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The Czech city of Brno has some 400,000 residents (its metropolitan area has around twice that) and it is the capital of the province of Moravia. It is home to the largest exhibition centre in Europe and to the country's Constitutional and Supreme Courts, the Supreme Administrative Court and the office of the national Ombudsman. Brno hosts a number of highly regarded international festivals each year and in total its many higher education faculties have more than 90,000 students. So why is it that so many people have never heard of the Czech Republic's second city?
Given that Brno is just a couple of hours by train from Prague, and even less from Vienna and Bratislava it's maybe surprising that Brno has held onto its budget route to and from the UK with Wizz Air though it's possible that the flight has been maintained because it's useful for exhibition delegates. We've passed through Brno's main train station on numerous occasions over the last ten years but never stopped until recently when we broke up a train journey from Prague to Maribor (Slovenia). Depending on which train you take the journey to/from Prague takes about three hours and is, for the most part, incredibly scenic. The area immediately around the train station is shabby and you'll probably see a few drinkers hang around; we didn't feel threatened at all but it's not the best of arrivals.
The historic core of the city is compact and walkable; attractions such as Villa Tugendhat - a modernist house built in 1929-30 and the only building in the Czech Republic to have UNESCO World Heritage Site status - are just a short tram ride from the centre. The key sights can be seen in a day, even a few hours if you are inclined to jump off the train and pound the pavements. Over a long weekend you can pack in a few museums or galleries and enjoy Brno's charms at a more leisurely pace. I have to confess that when we visited we knew we wouldn't see a great deal of Brno: it was cold and I was recovering from surgery on my foot but we were able to wander around the historic heart of the city and see many of its architectural monuments.
Namesti Svobody (Freedom Square) is the symbolic centre of the historic centre; it's more triangular than square, to be pedantic, and is dotted with fountains and sculptures rather than having one grand focal point. Like the other tourists in town we made a half hearted attempt to work out the rather unusual clock (referred to somewhat indecently as the 'cock clock' by some) which symbolizes the 1645 Battle of Brno, then turned our attention instead to the building just behind which is designed so that the façade is held up by four magnificent caryatids (a caryatid being a human figure in place of a more conventional pillar). I loved this building, but my travelling companion thought it too over the top.
In Brno you need to look up; the city is packed with wonderful buildings so that it resembles a giant open air museum of architecture. There are splendid gilded arcades with twinkling chandeliers that give a magical effect, intricately tiled facades and cute little finials that are reminiscent of Russian architecture. If you like to shop you can combine consumerism with architectural appreciation as the main shopping area is made up of streets of these fine buildings. I was surprised how many smart, upmarket stores there were, including quite a few international designers; there are also lots of little independent shops selling quality items, especially confectionery.
The old town hall- the Stara Radnice - houses the tourist information office (as well as the Brno wheel and the Brno dragon, symbols of two famous legends surrounding the city); the staff are friendly but not very helpful or proactive. We asked about visiting Villa Tugendhat but we were told that it was by advance reservation only for guided tours; tours are usually full for the forthcoming six weeks. I really wanted to visit and asked if a staff member could phone and enquire about cancellations; I was told there wouldn't be any and so nobody phoned. I mentioned that we were looking for something a bit different to do and that I was recovering from foot surgery and didn't really want to do something that involved lots of walking. One staff member suggested sky diving (I'm not joking) but added it was only possible in summer. Another suggested going to a water-park; she stared at me blankly when I pointed out I had no swimming gear and it wasn't really an activity that was special to Brno (maybe she thought it would be therapeutic). One good thing about the TIC is that there are loads and loads of leaflets and several different 'What's on' publications so if you turn up with a guidebook or you've not done any research, you can easily find out where there is to see and do. Among the ones we picked was one that described a walk around a residential area of the city in which there are a number of interesting architect designed houses, something we'd have enjoyed had I been more mobile.
Perhaps because it was approaching the end of autumn Namesti Svobody was rather quiet with people passing through rather than stopping at one of the cafes. I got the impression that this is the place to stop for a coffee or beer in summer, but in the winter only a few hardy people sit outside with a coffee and a cigarette. Zeleny Trh (the Cabbage Market) was much livelier; a fresh produce market where the stalls are clustered around a slightly grotesque baroque fountain. From here it's a short walk to the cathedral of St. Peter and St. Paul; with its gothic revival twin towers it is perhaps the most recognisable visual symbol of Brno. The cathedral is a mishmash of styles with bits added here and there over the centuries according to the prevailing fashions, or practical necessity. The tower can be climbed for a small charge and no doubt a trip to the top is rewarded with fantastic views; we contented ourselves with a look around the main body of the church, discreetly tagging on to the tail end of a guided tour to learn more.
