Friday, September 30, 2022

RAF Museum, Ivančice

After checking out Dolní Kounice we headed over to Ivančice for lunch.  I was hearing "RAF" in Czech which didn't make sense to me because in my head RAF is Royal Air Force.  Well I was surprised to find out that I was actually understanding more than I though because RAF was the name of the restaurant.

In addition to being a restaurant, it it also the General Emil Boček RAF Museum.

There are lots of memorabilia about the Czechoslovak pilots who flew for the RAF during the WW2.

If I understood it correctly, one of the general's family members lives in Ivančice and he helped set it up.  

I loved the big table that looks like the wing of a plane.

I had never heard of this place before.  It's not in any guide book but I'm glad that we came here.  It was really interesting and the food was pretty good.  

They even have RAF wine.  I think a return visit is in order to try some.

There's a list of names of the pilots who flew for the RAF during the war.  I knew that there were some Czechoslovak squadrons but I didn't realise just how many pilots there were.

Update March 2023:  General Boček passed away.

Thursday, September 29, 2022

Dolní Kounice, Czech Republic

Yesterday was Czech Statehood Day so we had a public holiday in the middle of the week.  

To celebrate, Kája and I joined a few of his friends from work on a day trip to Dolní Kounice which is a small town in South Moravia, of about 2.500 people, around 25 km (16 miles) south of Brno.  

Dolní Kounice lies in the Bobrava Highlands in the valley of the Jihlava River. 

The oldest convent in Moravia was founded here in 1181.  The village was named Dolní Kounice since the 15th century.  In 1571 it became a town but for some reason lost the title in 1964.  In 1998 it became a town again.

Above the town lies the Pilgrimage Chapel of Saint Anthony.  The original chapel was built in 1654 but the current Baroque chapel replaced it in 1757.  

The way up to the chapel is lined by the Stations of the Cross.  

There's a great view of the city and the entire valley from on top of the hill.

The castle was originally Gothic when it was built in 1330.  During reconstruction in the 16th and 17th centuries it was completed in the Renaissance style.  

The castle is a protected landmark but the owners put it up for sale last month for 500.000.000 Kč ($23.4 million).

The Rosa Coeli "Heavenly Rose" monastery is the town's most well-known historical monument.  It was a female Premonstratensian monastery founded in 1181.  

During the Hussite Wars is was burned  but eventually orderly life returned which lasted until 1527.  There was a fire in 1703 which put an end to renovation efforts.

The Church of St. Barbara, "Barborka" to the locals, sits on the site of a former Gothic site dating back to around 1560.  It was renovated in the Renaissance style in 1688.  From 1862 to 1879 the church was used for Catholic services.  In 1921, the Hussite Church leased it for 15 years.  In the 1990s, the church was renovated and now is home to Orthodox services.

The Neo-Renaissance Catholic Church of St. Peter and St. Paul was consecrated in 1879, having replaced an older church that was destroyed ba a flood in 1862.  The tower is 41,6 metres (136.5) feet tall.

The synagogue was completed in 1655 and it is one of the oldest synagogues in Moravia.  The Nazis closed it in 1940 and it was restored in 1994.

The Jewish cemetery was founded in 1680.  There are around 1300 tombstones and it is a protected cultural monument.

Since the end of WWII, the town hall is located in a house dating back to 1657.  Today it also doubles as the tourist information centre.

The Hotel Vinum Coeli dates back to 1597.  It became an inn back in 1717.  Today, it's a hotel and restaurant, complete with a bowling alley and a gym.

This building has a plaque stating that Jaroslav Skryja once lived here.  

The plaque says that he was a patriotic teacher executed by the Nazis during the period of non-freedom.

In addition to being a teacher, he was also the mayor of Dolní Kounice.  During the Nazi occupation, he joined the resistance.  He was arrested on 13 December 1939 wile teaching.  He was transferred from prison to prison until he was tried in Berlin on 9 July 1942, the day of Reinhard Heydrich's funeral.  He was executed on 27.10.1942 and his family was sent a bill for 2.065,45 Reichsmarks for the execution which included witness fess, transportation costs, posting notices of the execution, last wishes and a reward to the executioner.  I'm not sure but I think that would be around $500 in today's money.

The town's kulturní dům, was completed in 1981.  It's used for cultural and social events.  

Apparently Dolní Kounice is also famous for its red wine.  We didn't try any yesterday but maybe next time.  After exploring the town, we headed over to Ivančice for lunch at the RAF Museum.

Monday, September 26, 2022

European Day of Languages 2022

Today was the 21st anniversary of the European Day of Languages.  

It was an initiative of the Council of Europe, and together with the European Commission, it has been celebrated every year since 2001. 

Here are the top ten most spoken native languages in Europe.

