Wednesday, October 31, 2018

150 Years of Brno Trams

Brno has one of the oldest permanently used tram networks in the world and next year will be 150th anniversary.

In 1869 a horse-drawn tram line started operating.  Steam trams began operation in 1884 until 1914.  The first electric rail lines began operating in 1900.

In Czech the word for 'tram' is tramvaj.  In the Brno dialect the word is šalina which comes from the German 'Elektrische Line' meaning electric lines.

In November a jubilee tram will begin operating.  The art deco tram will run on lines #4 and #8.

Next year there will be a ceremony which will include the people who sponsored seats on the new tram.  I'm one of the patrons.

Update: (December 2018)  I haven't been on the tram yet but a friend sent me a photo of the seat I sponsored.
Update: (April 2019) I finally saw the tram.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Something Historic Going On

There was something historic going on in Brno tonight.  Not sure what it was but it must have had something to do with yesterday's Czechoslovak centennial.

The front balcony of the philharmonic is where it was announced that Czechoslovakia declared independence.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Happy Birthday Czechoslovakia

Všechno nejlepší Československo!  Happy Birthday Czechoslovakia!

Today is the 100th anniversary of the founding of Czechoslovakia, specifically the First Republic, following the end of WWI.

It used to seem weird to me to celebrate the establishment of a country which no longer exists.  It still does a bit but not as much as before.  Personally, I still think it would have been better for Czechia and Slovakia to have stayed together.  But that's just my opinion.

In 1993, the Velvet Divorce split the country in to the Czech and Slovak Republics.  There will be firework celebrations across the country tonight.  I guess in Slovakia as well but who knows?  Even Google got in on the 100th with today's Google Doodle.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Czech Pastries

On special occasions it is common to bring in a box of sweets to the office.  Kind of like bringing in a box of donuts in the USA but way, way better.  When it comes to Czech sweets there is more than just medovník and Christmas cookies.

Any Cukrána, a sweet shop/bakery, will have dozens of choices of mini pastries and small slices of cake to choose from.

Schwarzvaldsk​ý dort
 (Black Forrest cake)
One thing that I've had to get used to over the years is that sweets here are no where near as sweet as in the USA.  Cakes here, which look quite decadent, just aren't as sinful as back home.  This goes for the whipped cream too.  In the USA, whipped cream is sweet but here it isn't.  It's just whipped cream without any extra sugar.

Větrník (a pinwheel) is basically creampuff that's filled with vanilla and caramel cream, and is then topped with a caramel glaze.

Věneček is a bit smaller with a hole in the middle.

Kremrole is a cream role.  Puffy, crispy dough filled with either whipped cream or meringue.  Kind of like a cannoli and oh so good.

Kokosová laskonka is a white coconut meringue with a creamy filling.  Basically a Czech macaroon and a way lower price than you'd pay in France.

Pěnový indiánek are "little foamy Indians"; basically kind of a tall chocolate covered marshmallow on a small cookie base.  I guess it would be the Czech cultural equivalent of a Twinkie, but different.

Třený rohlíček are "rolled little rolls".  Basically cookies (or "biscuits" in British English) sandwiched with cream or marmalade and often dipped in chocolate.

Kávový oválek, little coffee ovals, are basically the same thing as a rohlíček just in a different shape and flavour.

Šlehačková trubička is a little whipped cream tube.  This one filled with chocolate cream.

Krémová trojroláda is a cream role cake covered in chocolate.

Linecké are Linzer cookies.  Crisp butter cookies sandwiched with redcurrant jam and dusted with powered sugar (icing sugar).

Punčový řez is a slice of punch cake. Usually rum punch and popular with the adults.

Tvarohový řez is a slice of tvaroh cake.  So here's the deal on tvaroh.  It is translated as "curd cheese" but it's not the same thing as cream cheese or cottage cheese.  It's not ricotta cheese either.  It is strained mile curds without any added salt and it has about the same fat content as yogurt.  It is kind of sweet but sort of a moderately sour cream cheese, but much drier than American cream cheese.  In Germany and Austria they call it Qvark which also has no equivalent in English.

Jahodo-jogurtový řez is strawberry yogurt cake with a layer of gelatine on top.

Banánový tunel is a chocolate banana cream roll cake.

This is just a small sample of Czech sweets.  And before anyone asks, I did not eat all of these.  One of the lads at work has a mom with a cukrána.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018


Bohemia, along with Moravia and Silesia, make up the Czechlands.  It is the largest, and most western part, of the country.  It is home to 6,5 million people.