I'd have easily spent a few days in Brno given the chance but we had plans and couldn't stay. It's a lively and youthful city where there appears to be plenty going on. Ice hockey is a massive spectator sport; we stayed over on a Friday night and the bars were full of people watching a televised game. I get the impression that people in Brno like to make the most of what's available to them; through the window of a small basement bar near our hotel we could see that the place was packed with people watching a guitar duo playing. There are posters all over town for concerts, lessons and sports clubs; it seemed to me a city where people really live life.
I found Brno surprisingly cosmopolitan, but with a distinctly Czech attitude. No doubt being the seat of several important national institutions, as well as a major venue for international exhibitions and conferences, contributes to this. Restaurants cover the range of price brackets and international cuisines; there are cosy traditional pubs and sleek modern boutique bars. Hotels, too, cover a range of pricing options and there are plenty of good independent hotels that don't fall under a generic, faceless international branding. Service tends to be efficient but not very friendly; we found that the more downmarket we went, the more friendly the staff became.
Wizz Air flies to Brno from Luton Airport; flying in to Prague, Bratislava or Vienna are all viable options as Brno can be reached easily by train from those cities. People rave about Prague; it's a very beautiful city but it's too large to comfortably explore in a weekend. Try Brno, I dare you; it's visually quite stunning, it's lively and there's a heck of a lot going on.
Brno has been my home for two and a half years now, and the capital of Moravia is so laid back, I've only just got round to writing about it. Chances are, if you are visiting Brno for the first time and coming from Prague, you're going to feel one of two ways - first, you might welcome the break from tourists, the more relaxed atmosphere, and the distinctly Eastern European feel that Prague has had renovated out of it. Or second, you might roll up, wander around for a bit, think, "Is that it?", and then move on.
The real charms of the Czech Republic's second city reveal themselves over time. With a population of around 400,000, it often feels smaller, with many locals evacuating the city for the countryside at the weekends. The immediate center is tiny, and Brno's attractions can be easily navigated in a day by the casual sight seer.
However, for those people "doing" the Czech Republic, or Europe as a whole, it warrants a closer look, as Brno has an atmosphere and attitude all of its own. The surrounding countryside is also a bonus - to the north of the city are hills and forests, and large cave complexes; to the south, gorgeous rolling hills and vineyards. It also makes an excellent base for other city visits - here you are only 130km from Vienna; 130km from Bratislava; 80km from Olomouc.
The locals often refer to their town as a big village, and it's not hard to see that comparison; leading up from the main train station (Hlavni Nadrazi) is a distinctive "High Street" in Masarykova, leading up through the center of town to Freedom Square (Namesti Svobody). Here people relax or get ripped off in street side cafes, trams trundle through the center, kids play in the fountain, and people try to figure out how to read the time on the large black dildo-like "clock", which supposedly commemorates the city's famous defense against the Swedes in 1645.
From Namesti Svobody, the city's smattering of sights are all in easy walking distance. When it comes to eating, drinking and partying, Brno lags well behind Prague in terms of options, with a surfeit of truly decent pubs and restaurants, and night life is a bit retro to say the least.
The most striking point on Brno's skyline, and one of it's iconic symbols, are the soaring twin spires of the Cathedral of St Peter and Paul (Kostel Svateho Petra a Pavla). The cathedral has dominated the surrounding area since the 13th Century, and it's certainly worth the hike up Petrov Hill to investigate. The neo-Gothic exterior is far more impressive than the rather bland interior, but it is fun to climb the creaky wooden steps to the bell tower. For a truly nerve-shattering experience, try standing under the bell when it chimes!
A short distance away and also one of the city's reference points is the Spilberk Castle, crouched on its own hill. While not as visually impressive as the Cathedral, or indeed many castles in the UK, it is still worth a visit and offers excellent views of the town and surrounding countryside. Originally established in the 13th Century, it grew into an important stronghold during the time of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, when it was also a notorious prison.
Other sights include the Capuchin Monastery, a 17th Century site which is most noted for it's crypt, which contains the dusty, mummified remains of local nobility and several monks. Some of them are in pretty bad shape, but hey, I hope I look that good when I'm three hundred years old. The atmosphere down there is pretty eerie, so it's perhaps best avoided by those easily shat up.
