of the Amber Route connecting the Baltic Sea (Gdansk) with the Mediterranean Sea (Venice). Brno.

The first archeological remains suggest the origins of Brno around 5th-7th century. However the first borough was built here between 1021 and 1034 at the Petrov Hill by the king Břetislav I. Some dozens years later, another king – Přemysl Otakar II (dubbed the Iron and the Golden King) built the castle Špilberk (which I have not visited, unfortunately, but have seen from different perspectives), that became the base of the city walls.

Špilberk Castle in Brno from far far away
Špilberk Castle in Brno from far far away

Brno became the Moravian capitol in 1641 (after the Thirty Years Wall – I wrote about it already in my article about Olomouc) and was very efficient in defending itself. The Napolean army was the first one that made it into the city and that happened only in the middle of the 19th century. And it was Napoleon himself who ordered demolishment of the city walls – as a result of it there is only one city gate left (next to which is a restaurant with delicious vegetarian food, called Rebio).

Brno gained significance thanks to the development of the weave industry in the 17th century. Its position has been strenghtened during the interwar period by the weapon factory and the massive weapon production (the second one was in Pilzen) that made the Czechoslovakia a world potentate. It’s also worth to know that the city and the airport have been twice bombarded during the World War II (in 1944) – in contrary to the common knowledge that the Czech Republic has not experienced any warfare. Luckily, the most important monuments remained untouched.

There is also a sad card in Brno’s history – after the war ended, the city government forced around 20-25 thousands German inhabitants of the city to leave their houses during one night, not giving a permission to take anything with. It’s estimated that at least few hundreds people died when marching toward the Austrian border.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have much time to visit Brno as – from two days I had reserved for visiting the city in my schedule – I eventually had only one, becuase the first day I’ve spent sitting in a cafe most of the time and not being able to move after cycling 100-kilometres long and very hilly ride the day before. I have managed to catch a few interesting facts and figures about Brno though:

  • Mahen Theater is Brno’s city theater and the first one – at the same time – that has been electrified in the continental Europe. The installation design was created by Thomas Edison himself!
  • A very interesting exhibition of two brothers-artists – Dalibor and Ivan Chartny – has been presented at the Brno House of Art. Most of the space was occupied by the artworks of the first of them and was called “I Am Space”. All Ivan’s artworks presented were gathered in one small room at the ground floor. I liked the exhibition a lot, so I’m going to write a separate article about it, with no photos however (sad, I know!), becasue I had to sign the special paper at the entrance that allowed me to take photos but forbids me to publish them anywhere (so I can show them to you once we meet in person!).
  • There is this very unique building in Brno called Villa Tugendhat, constructed in 1929-1930 by German architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe for Fritz Tugendhat and his wife – a symbol of the modernist architecture. Unfortunately I didn’t have a chance to see it inside as the tickets have been booked by.. mid-December! Despite that I went for a walk to see the building from the outside at least (not much to see as you can only see the back of it) but I have to admit at least that the terrace view from the villa is quite stunning!
The view from Villa Tugendhat's terrace
The view from Villa Tugendhat’s terrace
  • Trams in Brno are going in all directions possible (and you need to remember to watch carefully the directions they are going to and from when cycling around the city – as they will appear from all sides possible; on the other hand it’s also helpful to follow them in case you don’t really know the direction but you know tram stop’s name!). The first – horse- trams appeared on Brno’s street already in 1869 and they were substituted for the first steam trams some 15 years later. The tram network has been electrified in 1900.
A tram in Brno
A tram in Brno
  • There is also a quite wide network of trolley buses in the city! (trolley buses always amaze me!)
  • The writers Milan Kundera and Bohumil Hrabal were born in Brno. Gregor Mendel – a monk and an abbot of a German speaking family origin, living in the 19th century, that is regarded to be a father of the genetics (yes yes, biology classes, high school, Mendels laws – THIS Mendel) has done his research and discoveries in Brno. There is a museum of that documents his life and work and a part of the university has been named after him.
  • My friend Ula that has spent quite a while in Brno gave me several recommendations: the best beer and the coolest atmosphere is in the bar Na Stojaka and in the neighbouring bar, ktery neexistuje. The best wine and chocolate cake you will find in Café Tungsram (next to Zalniho Trh and The Capuchin Crypt). Bistros you should visit are: Franz, Soul and Cattani. Well, and you have to visit the rum bar Zona 59 at tke Kounicova St. Now, this is what I call a good recommendations! I have not managed to visit the places myself (maily due to lack of time) but if only I will make it to Brno once again, I will know already where to go! Thank you, Ula!

Here are some glimpses from Brno – enjoy!

I have only managed to sit down and write it all down in Vienna on 2nd November 2015