Monday, February 10, 2014

I have been in a funk. For the last week, I have been sleeping and watching  movies.  I could not get my thoughts together. I think I was just on overload with everything that I had been doing for the past few months.  Directly after the fall semester, I drove to Iowa to be with my family for Christmas,  which is nice- but not restful. Then I turned around and taught Entertainment PR in L.A. for 11 days, which despite it being in L.A. is a class and very hard work. I flew from L.A. to Chicago and then on to Vienna the next day.  Then getting here, and all that entailed, and well, overload.

That said, I promised in a entry a bit ago, that I would share information about my stay in the Czech Republic.  So here goes..

The Czech Republic escaped serious damage during WWII, so the cities are actually old (unlike, for example, Nuremberg Germany--which looks old but was rebuilt). To be this unharmed, however, meant of course that the country sided with the Nazi's during the war years.  To that end, the Jewish culture in the country is decimated. Add the the fact that after 1945, the Czech Republic expelled all German speakers, society and culture have been very altered.

However, wherever you go (yes, there is more to see than just Prague!) you find well preserved  historic buildings and medieval districts.  The small towns and villages are also quite nice.

Fulbright Kids Playing in Square
When the wall came down in 1989 (which they refer to as the "velvet revolution") this country moved quickly to adapt. While there is still communist style architecture, it is overshadowed by the wonderful historical buildings.  I bring this up because despite the fact the Czech and Slovak Republics are similar, they are very different in terms of progressiveness.  The Czech Republic prides itself on being progressive, while the Slovak Republic is much more traditional and conservative. Consider the issue of gay rights. The Czech Republic is one of the most liberal Central European countries with regards to gay rights and equality issues.  Since splitting into the two  republics in 1993, the two countries have gone separate directions regarding  this issue. In fact, the Czech Republic passed a civil union bill in 2006, while Slovakia's parliament continually rejects proposals to recognize homosexual partnerships. A recent Huffington Post story reports: 
"....the region (is) where homophobia is still an issue, except for the overwhelmingly secular Czech Republic, which allows gay couples legal rights within civil unions."
The Cave
The Czech Republic has historically consisted of three regions:  Bohemia, Moravia, and a part of Silesia. We visited Olomouc, which is one of Moravia's oldest towns. According to travel blogs such as this one, Moravia is arguably the best preserved and most historic part of the country and the climate nourishes some of Central Europe's best agricultural land and rich local cuisine.  South Moravia has 97% of the country's vineyards and is one of Central Europe's most up-and-coming wine regions.

St Michaels
We were given a city tour and from there I provide some things to know about Olomouc:

1) Legend says that the town was founded by Julius Caesar, but in fact the city did not come into existence until the 7th century. Despite this,  there have been a variety of Roman coins found in the city when excavating. You can see what was found here. But basically, the city was built on what was a Roman site of some sort.

2) The historic town center is second only to Prague in terms of size. The Centrum is surrounded by parks and the old city walls.

3) The main square (created in the 13th century) became  more well known with the really amazing astronomical clock in the 15th century. After damage in WWII, the Soviets remodeled it so that the wooden figures of soviet workers replaced those of saints.  The mosaic was also added, and if you look closely, you can see that it depicts soviet workers. It chimes at noon.

Astronomical Clock 
4) Church of Saint Michaels is on the highest point in the city.  The cloisters around it were built above a natural cave.  Through small a wooden door you find narrow, steep wooden stairs, that head to the cave.  Monks used the cave to pray.  In the side of the cave wall is another small passage, just large enough for a 7,9,10 and 12 year old to slip through. The kids used the cell phone flash light to explore where it went, and reported that it was "spooky."
St. Michaels

5) Holy Trinity Column. This is on the UNESCO world cultural Heritage List. It was erected in 1716 and is covered with saints and historic figures.

Holy Trinity Column
6) Palaces. I did not know this but all the fancy buildings around squares were palaces.  The buildings around this center square were preserved, so you could really get a feeling of what it was in the past.  These palaces were huge mansions that were owned by rich merchants- not royalty or titled people
Poseidon Statue 
7. The town hall is apparently famous. The external staircase was built in 1591 and is decorated with emblems from history.

Townhall  (From: the City of Olomouc)

Townhall Stairs (from: City of Olomouc)

8. Also of note is the battlefield along the highway near Brno. Here is where the Battle of Austerlitz was. This battle is known as The Battle of the Three Emperors and is considered Napoleon's greatest victory.  He beat an army commanded by Tsar Alexander I. I had no idea what this really meant, so I went here for information. From the highway you can see a monument to the right and the battlefields to the left.

Austerlitz Monument
Here are a few other pictures:

Plague Monument
St. Wenceslas Cathedral 

Church Tower

Fulbright Kids 2014


the old man in south texas said...

Glad to see your getting out and seeing the country while you can. This is the same thing I did when I was overseas no matter with country I was in. Makes for a better time than just sitting in your apartment all the time.

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