For visitors who like a church or two, Brno's your place, with several excellent examples right in the very center - apart from the sinister cathedral, there's the elegant St Jacob's Church (Kostel Svateho Jakuba) with it's tall green spire, and the under-seen Kostel svatých Janu, a church heavy with oppressive Catholic decor, and a remarkable Sistine Chapel-esque painted ceiling. The perspective doesn't seem to be quite right, but it's a fascinating piece of work.
For a full run down of all Brno's sights, head to the tourist information office on Radnicka street, which runs parallel to Masarykova. Situated in the Old Town Hall (Stara Radnice) the staff are pretty unhelpful, but you can load up on maps and leaflets, and there's also free internet terminals for your research purposes. Also hanging outside is another one of Brno's most famous symbols, the "Brno Dragon", which actually turns out to be a rather heavily painted crocodile.
When in need of refreshment, there are few really quality options in the center, but you could try one of the following.
Air Cafe - Zelny Trh - situated inside the Moravské zemské muzeum on the vegetable market, Air Cafe is a chilled out cafe decorated with memorabilia and photos from World War II. They serve a huge range of coffees, as well as iced drinks, cocktails, spirits and beer, and there's courtyard seating with the spires of St Peter and Paul's towering above. No food, however.
Panoptikum on Jakubska is a cosy restaurant and pub frequented by a smarter local set, with street side seating, decent drinks, and a menu of above average interpretations of Czech classics.
Zelená Kocka (Green Cat), a street down on Solnicní, again offers Czech grub, is usually packed to the rafters, and offers big panelled mugs of excellent Dalesický beer.
Further afield, it's worth a trip to the Starobrno Brewery (Pivovarska Brno) on Mendlovo Namesti; while the main restaurant area is a bit vast and echoey, and the beerhall rather smoky, there is a big summer terrace with a relaxed atmosphere, play area for kids and Starobrno fresh from the source. Locals from all walks of life come here to sink a few, and the food is standard Czech cuisine - ribs, goulash, schnitzel.
If you fancy some food that isn't Czech, Goa Indian Restaurant is a bit of a trek, out in the Zidenice district on Geislerova street. It's worth the jaunt, though, as they serve some wonderful curries in an intimate brick cellar.
For steaks, head to Don Miguel's on Palackého trída, or out to Havana in the Lisen district, on
Masarova. Vegetarians are likely to encounter a tough time, as vegetarianism is still a relative novelty in Brno, and veggie options on the menu are likely to amount to fried cheese, fried cauliflower, fried broccoli, or simply fries. However, all is not lost - Rebio on Orli does a decent buffet-style vegetarian selection, if a little overpriced.
The absolute savior for vegetarians in Brno - or indeed anyone who's fed up with Czech food - is Kupe on Veveri; a cool little cellar bar restaurant which serves super fresh, 100% veggie middle eastern cuisine. You may have to wait a while for your food, but it's all freshly prepared and looks just like the photo in their lush hardback menu.
Nightlife in Brno tends to revolve around sitting in the pub, chatting with friends over several beers, and there's countless opportunities in town. Options for a dance are quite limited, with clubs (be aware - "Night Club" is a euphemism for brothel in the Czech Republic...) miles behind those on offer in Prague or other big cities in Europe.
By far the most popular is Fleda on Stefánikova, which despite it's rather tatty appearance, has by far the most eclectic musical offerings in town. Beyond that, the standard drops off quite drastically - in the center, you have the disco and live music venue Metro (Postovská), which is usually rammed, and dancing hindered by tables all over the dance floor.
Charlie's Hat on Koblizná, down a very easy to miss alleyway, offers a nice shady courtyard bar, before a descent into madness - hot, grubby and sweaty, the main dancefloor is situated in between two bars, so you're constantly being jostled by people going to and fro. It's never boring at Charlie's though, and is as good a place as any to lose it on the dance floor and generally get hosed down in beer and other people's fluids.
Then there's the demented Livingstone Club, in a passage off Dominikánské náměstí; going for a dark, wooden African theme, it is possibly inspired by the travel agents of the same name nearby, or maybe "Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls" - either way, it's certainly Brno's heart of darkness. A good time can usually be had here, provided you can get past the villainous-looking bouncers. The music's pretty cheesy, the bar's hard to get to, and the overall atmosphere is of a boozy, fondling brawl.
Sports fans visiting Brno may be interested to know there is both a football team and a hockey team in the city. FC Zbrojovka Brno play at their 12000 capacity Mestský Fotbalový Stadion Srbská, but rarely reach capacity. Football as a spectacle in the Czech Republic is generally an excruciating experience, with even their top flight games resembling a late season, mid-table knockabout in the English Division Two. It can be fun to see a game in the warm weather, just to relax and have a beer and a sausage.
