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HOMeur to HOMczesvk

Impressions of the Czech Republic & Slovakia

Quite appropriately – I think – for a report on a Central European region, the 'Impressions of the Czech Republic and Slovakia' here presented, cover both summer, with sunny and bright skies, as well as winter, with snow and icy dark days. Winter in Southern Europe can be drab and miserable, winter images in continental Central Europe radiate character and have something mysteriously attractive. So, here is the mix.

For a Westerner, 'Czechoslovakia' remained hidden behind an ideological, or rather political curtain of mystery and secrecy for half a century. Those who are old enough to remember the little East German Trabant cars crossing into Austria via Prague and Hungary in 1989, have lived through the subsequent realisation that a country like Czechoslovakia, whether as a unity of then or as two States which decided to peacefully split later on, has done nothing more in 1989 than to resume the course of its natural history where it had been brutally interrupted at the outbreak of the Second World War, or actually a year before, when the country was scandalously sold out to Hitler by the infamous München agreement.

Czechia and Slovakia are cultural and economic spaces which are anchored in Western Europe and, reversely, have also left a substantial footprint themselves on West European art and thinking. Antonín Dvořák, Franz Kafka and Moravian born Sigmund Freud are just a few of the names of culture and science to illustrate the point. The Czech and Slovak schoolchildren learn in their history text books about their monarchs of the past, who belonged to dynasties (supposedly...) known to West European schoolchildren as well, the House of Luxembourg and Habsburg. And economically, one can safely state that in the 19th century of industrial revolution, Czechia was the most industrialised region of the Austrian component of the Habsburg Dual Monarchy, while Slovakia was also the most industrialised region of its Hungarian component. The Czechs and the Slovaks were perfectly well on board of Europe's industrial revolution.

In the present report, I will not focus on industrial processes of chemicals and machinery to illustrate the point, be at peace. But, while taking you around to castles, cities and villages, I will surely mention how the 9th century Bohemian Kingdom of the Přemyslid dynasty fell into the hands of Royals of the House of Luxembourg in 1310, how in 1355 Charles IV was the first, but not the last Bohemian King to become ruler of Europe as Holy Roman Emperor and how an early clash between Catholics and Protestants of Bohemian Jan Hus resulted in the Habsburg dynasty taking control of the entire region, all the way to 1918!

I know, it probably all sounds a bit too academic. But just go through the pictures and their comments, and the 'academics' will come alive in things and places we visit in the Czech Republic and in Slovakia, nice, picturesque and attractive, but also with a meaning and significance.


* incl. few scanned slides.

Before visiting the place of your choice:

Adjacent to the Old Town Square, another open space is bordered by the Old Town Hall, with on its facade the famous Astronomical 'Orloj', installed in 1410 and thus the world's oldest astronomical watch in operation. The facade was later also decorated with Gothic style elements, but the amazing feature is definitely the 'Orloj' for its ingenuity and artistic combination of a calendar plate, a golden sun moving around a zodiac circle, the accurate movements of the moon, indications of time, sunrise and sunset, the whole animated with figures which are set in motion on the hour. On the opposite side of the plaza is the Týn Church, expressing a typically Late Gothic verticality which is accentuated by the two tall spires, each adorned with four minor spires on the sides. The present day church was completed in 1450, but a Gothic church had been on this spot already since 1256. Since the emergence in the late 14th century of the early Protestant movement drawing on Jan Hus, the Týn Church had been controlled by the Hussites, until it was recovered by the Catholic Church during the harsh Counter-Reformation of the 1620s.

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