Monday, January 30, 2023

Hustopeče, Czech Republic

Kája's birthday was three week ago but we've been busy with work so we decided to celebrate later.  I surprised him with a wellness weekend in Hustopeče.

Hustopeče is a town about 30 km (~19 miles) southeast of Brno, located between Brno and Břeclav.  It is home to about 6.000 people and it is known for almonds and wine.

The area was settled by Germans in the 13th century who called it Auspitz and its first mention was in 1247.  The Germans brought viticulture to the area.  From the start of the 14th century to 1599, Hustopeče was owned by St. Thomas's Abbey in Brno.

In 1572, Hustopeče was given town status by the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian II.  It belonged to the House of Liechtenstein from 1599 to 1848.  In the mid-18th century, Hustopeče was Moravia's largest wine-growing municipality.   

Following WWI, and the end of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the area became part of the newly independent Czechoslovakia.  After the 1938 Munich Agreement, which gave the Sudetenland to Germany, the Nazis took over.  It then became part of the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia.  

The 1910 census indicated that most of the town's inhabitants were ethnic Germans.  After WWII, the German-speaking population, even those who lived here prior to the Nazis, were expelled due to the Beneš decrees.

Almond growing is not that common in Central Europe.  It dates back to the 17th century.  In an effort to supplement food during Communism, the first large-scale orchards were planted in 1949.  

A lot of the almonds goes to making mandlovice (almond brandy).  The almond version of slivovice.  

There are three versions - normal, coffee-flavoured, and cherry-flavoured.  The original mandlovice is my favourite of all of the Czech "-ovices", followed by merunkovice, hruškovice, slivovice, and jablkovice (Calvados).

The town's main landmark is the Church of Saints Wenceslaus and Agnes of Bohemia.  The church was built in 1994 on the site of the original church that dated back to the early 14th century.  

The Baroque plague column dates back to 1736.

The Žumberák fountain dates back to 1595.  It used to be one of the town's few sources of drinking water.

Town Hall

The Neo-Renaissance town hall was built in 1906.  

Dům U Synků

The Dům U Synků is a Renaissance house dating back to 1579.  It was renovated in 2001and today the building is used for cultural purposes.  It is home to the City Museum and a Gallery.

The House of Lords of Vizovice was built from 1488 to 1492.  It was renovated in 2002.

At Calvary Hill is the Chapel of St. Rocha that was built in the 17th century during a plague epidemic.  It sits in a park overlooking the town.

T.G. Masaryk, the first president of Czechoslovakia lived in Hustopeče from 1861 to 1868.  There is a 2 km (1.25 mile) trail that can be followed to see places associated with the family. 

His parents are buried in the town cemetery.

Near the town cemetery is the Red Army cemetery.  There are 101 individual graves and a total of 1.875 Soviet soldiers buried here.  Renovations that took place in 2005 were financed by Russia.

The earliest known Jewish community in Hustopeče was during the 15th century.  The Jewish cemetery dates back to 1886 with the last known burial taking place prior to 1942.  During the German occupation the cemetery was vandalised, and later the Communists removed all of the gravestones in the 1980s.  Now there is just a memorial plaque for the town's Jewish population that perished during the Holocaust.

The train from Brno to Hustopeče takes 45 minutes and we arrived at our hotel on Friday evening.  I booked us in at Hotel Amande and really enjoyed our stay.

The hotel restaurant was excellent and on Saturday we had the full wellness experience complete with a private relaxation room and massages.

I hear that from the second half of March to the beginning of April, the almond orchards are covered with pink flowers.  I'm sure that its beautiful and we'll need to make a return trip to visit some of the local wine cellars. 

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Brno Philharmonic

Filharmonie Brno was formed in 1956 and last September it kicked off its 67th season.  The season includes three international tours.  Last October the Philharmonic was in the UK and South Korea, and in February it will play seven locations.

08.02. - Carnigie Hall - New York City, NY
10.02. - Hill Auditorium, Ann Arbor, MI
13.02. - Granada Theatre, Santa Barbora, CA
14.02. - McCallum Theatre, Palm Desert, CA
15.02. - The Soraya, Northridge, CA
18.02. - Helzberg Hall, Kansas City, MO
20.02. - Buddy Holly Hall, Lubbock, TX

This will be the first time that the Brno Philharmonic has played in the USA in 50 years.

©Filharmonie Brno/Brno Philharmonic

Besední dům is home to the philharmonic.  In May it will celebrate 150 years since it opened.