On the other hand, the city's Ice Hockey team, Kometa, is one of the few things the locals get really passionate about, and usually play to a full house. The Kometa fans really rock the Hala Rondo where they play, famous for their pogo-ing, scarf-twirling chants.
In general, Brno is a safe city, although it's always worth staying sharp - sometimes it's easy to get lulled into a false sense of security and let your guard down. The main place to worry about is the Main Station (Hlavni Nadrazi), which is seedy enough during the daytime, but gets positively David Lynch-ian at night. It's filthy, smelly, and crawling with drunks and homeless people, as well as the odd purse snatcher. You won't want to hang around there too long anyway, but keep your eyes open.
At night Brno is quiet, and may seem rather under lit compared to what you're used to. It's worth keeping your voice down when walking from A to B; it's not likely that anyone's going to accost you, but you may encounter some phenomenally drunken people stumbling around or lurking in bushes or doorways. Most of the time they'll just want a cigarette or to slur at you for a bit before bumbling onwards, but it's not always fun.
So that's my introduction to Brno - it's a decent town to spend some time in, as I've found out over the past couple of years. I'll be updating this review on a regular basis, as I'm aware there are a few gaps; however, if you need any further information or have a particular question, drop me a message and I'll do my best to answer it!
Brno is Czech Republic's 2nd city and the capital of Moravia, whilst Prague might not seem particularly frantic compared to other capital cities, it's a major rat race by Czech standards. Moravians however are notoriously laidback and this aura is noticeable in Brno. Capital cities also tend to attract a certain amount of people with their heads up their bottoms, so the Czechs say if you want to get to know the people, head to Brno or another smaller city.
Brno is easily reachable by train or bus from not only other Czech cities but also Vienna, Bratislava and Poland. The historical town centre, is impressive with St. Peter and Paul cathedral dominating the skyline, magnificent relics of the past are side by side with cafes and shops along one of the most well known streets in the city - Dominikanska. Villa Tugenhadt is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and supposedly a great example of 1920s architecture, personally I couldn't be bothered to go due to a hangover after too much Slivovice!
Brno's centre is rather hilly and once you've visited the cathedral and Spilberk Castle, I recommend taking things easy as the locals do and heading to one of the many cheap pubs for a beer or kofola (coca-cola like drink), it's common in these parts to have numerous board games on hand and while away the hours in the pub with friends.
Brno is not as good looking as Prague and it's much smaller, it's suburbs have little to offer but then again neither do Prague's really, I stayed with a friend there at the time and we cooked at home - my only experience of food in Brno was a cheap burger slapped together in a kiosk by a Chinese chap - managed to burn myself on the burger and cover myself in the sauce, obviously proof of how much I enjoyed Brno's beers!
Like in many former communist cities, night buses run the routes meeting up at the central station for a frantic change of bus. The region immediately near Brno has quite a lot to offer with Macocha Caves and Cerna Hora brewery to the north making a good day trip. A visit to the south for hiking and relaxing by the Nove Mlyny Dam is also well worth it.
To give all dooyoo readers a break from my Madeiran reviews I am going back to the trip I took in the Czech Republic in 2006. Please check out my Prague and Moravian Mountain reviews as this review of Brno is part of the same trip. We actually visited Brno by bus rather than taking the car and caught the bus which was on time from Prague's central station. I always think that when visiting a city it is best to use public transport mainly because it is cheap in Central Europe and it saves worrying about parking. On this particular journey we had no set plans, well, we never have any set plans, but we knew we wanted to see Bratislava , Brno and Vienna. When we arrived at Brno station I didn't like the look of the place and made a quick decision to get the next bus to Bratislava. Why I did this, I don't know. It isn't usually like me - I take the rough with the smooth. I must have been in a bad mood that day because I didn't want to stay in Brno. The funny thing is, that once I'd seen Bratislava, Brno didn't look too bad so on the way back to Prague we stopped off at Brno and stayed overnight and I have to say that I am glad I did.
Here is my review..........
Brno - The Austrians call it Brunn, and it is little more than a suburb of Vienna. For the citizens of Prague, Brno is merely a large village. Only for its own inhabitants is it a capital city; they call it the Paris of Moravia. An exaggeration perhaps, but the place is a refuge for music and art lovers and a city of churches and monasteries. Leos Janacek (1854-1928) worked here as conductor of the Brno Philarmonic Society and the Reduta Theatre is the oldest theatre in central Europe. Capuchin, Dominican, Augustinian and Jesuit monks all settled here.