  1. Russian with 160 million native speakers.  It's the official language in four countries and commonly spoken in former Soviet republics.
  2. German has around 97 million native speakers.  While it's the second most spoken language in Europe it is the most spoken language in the European Union.
  3. French has around 71,5 million native speakers with almost 20% of people in the EU able to speak it as a 1st or 2nd language.  French is the second most-taught language in the world after English.
  4. Italian has about 65 million native speakers in Europe.
  5. English as only about 63 million native speakers but once you leave Euroland that number jumps up to more than 1 billion making in the most spoken native language in the world.  
  6. Spanish has only 47 million native speakers in Europe but worldwide there are almost 493 million native speakers making the world's second most spoken native language after English.
  7. Polish has about 38,5 million native speakers.
  8. Ukrainian has about 32,6 million native speakers.  While the majority are located in Ukraine, you can hear Ukrainian spoken across all of Europe with so many refugees from Russia's invasion of the country.
  9. Romanian has about 24 million native speakers if you include Moldovan which is pretty much the same thing.
  10. Dutch comes in 10th place with 22 million native speakers.
Czech comes in 15th place after Turkish, Greek, Hungarian, and Swedish.  Czech only has 10,6 million native speakers and it's only an official language here in Czechland.  

Я за Україну. Я за Україною. Слава Україні  Stojím za Ukrajinou!  I stand with Ukraine. 🇺🇦

Sunday, September 25, 2022

Cooperation With Taiwan

Last week, a memorandum of cooperation was signed in Taipei between Czechland and Taiwan.  This will increase the level of cooperation between the two countries in education, science, and culture.

Czechia wants to see direct flights between Prague airport and Taipei.  Recently, Czechland opened a development centre for research into semiconductors.

The national museum in Prague and the national museum in Taipei will now become sister institutions.

Cooperation between the two countries has been steadily growing.  Foxconn, a Taiwanese electronics manufacturer, runs a subsidiary company called Foxconn CZ, runs its largest European operations centre and EU hub, in Pardubice.  It is one of the most profitable companies in Czechia.  

In March 2020, the countries signed an official partnership to fight Covid-19.  During the Covid crisis, Taiwan provided Czechland with medical equipment.  

In 2021, Czechland supported Taiwan's bid to participate in the World Health Assembly.  

After the June 2021 tornado in South Moravia, Taiwan donated 6,5 million Kč (~$304K) to affected villages.

In August 2021, Czechland gave Taiwan 30.000 Moderna vaccines.

Obviously China isn't thrilled with this because it still considers Taiwan as part of China and views the Czech government as supporting Taiwanese independence.  Objections from Beijing aren't something new.

Back in January 2020, Prague mayor Zdeněk Hřib signed a sister city agreement with Taipei, just two months after cancelling the sister city agreement with Beijing.  It probably didn't hurt that Hřib is a doctor and did his medical internship training in Taiwan.

Unrelated to Taiwan, but another reason that I really like MUDr. Hřib is that in February 2020 he re-named the square in front of the Russian embassy to Náměstí Borise Němcova (Boris Nemcov Square) after the outspoken critic of Vladimir Putin who was assassinated in 2015.

In August 2020, RNDr. Miloš Vystrčil, the President of the Czech Senate, made headlines for  making an official trip to Taiwan.  This was a big deal because China's foreign minister Wang Yi, said that he would pay a "heavy price" for visiting Taiwan.  Not only did he not back down to China, he channeled U.S. President John F. Kennedy's 1963 speech and told Taiwanese lawmakers, in Mandarin Chinese, "I am Taiwanese."

©民視英語新聞 Formosa TV English News

I love that the Czech politicians stand up against authoritarian regimes.  Here's a short video I found on YouTube where Czech MEP Markéta Gregorová shares her thoughts on why the ties between the two countries are getting stronger.

©RTI English

Here's a video from May 2021, former Taiwanese Ambassador at Large Maysing Yang met with both Hřib and Vystrčil in Prague.

©民視英語新聞 Formosa TV English News

It's clear that Czechland and Taiwan maintain strong unofficial relations.  China won't have diplomatic relations with any country that officially recognises Taiwan as an independent country.  So there aren't any official embassies.  Instead, the Czech Republic is represented in Taipei by the Czech Economic and Cultural Office, 捷克經濟文化辦事處.  In Prague, Taiwan has the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office.

In October, the Prague Philharmonic will travel to Taiwan.

©民視英語新聞 Formosa TV English News

Saturday, September 24, 2022

2022 Municipal and Senate Elections

Czechs voted in the 2022 municipal and Senate elections.  Voting in Czechland is held over two days.  On Friday from 14:00 to 22:00 and on Saturday from 8:00 to 14:00.

For the Senate, and presidential, elections there is a two-round plurality voting system in place.  This means that the top two candidates from the first round face off again in a second round of voting.  Czech senators are elected for six-year terms and there are elections every two years.  So every elections ⅓ of all Senate seats are up for grabs.

