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My Czech Republic
"Look! This is the fertile country, this is our home!"
said the forefather Czech when he saw the country known as Bohemia.
And the Czech tribes settled there to share their fate with the land.
Since the time when the forefather Czech conveyed there the Czechs, both
the nation and the country experienced many good and bad periods. But
whatever was going on, they loved their homeland and there was no force that
could separate them.
The Czech Republic is a splendid country of forests and mountains,
valleys and rivers, nice people and mild climate. It is just perfect. You can
find there mountains, but not too high. You can find there plains, but not
too vast. And towns that are not too large.
It is a special country too. Located in the middle of Europe, surrounded
by mountains like by a wall, the most western Slavic country, on the border
between East and West. This is my native country, the country I want to tell
you about. I love it and I will talk about it from my perspective. If you
want to get an objective information, read a textbook on geography. So,
please, don't get angry when I extol it. There are many beautiful places in
the world, but this one has a special position in my heart. I believe it's
the same for you and you country. And it is as it should be.
- a bit of geography to know where the country
is (Middle, not Eastern Europe :) and a bit more
- a bit of history, because history is always very
important in understanding a culture. I tried to made it short, but I
love history :)
- a bit of politics, because the Czechs like to
complain about politics, so it may be useful to know something about
- typical Czech features are something in what
each foreigner is interested
- links to other pages about CR (perhaps more
Poznamka: Simek&G;Jak jsem se stal nezamestnanym,
A bit of geography
The Czech Republic is said to be in the Eastern Europe, but we prefer to
call it the Middle Europe. And we like to say that we are in "the heart of
Europe". Anyhow, by all its culture and history it's Western (well, except
1948-89). But sometimes we are proud of not being too Western. And, most of
the time, we don't know whether we should turn to the rich, non-slavic West
or to the "brother-like" East. As I said, it is a special country ...
The Czech Republic consists of three 'countries': Bohemia -the western
(approximately) half, Moravia -the eastern half (with the 'capital' Brno,
formerly Olomouc) and Silesia - very small piece of land in the north of
Moravia (the major part of Silesia is in Poland).
A bit of history
- around 5th century, during the biggest movement in history (called also
migration), the Czech tribes came to the country, which was left by the
previous German inhabitants (but some of them, as well as some Celts,
still were there). There were many tribes, but during the history they
"melt" into one nation.
- in 10th century established a principality with a centre in Bohemia
- 14th century: the greatest of our kings, Charles IV, ruled the country
(among others founded the Charles University and built my favourite
bridge). Some time after he died (1415), the fire of religious revolution
struck the country. The time of our greatest generals, time of the war
between the king and his country, exploit the land and knocked it down
from the top where it was brought by Charles.
- 1526 a Habsburk (an Austrian dynasty) king elected. As well as
everywhere, there was a struggle for power between the king and the
nobility. It culminated 1618 in "Prague defenestration"(our favourite
habit and tradition :) and subsequent "Battle on the White Mountain". The
nobility lost (I've heard they were too miserly). Unfortunately, what
happened wasn't "king defeated the opposing nobility" but "the German
emperor defeated the Czech aristocracy". Thirty Czech lords were executed
on the Old Town square, many noble houses lost their property, lot of
people emigrated (they didn't want to become Catholic or/and die). A new,
German and Italian aristocracy came. And, step by step, the Czechs became
second-class citizens in their own country.
- next centuries were marked by the struggle for revival of the Czech
nation (the language nearly became extinct) and for emancipation. The
Hungarians managed to get the equal position in the empire, but we had to
wait untill 1918.
- 1918 - end of the World War 1st (WW1) and the beginning of the
independent Czechoslovak state. There were lot of controversy between
Czechoslovaks and former German Germans (who came between 12th and 20th
century, approx. 30% of inhabitants), who never wanted to be members of
the "Common state of Czechs and Slovaks". And there are still disputes
who were the bad guys ...