The Moravian capital is also a major industrial city and hosts important trade fairs. The first railway line in the country, from Brno to Breclav and then on to Vienna, was opened here in 1839. Its favourable position on the trading routes, halfway between Prague and Bratislava, led to the creation of an exhibition centre in 1926 and the site expanded during the Communist years.
But the transition to a market economy has apparently made little difference. The plaster continues to crumble from the once splendid 19th century houses as Brno missed out on the renovation work that Prague and Bratislava enjoyed during the 90's. Brno's lowly staus is not a new phenomenon. The town of Olomouc to the north was Moravia's capital until the mid 17th century and in the 9th century, during the era of the Great Moravian Empire, the Slav's main castles were situated further south. And yet the city's history dates back further than Prague's. About 400BC the Celts founded a settlement at the foot of the Bohemian-Moravian Mountains and called it Bryn. Like the Slav word 'brdo', it means 'hill' and refers to Mount Petrov, where the oldest of the town's fortresses was built. But Brno only remained as a purely Slavic settlement for a few centuries. In the 12th century, westerners, mainly from Germany, moved into the town and, until the 19th century, the majority of its citizens were German.
In contrast to most Bohemian towns, Brno's inhabitants remained faithful to the emperor and the Catholic church. The Hussites beseiged in 1428 and 1430 but without success. The Swedes also failed in 1645. By 1809 Napoleon had recognised its strategic importance and he had raised it to the ground. The city walls were not removed until 1860 and now the ring road, lined by gardens, follows their course. Only the eastern Menin Gate has survived.
So that's that's a little history now let me tell you what wonderful sights/attractions you will see in this lowly city in the Czech Republic.......
Namesti Svobody or Freedom Square is a large triangular concourse, formerly known, as the Lower Market, lies at the heart of the city. Until 1870 the late 13th century St Nicholas' Church stood where the tram station is now in the middle of the square. One thing I love about this part of the world is the abundance of Art Nouveau buildings scattered here and there. The Moravian Bank in the square dates from the 1930's which is a later era but the Hotel Europa was built in the Nouvea style and is admirable. In the inter-war years, architects dismissed the Historicist House of the Four Caryatids as typical 19th century poor taste but, for the inhabitants, the oversized statues on the facade were very popular. Similar decorative elements can be seen on many of Brno's town houses. Personally, I have mixed feelings about the oversized figures. They are far too large and make the building look as though it is about to fall on your head.
An enclave of Baroque buildings can be seen near Koblizna Street in the northeastern corner of the square which are very colourful and there are one or two attractive street cafes located near the Column of St Mary which was built in the same style.
Old Town Hall
Concerts and theatre performances are held in the early 12th century Old Town Hall in Radnicka. The loggia in the inner courtyard and the Town Hall tower make this a splendid sight and a little unusual. The Gothic portal was created in 1510 by an architect called Anton Pilgram who went on to build greater things like St Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna. Aparantely Mr. Pilgram wasn't very happy about the fee the city fathers were prepared to pay him and so he left the central turret above the Statue of Righteousness slightly crooked. I think I would have done the same.
You know how I like to tell a tale or two well here are two tales regarding the Town Hall.......
Tales are told about the two attractions in the passageway through to the courtyard: the Brno Wheel and the Brno Dragon. The latter is said to have made his home here and then caused terror among the inhabitants. A bricklayer's apprentice rescued the townsfolk by tempting the beast with a bag of quicklime in the stomach of a recently slaughtered goat. The dragon ate the goat then quenched his thirst with water, whereupon his stomach burst. In fact the dragon is an alligator, which a troupe of Venetian actors gave to Archduke Matthias in the 17th century. The wheel is not so old. In 1636, for a bet, a cabinet maker in the town of Lednice made the wheel and rolled it to Brno, a distance of 40 kilometres, all in one day.
If you go through the town hall passage it opens out o to the Zelny trh or Herb Market. Basically, it is a weekly vegetable and meat market and has been held on this space for centuries. In the centre stands the elaborate Fountain of Parnassus. It is a Baroque fantasy of mythical figures created by the Viennese artist, Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach. There is a romantic feel to the collection of figures: the wild rocks are overrun with various beasts, while Hercules fights Cerberus, the dog that guards the entrance to the underworld.