For municipal elections there's an open party-list proportional representation system.  Municipal councillors are elected for four-year terms.  There are from 5 to 55 councillors for each municipality.  Voters can vote for as many seats are available for the particular municipal council and the votes can be distributed to candidates across all political parties.  Councillors are then selected proportionally based on the number of votes won by each party.

Today I went with Kája to a local elementary school so that he could cast his vote.  He checked in, they gave him an envelope that he took to a voting area.  After making his choices, placed his votes in a sealed envelope and placed it in the voting bin.  It seemed pretty easy and he was done in just over 10 minutes.

EU-citizens are allowed to vote in the Czech municipal elections.  Here's a short PSA video in English, with Prague mayor Zdeněk Hřib, telling people about voting in municipal elections.


I not an EU-citizen so I don't get to vote.  I still need to sort out a notarised copy of my birth certificate so that I can finally submit my application for Czech citizenship.  Once I become a Czech citizen then I'll finally be able to vote.

The second round of voting for the Senát will take place on 30 September and 1 October 2022.

Thursday, September 22, 2022

1200 Years of Moravia

Tomorrow evening there's a concert at the Brno Exhibition Centre to commemorate the first written mention of Moravia back in 822 AD.  1200 years ago!  The Brno Philharmonic will perform Janáček's Sinfonietta, his most famous work, for an audience of 1200 people.

Back in the autumn of 822, the Frankish King Louis I the Pious, who was the son of Emperor Charlemagne, went to Frankfurt am Main to spend the winter after a hunting trip.  While he was there a congress was held where the envoys of all of the Eastern Slavs could be heard.  The Moravians were among those there and this is the first written mention of Moravia and the Moravians.  

The concert sounds nice but unfortunately I've already got plans.  

Update 2022:  Here's a short YouTube video I found from the concert.


Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Emil Zátopek and Dana Zátopková

Yesterday, 19 September, was 100 years since Czech athletes Emil Zátopek and Dana Zátopková were born.  

No, they weren't twins.  They were husband and wife.  They just happened to have been born on the same day in 1922.

They were the track and field power couple of Czechoslovakia.

Dana Ingrová was a college handball player who led the Czechoslovak handball team to a national title.  Later she became the first Czech woman to throw a javelin over 40 metres which qualified her for the 1948 London Olympics.

Emil Zátopek worked at the Baťa shoe factory in Zlín.  He served in the army as a runner.  He gained fame for riding a bicycle from Prague to Berlin a won a 5000-metre race in an Allied Occupation meet.

The two met when Emil congratulated Dana on qualifying for the Olympics and they discovered that they had the same birthday.  At the 1948 Olympics, Emil won the gold medal in the 10.000 metre race and the silver medal in the 5.000 metre race while Dana placed 7th in the javelin throw.  They got married shortly after the Olympics.  

At the 1952 Helsinki Olympics, Dana set an Olympic record for the javelin and became the first Czech woman to win an Olympic gold medal.  


Emil won three gold medals for the 5.000 metres, 10.000 metres, and the marathon.  He decided at the last minute to compete in the marathon, the first marathon of his life, and he won.  To this date he is still the only person to win all three races at the same Olympics.  He gained the nickname of the "Czech Locomotive".

Emil retired after placing 6th at the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne.  Dana placed 4th in Melbourne but won the silver medal at the 1960 Olympics in Rome.

The Communist party promoted him as a national hero.  However, he supported the Prague Spring and vocally opposed the 1968 Soviet-led invasion.  As a consequence he was expelled from the Communist Party, stripped of his rank and kicked out of the army.  He was not allowed to hold any important position and was forced to perform manual labour including work in a mine.  After the Velvet Revolution he was removed from the "bad list" and fully welcomed back to Czechoslovak society.

In 1998, he was awarded the Medal of Merit, First Grade.

Between Dana and Emil they broke 35 world records.  Dana received the Olympic Order for distinguished contributions to the Olympic movement.  In 2012, Emil was one of the first 12 athletes to be inducted into the IAAF Hall of Hame and in 2013, the editors at Runner's World Magazine named him as the Greatest Runner of All Time.

In 1995 he appeared in an Adidas commercial.

Emil and Dana were married for 52 years.  He passed away in 2000 at the age of 78 while she passed away in 2020 at the age of 97.

In 2021, the movie Zátopek was released.  I still need to see it but it won 8 Czech Lions.  Here's the movie trailer that I found on YouTube.

©Falcon filmové novinky

Here's a 4-minute CNN piece they did in 2012 to commemorate the 60th anniversary of Emil's win in Helsinki.  It includes an interview with Dana.


Yesterday's animated Google Doodle honoured the Zátopeks but it could only be seen in Czechland, Slovakia, Greece, Bulgaria, and Iceland.  Not sure why only these five countries, and not even Finland, but I'm sure that Google had a reason.

Happy 100th birthday to Emil Zátopek and Dana Zátopková!!