It 1918, the front balcony was used to inform the townspeople that the newly formed country of Czechoslovakia declared independence after almost 400 years of being ruled by the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

Dennis Russell Davis is the Brno Philharmonic's music director and chief conductor.  He's American and earned his doctorate at Juilliard.

He's been the chief conductor in Brno since the 2018-2019 season.

There's a cool thing that the philharmonic is doing this season to help get children interested in music.  Na půlku za půlku (Half for Half) is geared for children form 7 to 12 years old, who can manage the first half of a concert but aren't yet old enough to manage the second half.  So on three selected Friday evenings, kids and their parents enjoy the first half of the concert, and during the second half, there's a music workshop for the kids while the parents continue to enjoy the concert without them.  On these evenings, the children's discounted tickets receive a further 50% discount.

Monday, January 23, 2023

Mendel University

Mendel University, MENDELU, was founded in 1919, making it the country's oldest independent specialised university.

It was originally established as the University of Agriculture in Brno.  It 1994 it was renamed the Mendel Agricultural and Forestry University in Brno.  From 2010, it has been Mendel University, named after Johann Gregor Mendel - the father of modern genetics.

MENDLU is a public institution with more than 12.000 students studying for bachelors, masters, and doctorate degrees in five faculties and one university institute.

Faculty of Agronomy
Faculty of Forestry and Wood
Faculty of Business Administration and Economics
Faculty of Horticulture
Faculty of Regional Development and International Studies
Institute of Lifelong Education

It is a public university and degrees offered in Czech are free.  Some programmes are taught in English but students have to pay for this.  

In June 2020, for the first time, MENDELU made the QS World University Rankings top 1000.  It placed #701-750.  Here's a short English-language video I found on YouTube about the university.

©Mendelova univerzita v Brně

The university has just run into some trouble.  The National Accreditation Office for Higher Education (NAÚ), has withdrawn accreditation for the Faculty of Business Administration and Economics for doctoral studies in economics.  This only impacts doctoral studies in the one faculty.  Apparently there have been some discrepancies due to plagiarism and some foreign (paying) students have been able to complete doctorate degrees within 30 months.  Normally a doctorate degree should take around 48 months or more to complete.  It appears that the decision to withdraw accreditation isn't final and the university will be able to appeal.

Sunday, January 22, 2023

Brno City Break in 2023

Last year, Time Out magazine published their list of the 16 best city breaks in Europe for 2022.  Brno came in second place.  

This year Brno made the list again but fell to seventh place.  A few spots lower but still in the top ten.

The write up for Brno was pretty much exactly the same as last year.  

Here are the top 18 places.  Several of these are still on my list of places to visit.

  1. Marseille, France
  2. Sheffield, UK
  3. Buhać, Bosnia and Herzegovina
  4. Milan, Italy
  5. Bilbao, Spain
  6. Arles, France
  7. Brno, Czech Republic
  8. Liverpool, UK
  9. Kaunas, Lithuania
  10. Oslo, Norway
  11. Hamburg, Germany
  12. Dublin, Ireland
  13. Inverness, UK
  14. Trikala, Greece
  15. Rotterdam, Netherlands
  16. Freiburg, Germany
  17. Turku, Finland
  18. Valencia, Spain

Saturday, January 21, 2023

Brno Zoo Turns 70

This year the Brno Zoo turns 70 years old.  To help mark the anniversary the zoo has issued a new tourist stamp - number 2766.

I have to admit that it's been a while since the last time I went to the Brno Zoo.  It's going on eight years.  Maybe I'll have to check out this year to see what, if anything, has changed since the last time I was there.

Here's a short video I found out on YouTube but it's only in Czech, without subtitles.

©Info TV Brno

Tuesday, January 17, 2023

Lucie's Birthday 2023

On Saturday, we were at the chata to celebrate Lucie's birthday.  

It's hard to believe that it's already been a year since we celebrated her last birthday.

Due to covid restrictions, she still hasn't been able to take her long awaited trip to South Korea.  So we continued our Asian theme again this year with more karaoke and soju.  Hopefully she'll finally be able to take her holiday this year.

Monday, January 16, 2023

Jan Palach Remembrance Day

Today is the first "significant day" of the year.  It's Jan Palach Remembrance Day and it commemorates his self-immolation in 1969 in protest of the Soviet-led invasion the year prior.  

It's a day worth paying attention to especially when you think of the similarities to what's going on today in Ukraine.  Alexander Dubček's liberal reforms caused the Soviet Union and most of the Warsaw Pact to invade Czechoslovakia

When Ukraine wanted to join the EU and NATO, Russia invaded.