Now for the spooky bit. In the main burial room lies 16 monks, without coffins and with just two bricks under their heads, as the rules of the monastic order state. despite their great age, the bodies have not become skeletons, but have mummified. The ventilation system in the crypt simply dries them out. One of the bodies in the crypt belongs to Baron Trenck (1711-49). This officer, who led a unit of 1,000 prisoners of war in the Austrian army, was sentenced to a lifetime in prison in Brno's Spilberk castle for 'transgressing the regulations.' But the conditions were so harsh in the jail that he soon became ill and was released after two years. He died soon after.
Museum of Moravia
In this Moravian museum lies a truly fantastic attraction that I recommend everyone should see. It is the Venus of Vestonice and was created over 25,000 years ago. The statue is fashioned from fired clay and is reckoned to be the oldest Stone Age clay figure in the world.
Church of St Peter and St Paul
According to my travel notes, a lane leads from the vegetable market to Mount Petorv and the Church of St Peter and St Paul. A fortress once occupied this site, followed in the 11th century by a Romanesque basilica which was then converted into a Gothic structure in the 15th century. The present building is is a beauty to look at with its neo -Gothic spires and face which were introduced between 1904 and 1911. Apart from Art Nouveau there is another reason why I love this part of the world so much - Gothic and neo- Gothic towers. I think I was born in the wrong era. I am always overcome with excitement when I can see those black pointed towers rising high in the skyline. This is a reconstruction of a cathedral that was destroyed by the Swedes during the Thirty Years' War. There is an external pulpit on the north wall and inside there are perfectly carved statues of St Barbara and John the Baptist which I believe was the work of an Austrian Baroque artist called Martin Johann Schmidt. In an adjoining chapel stands a statue which represents the Madonna.
To the west of the city centre stands Brno's second fortified hill, the 56 metre Spillberk. King Pfemysl Otakar 11 had a Gothic castle built here in the 13th century and that was converted into a Baroque fortress during the 17th century. The castle's casemates which are open to the public were used between 1621 and 1855 as a prison by the Habsburg monarchs and, in World War 11, resistance fighters and other 'enemies of the state' were incarcarated here by the Gestapo.
Many horrific tales have been told about life in the dank and gloomy cells, but none can be historically proven. One story tells how adulterous women were placed on rock pedestals and then showered with water.
Just south of the Spillberk which can be found by walking in a southerly direction out of the Old Town, you will come to a Gothic brick building. It was in this Augustinian monastery during the mid nineteenth century, that a certain monk, called Gregor Johann Mendel carried out his first experiments on peas and beans, thereby laying down the principles of genetics.
Brno Trade Fair Exhibition Hall
This wonderful and fascinating building lies on a bend in the Syratka river and is about a hundred yards further on than the monastery. The building is surrounded by 76 hectares of land and consists of 100,000 square metres of exhibition space. The functional pavillions and the 45 metre glass tower were built for the 'First Exhibition of Contemporary Czech Art' which commemorated the 10th anniversary of the founding of Czechoslavakia. Since then, the most important annual event has been the Mechanical Engineering Trade Fair in the autumn but there are other exhibitions such as the Food Exhibition and the Motor Show. A velodrome is also situated within the grounds. I absolutely love the Pavillion with its white arches and blue tiled floors. It's like walking throuh an enormous elongated greenhouse.
About 9 miles outside of the city lies The Masaryk Ring which is a motor-cycle and motor racing ring. Events have been taking palce here since the 1920's, but in recent years the track has been modernised and shortened.
Fairy Tale Castle
A well used cliche I know but it is the only way to describe Pernstejn, a 16th century castle that was once the home of a highly influential aristocratic family. This virtually impregnable fortification was never destroyed, and many national and foreign television companies use the castle as a backdrop for filming fairy tales. The interior has hardly changed throughout its history and it is open to the public.
Quite a few to choose from like Holiday Inn which is near the Trade Fair building and the International which is between the Old Town and Spillberk. Also Pegas which is a small 2 star hotel with a pleasant beer and wine bar is suitable for an over night stop.
Reduta - which serves very good Znojmo wine and serves South Moravian cuisine ( review possibly coming up shortly).
Modre Hvezdy - situalted in the vaults of an old brewery.
Stopkova Pivnice - Simple but serves cheap and tasty Czech food.
Museums and Galleries
Open every day except Monday - 10am - 5pm
Brno isn't Prague but it isn't as bad as I thought it was originally. In fact it is a very interesting town/city and has some unusual buildings.
The outskirts are are rather run down and if you are approaching from the direction of Prague then it could put you off but don't let it or you would never go anywhere.
I thoroughly recommend a visit to this city for one day or even two or even three.