- 1938(39)-45 The Misery. Betrayed by its Western Allies, Czechoslovakia
became a part of the Nazi empire. Sometimes we regret we didn't defend
our freedom in a war (we had no chance, as well as Afghanistan in 2001,
but sometimes the question whether you can win or not is not so important
- 1948 - the half illegal effort of the Communist party to take over the
power, supported by Soviets, succeeded. Goodbye, democracy! The state
confiscated ("nationalized")most of the private property, private
enterprises were forbidden. If you didn't say what you really thought and
regularly put a red flag outside, you were quite OK (unless your parents
were "bourgeois"). Otherwise you couldn't study, find a good job,
sometimes you were invited by local police to have a nice evening ...
Many people were sentenced in false trials (e.g. many soldiers who fought
during WW2 on the wrong side = in France, GB). Have you problems with an
accommodation? No trouble! Just say that the president is an idiot and
you have accommodation&food for some 10 years ("undermining of the
social establishment" and, quite often, "high treason" were the magic
phrases that ensured it).
- 1968 - "Prague Spring". We tried to have "socialism with a human face"
(i.e. no dictatorship), but our eastern friends hadn't much sympathy for
that. Soviet tanks came for a short visit ... It took 30 years. (Note: in
different times something similar happened in Poland - afterwards the
Polish army stopped it - and in Hungary. The Hungarians fought for their
freedom, but we did not, as usually. [Of course they lost].)
- 1989 - the "Velvet revolution". The unstable communist regime gave up,
when people started revolting. This time no tanks came ... The most lucky
event in my life, I guess.
- January 1st 1993 the Czech-Slovak Federal Republic split into two
independent, though friendly, countries. It is a pity, but every nation
deserves independence. And, indeed, I'm not sure that Slovakia was as
equal as it should have been... And they have been more then 1000 years
under Hungary, so it's understandable they wanted to govern themselves.
Anyhow I hope one day we will meet in a common state again ... ( in
- 1989 - 2000 Economical, social and legal transformation of the country.
(The Communists left behind them an economically weak heavy industry,
destroyed society [what else can you expect if people could never know
who of their friends/kins was an agent of the Czech KGB?].) It could be
better ... but it is better than ever before.
- 1999 Czech Rep. in NATO. Finally safe ...
A bit of politics
The Czech Republic is a pluralistic democracy. There are several
political parties and the main person is the prime minister. The president
has a representative role and his political power is small. The two main
parties are Social Democrats (CSSD) (left wing) and Civic Democratic Party
(ODS) (right wing). The other two powers are Communists (once they were the
third strongest party; it may be surprising with respect to our history,
unless you know more about the "transformational chaos" and needs of
lower-class majority) and middle-right mixture of small parties, which mostly
try to cooperate (the number is around 4 but it oscillates) and stay in
opposition to CSSD and ODS (some call them "the Castle party" because mostly
they are on the President's side).
As any other political scene, the ours is full of scandals - unclear
fund-raising of the parties (once knocked down ODS), questionable
governmental orders, unacceptable behaviour of politicians, odd people on
high posts, unqualified (and 1 megaloman) ministers ... You know. The two
main parties support each other in the struggle for more power at expense of
smaller parties, which involves a minimization of the power of the
"disobedient" president who thinks that he is responsible for what's going on
and does his best to do things right (instead of just signing laws without
reading them and inviting other presidents for dinners). (Now I mean Vaclav
Havel who was the president 1989-2002.) The Social Democrats tend to spend
more many than they have, which terrifies all the people who see more far
than to the end of the current election period, the Civic Democrats do not
want to become a part of EU (may be there is something strange about
Democrats? ;-), Communists are Communists and the small parties are not able
to find an agreement on a common policy.
So we do not elect the best party, but the least bad one and we devote
ourselves to swear about the politics, which is something like a Czech
Some important people in our history:
- spiritual celebrities:
- St. Vaclav (Wenceslav) - Czech sovereign in 10th century, murdered
by his brother. Became the patron of the Czech country and nation
- Jan Hus - leading figure of the Czech reformation (as Luther,
Calvin), burnt 1415
- J.A.Komensky, the "teacher of nations", the greatest pedagogue
ever. Had to emigrate (17th cent.)
- political ones:
- Charles IV, the greatest of our sovereigns, founded Charles
University and did lot of other good things.
- T.G.Masaryk, our first president, the "father of
Typical Czech ...