I've heard the story of Jan Palach for years.  What I didn't know about was what happened afterwards.

The communist government didn't want him to be a martyr so it went after his family following his death.  A young lawyer, Dagmar Burešová, defended his family.  She spend most of her career representing dissident opposition leaders.  Following the Velvet Revolution, she became the country's first Minister of Justice.

In 2013, HBO Europe released a three-part miniseries called Hořící keř "Burning Bush" that tells the story  of Dagmar Burešová defending Palach's family.  The series was directed by Polish director Agnieszka Holland.

Following the success of the miniseries, Burning Bush was edited into a film.  It was selected as the Czech entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 86th Academy awards.  However, because it aired on Czech TV prior to the edited version appearing in the cinema, the movie was disqualified from the Oscars.

In 2013, it did win the Czech Lion for Best Film and for the Film Fans Award.

Here's the trailer, with English subtitles, that I found out on YouTube.


Sunday, January 15, 2023

2022 Passport Power

The new passport power index came out and, for the fifth year in a row, Japan has the most powerful passport.  Japanese citizens can visit 193 out of 227 destinations visa-free. 

  1. Japan
  2. Singapore and South Korea
  3. Germany and Spain
  4. Finland, Italy, and Luxembourg
  5. Austria, Denmark, Netherlands, Sweden
  6. France, Ireland, Portugal, United Kingdom
  7. Belgium, Czechland, New Zealand, Norway, Switzerland, USA
  8. Australia, Canada, Greece, Malta
  9. Hungary and Poland
  10. Lithuania and Slovakia
The Czech passport moved up one level from last year and tied with the USA.  Both countries' passports allow for visa-free travel to 186 countries, but not all of the exact same countries.

I need to get to the USA this year to sort our a new notarised copy of my birth certificate so that I can finally apply for my Czech citizenship this year.

Friday, January 6, 2023

Česko Slovensko má talent

Česko Slovensko má talent (ČSMT) is the Czech-Slovak version of the "Got Talent" franchise that is in some +60 countries. 

ČSMT first aired on 29 August 2010 and the tenth season finished airing a couple of months ago.

One of the moderators is Czech and the other is Slovak.  Both Czech and Slovak are spoken by the moderators, judges, and contestants.  

From what I understand, back in the days of Czechoslovakia, the evening news used to always be broadcast in both languages.  The first half was in Czech and the second half was in Slovak.  This was one of the ways that pretty much helped everyone to understand each other.  While Czech and Slovak are pretty close, the younger generations today, in both Czechland and Slovakia, have a harder time understanding the other language.  I wonder how many other shows there are out there that are broadcast in both languages.  

Here's a short clip from season 8 that I found out on YouTube.  The contestant plays clips from songs in several languages and holds up cards with similar sounding but incorrect lyrics.  I think it's pretty funny.

©TV Prima

Nikola Kusendová is a 15-year old from Slovakia who just won season 10.  Here's her winning performance.  

©TV Prima

Tuesday, January 3, 2023

Croatia Joins Eurozone & Schengen

New Year's Day was a big day for Croatia.  It officially joined both the Eurozone and Schengen.

When the country joined the EU back in 2013, it had to commit to eventually replacing its currency, the kuna, with the Euro.  But then again, Czechland joined the EU in 2004 and still hasn't switched.

Croatia is now the 20th member of the Eurozone and the first country to join since Lithuania back in 2015.

Here are a couple of short YouTube videos out there about Croatia adopting the Euro.

©The EU Made Simple

Croatia also joined Schengen becoming a member of the world's largest visa free zone.  The thing about joining Schengen, or the EU, or NATO, is that every single member has to agree.  Heck, it's hard enough trying to get four friends to agree on a particular restaurant.  Much less trying to get 26 different countries to agree on something.  Yet, back in December, every member country agreed to let Croatia join.

However, the Netherlands blocked Bulgaria, while Austria blocked both Bulgaria and Romania.


With Croatia in the Schengen club, there are now 27 members.  So whenever it comes time for Bulgaria and Romania to try again, they will also need Croatia to agree as well.

Sunday, January 1, 2023

Happy 2023

Happy New Year!!  Šťastný nový rok!!

In Czechland, it is also Czech Independence Day!

Last night was another Silvestr karaoke party at the cottage.  Lots of fun but we stayed out way too late. 

The Czech presidency of the Council of the European Union ended as well.  As of today, Sweden now holds the presidency.

Update 2023:  Here's a short YouTube video about the change of the EU presidency.

©The EU Made Simple