A IS FOR ARCHITECTURE Lots of Brno is composed of some magnificent ancient buildings and sculptures. As with many European cities, the amount of work that must have gone into making it how it is is amazing. B IS FOR BRÜNN This is the German name for the city, and vital if you are travelling from a German speaking city. Although you can get away with saying „Bratislava“ and not „Presburg“, when I asked for a ticket to Brno, I almost ended up with one to Prague thanks to the incompetent staff at Wien Mitte station. Just remember, ask for Brünn and you have a 95% higher chance of ending up in the right place. C IS FOR CASTLE Spilberk Castle is just left of the station and a bit up (I would give you a north / east description if I was one of those people who always travels with a compass, but I’m not). This is a funky little place in the middle of a min-forest. It takes some effort climbing to its base, but it’s worth it. It’s free to get in, and you can either look around and then leave or pay for entry to the museum and look out tower – the latter of which gives excellent view over the city. At the top there is a restaurant and a cafe and a stage for summer performances too. D IS FOR DEAD MONKS Lots and lots of them. The Capuchin Monastery Crypt is the place where monks were accidentally mummified years ago, and now they charge you to see them. Nice in a gory kind of way. E IS FOR ENGLISH BOOKS And newspapers which seem readily available. One shop near Intersport had and especially wide range. I would give you its name if they’d given me a receipt which they didn’t. Prices are good – some were even lower than in the UK because of the current exchange rate. F IS FOR FOREIGNERS Of which there were not many, even on a Saturday in mid summer. I’m guessing this is because everyone
heads straight for Prague but there could be some other wonderful reason that no one’s told me about :) G IS FOR GREEN And how green it is! You could almost imagine you were in England again. Be warned though, before you go trekking over what looks like simply a patch of grass. Chances are their are tram lines underneath and any minute a lovely little rickety old tram will come trundling along and, well, run you over (or give you a fright at the very least). H IS FOR HISTRORICAL MYTHS Brno is full to the brim with these. I would recommend the book from the Tourist office (about 1.50 GBP) called “A Walking Tour Of Brno”. Available in numerous languages it details all the things worth seeing and tells you all the little stories and tales that have emerged over the years. Some are even funny. I IS FOR ICE CREAM Supposedly the best in Moravia, so naturally I had to sample it. Managed to have 3 on Saturday (all between the hours of 10 am and 5 pm). It is delicious even if it looks a bit off putting – or is it only me who doesn’t have an undying urge to sample fluorescent yellow vanilla? J IS FOR JANACEK THEATRE This is the home of Brno’s Opera and Ballet companies, but being summer they’re all on hiatus (and not getting tans I would imagine if they’re dancers – unless it’s only British companies who demand this). I couldn’t go in, but the outside was quite impressive. K IS FOR KOMERCNI BANK Right in the centre and therefore handy for all your money needs. They cash travellers cheques, have a cirrius ATM and give cash advances on credit cards, plus have a beaureux de change if you have cash with you to change. L IS FOR LOW PRICES Entrance fees are typically 17p for students, and a whopping 35p for adults. This was true in at least 90% of the places I visited. In the shops
prices were equally favourable. I only spent 10 GBP the whole weekend, which included 4 meals, ice creams, souvenirs and entrance fees to everywhere in the centre. M IS FOR MORAVIAN MUSEUM A very odd little place in between the station and the castle. They had standard historical displays of dirt, jewellery, coins and dead animals, but only a very limited quantity of each. And that was it. N IS FOR NAMESTI SVOBODY The main square which joins at least 8 roads. Home to shops and cafes aplenty, and some fountains and benches too. Find this and you’ll also find sign posts to all the attractions. O IS FOR OLD TOWN HALL Another very odd museum which consisted of just one room with a circle of chairs surrounding a collection of moving pictures which you spent 17 minutes (the guy was very precise) looking at. Never did really figure out what they were pictures of though. Not worth the 17p....... P IS FOR PETER AND PAUL CATHEDRAL Which I would have climbed had I been able to find the steps. Did go inside though and it was lovely although the ceiling was a bit plain. Here the clocks strike noon at 11am. Why? Well many years ago the Swedish army were planning on invading. The guy in charge of them gave them until 12pm to seize control of the town, and after that her would retreat. On hearing this the townsfolk moved noon forward and hour and got rid of those nasty Swedes once and for all. To this day they continue to ring noon at 11am as a reminder. Q IS FOR QUITE RUDE CHURCH AKA St James‘ Church. This is fabulous inside as it doesn’t have the OTT goldness most ancient churches do. Outside there are lots of figures moulded into the spire and roof, and one of these is a little boy flashing his bum at the people below. This was supposedly the work of a p***ed off stone mason when the church was being built, and they didn’t notice until it was