What is typical Czech? I will mention some features that are said to be
typical Czech, but personally I believe that they are, at least to some
extent (and some of them entirely), only a part of the "national folklore"
(or "national mythology") and do not reflect the present reality (similarly
to "all Scots are niggardly [love money]"). Of course you never know ... .
Typical Czech (person) is quite similar to a guy from Bavaria
(country in Germany, west from CR): he's sitting in a pub, holding a beer
(half litre) in one hand and a pork sausage in the other and singing
traditional pub songs, accompanied by an accordion. Probably that's why we
say "each Czech is a musician". (I must mention that a typical Moravian
person is different - he hasn't beer, but "Slivovice" [plum brandy]. But, of
course, he likes beer as well .) Indeed, pub is a favourite place. Men meet
there, every day or e.g. once a week (depends whether you live in a village
or in a city and what your wife is like :), drink beer and sometimes
something stronger (for example "rum"), play cards for money (mostly very
small amounts of money) and smoke (cigarette, cigar or pipe). The importance
of pub in man's life is an everyday reality, not only a tradition. Come and
Typical Czech is also said to be malicious and envious (of course this is
just a slander, which, somehow, became a part of the 'mythology') and he is
also a bit too practical and uninspired (Sancho Panza from Don Quiote would
be a good Czech). But such people, I guess, are everywhere (maybe that in the
Czech country they just had too often an opportunity to have a power over
their wiser fellow-citizens).
The Czech cuisine is sometimes very delicious, but most of
the time very unhealthy. Meals are often fat and a piece of meat must not be
missing (pork is the best). I wonder what they ate 200 years ago (when meat
was very rare, for the ordinary people) ... . Vegetable and pasta are
ignored. You can see it in the typical meal, which is pork+ dumplings
("knödel" in German, "knedlík" in Czech)+ stewed cabbage. (I really do not
know why this meal is the national one, but everybody says it.) Nowadays this
is not true anymore, people care for their health. But it is still true that
it isn't usual to have a dessert after meal (unless you eat in a canteen). In
contrast to Sweden, for instance, the main dish of the day is the lunch,
around midday. And the Czech bread is made from rye and must contain cummin
(caraway) seeds. The Czech breakfast consists, most of the time, of
bread/rolls or buns and cheese/salami or something sweet (a piece of cake,
for instance). You don't see corn flakes very often yet (but it's changing
and we are getting "Westernized" or "Americanized"). You drink tea, coffee,
milk or syrup.
If you are a VIP, you could experience the traditional Czech welcome: a
girl in a costume would offer you bread and salt (it's typical Slavic, I
believe). Probably that is the reason why we didn't find a common language
with Germans - we offered them bread and salt, while they offered us sword
and fire (different culture, different habits ;-).
We also used to praise the "golden Czech hands" (which means that Czechs
are very skilful and can do lot of things by themselves). But nowadays it
seems that we forgot them somewhere in the history (perhaps the Communists
nationalized them too).
Note: some of my friends (especially the one who studies sociology) disagrees
with my "typical Czech ...". But I've never said it's indeed true. Of course
some of the things mentioned above come from the everyday life observation,
but some of them are not more than a myth (e.g. the typical Czech). But every
myth had to come into existance somehow ...
The Czech national tree is limetree (don't ask me why ...)
- Official site of CR (under "Basic
facts" you can listen to the Czech anthem)
- Study of (former)
Czechoslovakia by the US Congress Library. Lot of information, really
- Czechonline -
short overwievs of the main issues (mostly just statistical data).
about CR (you can find there useful information, just click to some
links on the main page)
- CzechSite - a travel guide for
Prague and CR (useful for visitors - you find there links to
accommodation, top 10 of Prague restaurants ...)
Planet also offers info for travellers (events, culture, how and when
to get there ... )
- Czech Mountains - lot of nice
pictures and of course travel information
- Francois - plenty of
photos of Prague (comments in French :)
- Pictures (mostly from
cities) [and lot of annoying commercials)
- The Prague Castle (map, architecture,
presidents ...; to choose English, click at very bottom left of the
- www.prague.cz (museums ...)
Jakub Holy 2002 AD