Bohemia was part of the Holy Roman Empire and the Austro-Hungarian Empire.  Prague has long been the historic capital of the region.

At the end of WWI, it became part of Czechoslovakia.  The German-speaking areas of the Sudetenland were annexed by Germany in 1938.  The remaining parts of Bohemia were occupied as the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia until Czechoslovakia reunited following the war.

The Czech word of 'Bohemia' is Čechy, which is why Moravians can be quick to point out that whilst they are Czech and not Čechy (Bohemians).

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Czech Silesia

České Slezsko is the Czech portion of Silesia.

Together with Bohemia and Moravia it is one of the three areas that make up Czech Republic.

Czech Silesia is located in the north-east portion of the country and it is home to about one million people.  The former capital is Opava and the largest city is Ostrava.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018


Silesia is a region in Central Europe located along the Oder River.  It is home to about 8 million people and it a bit larger than Maryland.

Over the centuries it has been part of Moravia, Bohemia, the Holy Roman Empire, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Prussia, and Germany.  After WWI, the majority became part of Poland with a German-speaking portion going to Czechoslovakia.  Today most of Silesia is located in Poland with small bits in Germany and Czechland.  Czech Silesia is home to one million people.

Silesia is rich in mineral and natural resources specifically limestone, marble and basalt.

The three largest cities are Wrocław, Katowice, and Ostrava.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Halloween Cookies

Times have changed since I first moved to Brno almost ten years ago.  Halloween wasn't a thing over here and it was incredibly difficult to find a Halloween costume.

Aside from the IBM costume contest, including that year we went as the Smurfs, I still don't think that Halloween has really become a thing over here.  However, I did come across some Halloween cookies and brownies for sale at the grocery store yesterday.  Maybe it is getting to be more common?

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Alexander Dubček

Alexander Dubček (1921-1992) was a Slovak politician and was the leader of Czechoslovakia from January 1968 to April 1969.  His efforts to reform the communist government during the Prague Spring resulted in the Soviet-led invasion in August 1968.

He was born in Uhrovec, 157 km (98 miles) from Bratislava on 27 November 1921.  His father was a member of the Czechoslovak Communist Party and the family settled in Kyrgyzstan but returned in 1938.  Dubček was part of the resistance during the Nazi occupation.  Following the war he rose up the ranks of the party and in 1962 he became a full member of the Central Committee's Presidium.  In January 1968 he became First Secretary of the Communist Party.

Dubček's slogan of "socialism with a human face" ushered in the liberal reforms of the Prague Spring.  Although he remained loyal to communism he wanted Czechoslovakia to pursue its own path while maintaining a socialist government.  Censorship of the media was lifted which fuelled a new wave of Czechoslovak films.  Victims of the Stalin-era political purges were rehabilitated and strikes were legalised.  Equality in economic relations between Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union was demanded along with a desire for Soviet advisors to be removed from the country.  He wanted real elections with secret ballots for party officials.  While his popularity soared with the people the loosening of control upset the communist hardliners.

The Soviets and leaders of other Warsaw Pact countries weren't happy about the reforms.  They didn't want a more westernised Czechoslovakia.  Dubček thought that as long as he reassured everyone that the country would remain loyal to Moscow then there wouldn't be any intervention like when Hungary was invaded in 1956.  He was wrong and on 20-21 August 1968 the country was invaded in the largest military operation in Europe since WWII.

Dubček and other five other reformers were arrested and taken to Moscow.  Brezhnev bullied him with threats of incorporating Slovakia into the Soviet Union while splitting Bohemia and Moravia into a new country under Soviet rule.  Dubček conceded and signed the 15 doctrines of the Moscow Protocol which ushered in a rigid era of normalisation that restored strict communist order in the country.

In March 1969 the Czechoslovak ice hockey team beat the Soviet Union at the World Cup.  Some fans went crazy and destroyed the offices of the Soviet airlines and some other institutions.  This came to be known as the Czechoslovak Hockey Riots and afterwards Dubček was forced to resign.  In 1970 he was expelled from the Communist Party.  He then worked in Slovakia for the Forestry Service.  He never got involved with any dissent groups.

Following the Velvet Revolution, he was elected Chairman of the Federal Assembly in 1989.  In 1992 he became leader of the Social Democratic Party of Slovakia and represented the party in the Czechoslovak Parliament.  On 1 September 1992 he was in a car crash.  As a result of his injuries he died on 7 November 1992.

Here's an interesting 10 minute video I found out on YouTube.