too late. R IS FOR RESTAURANTS Plenty all over, and nice and cheap. My meal was less than 2 GBP (it would have been about 80p had I not chosen to complement my pasta with an internationally branded drink – i.e. Coca Cola for which they charge comparatively extortionate rates.) The choice is varied – I say fast food chains, Italian, Czech, Indian and Mexican places among others. S IS FOR SHOPPING New Yorker was my favourite as they had many things for 1.50 GBP. The have shoe shops (lots of shoe shops) and clothes shops and bag shops and book shops and stationary shops and lots more. They all shut at 1pm on Saturdays though, and don’t open at all on Sundays. You have been warned..... Only exception is Tesco which sells not only food and clothes, but also toys, electrical items, stationary, books, perfume – on 5 floors behind the train station, very useful when you need something to eat on the journey and all the other places are closed. T IS FOR TRANSPORT Getting to Brno is pretty easy – busses and trains run frequently from Prague, Bratislava and Vienna among others, and there’s an international airport although from what I saw it seems to be on a par with Blackpool airport - so not really a place you’d want to use on a regular basis then.... Once in the city the only way to travel is by foot, and places are signposted. If you’re staying outside the city, busses and trams are your best bet. Tickets are 20p per ride, or about 1 GBP for 24 hours. The station is nice and central, and almost all trams stop outside it. Lots of taxis are around too for when you have a lot of luggage or just cannot be bothered. U IS FOR UTTERLY INCOMPETENT TOURIST OFFICE STAFF As you should know, I am a great believer in foreign languages and although I never expect everyone to speak English, you would think at a tourist office they would have people
who weren’t just monolingual. I tried English. I tried German. Hell, I even tried French and Italian but to no avail. Eventually though (after about 15 mins) the 3 on the desk called for the 4th to come out and she could speak pidgin English so it was ok. Why she wasn’t out there serving to start with though is anyone’s guess. V IS FOR VORONEZ My hotel, a 4* affair with conference centre attached. One of the most famous hotels in Brno. Look out for an op coming your way this time tomorrow, W IS FOR WHOLE AGAIN Arrrggghhh. I needed some music whilst heading out to the Augustinian Monastery (which I never found) and as my batteries were dying, I had to make do with the Czech equivalent of Radio 1 as this takes less power. Over and over again they played Atomic Kitten’s increasingly annoying „hit“. I get this all the time on Ö3 too (my current listening to in Austria station). Will it never end? X IS FOR X-RATED NIGHT CLUB DISCOTEQUES As they call them. These were everywhere, no doubt to cater for the Business men’s “needs“. Brno hosts numerous trade fairs throughout the year and so the majority of their visitors are here for corporate reasons. Y IS FOR YVES ROCHER Just one of several international chains in appearance here. Others include Mc Donald’s, KFC and Intersport. Z IS FOR ZELNY TRH The second largest square in the city. Home to the cabbage market. Enough said really. Verdict : A nice place to visit but I wouldn’t want to live there. Brno is a "real" Czech city, with fewer tourists than Prague, but as a result there are fewer things to do. Still, enough to do and see to warrant a short break, but nothing longer.
Prague has become the fashionable city break in Europe but many people have overlooked Brno, the capital of the Czech province of Moravia, an area with a fascinating history. Brno Lake was a popular tourist area during Communist times and has managed to attract many western tourists over the last decade or so. The lake itself is set in woodland with hotels scattered liberally around. It's almost impossible to believe that there's a major industrial city jsut down the road. Thanks to the communist legacy, Brno is regularly served by trams which take about 20 minutes to travel from the lake into the city centre. One of the 'must-see' places in Brno is the Kapuchin Monastery where monks were accidentally mummified (after death of course). This led to the order using mummification to preserve its deceased members and they are still on show there today! Brno has all the bars and clubs one would expect of a major city - it's nearly 10 years since I first visited Brno and, at the time, it was described as the 'Manchester of Moravia' - while retaining a dignity and friendliness which many other cities have lost I found it far more beautiful than Manchester (sorry Mancunians!)and the Moravians are some of the friendliest people I have ever met I would wholejeartedly recommend it as an alternative to Prague.
Brno (German: Brünn) is the second-largest city in the Czech Republic. It was founded in 1243 although the area had been settled since the 5th century. Today Brno has over 360,000 inhabitants and is the seat of the Constitutional Court of the Czech Republic, Supreme Court, and Supreme Prosecutor's Office