Sunday, 16 December 2012



Brno by population and area is the second largest city in the Czech Republic, the largest Moravian city, and the historical capital city of the Margraviate of Moravia. Brno is the administrative center of the South Moravian Region where it forms a separate district Brno-City District.

The Brno basin has been inhabited since prehistoric era, however, the direct ancestor of Brno was a fortified settlement of the Great Moravia Empire known as Staré Zámky which was inhabited since the Neolithic Age to the early 11th century. In the early 11th century Brno was established as a castle of non-ruling Prince from the House of Přemyslid, and Brno became one of the centres of Moravia along with Olomouc and Znojmo.

In 1243 Brno received the large and small city privileges from the King, and thus it was recognized as a royal city. In 1324 Queen Elisabeth Richeza of Poland (cz: Eliška Rejčka) founded the current Basilica of the Assumption of Our Lady where is now her final resting place. In the 14th century, Brno became one of the centres for the Moravian regional assemblies, whose meetings alternated between Brno and Olomouc. These assemblies made political, legal, and financial decisions. Brno and Olomouc were also the seats of the Land Court and the Land Tables, thus they were the two most important cities in Moravia. From the mid 14th century to the early 15th century the Spilberk Castle had served as the permanent seat of the Margraves of Moravia (Moravian rulers), one of them was elected the King of the Romans.

In the 1641 Brno became the sole capital of Moravia. During the 17th century Spilberk Castle was rebuild into a huge baroque citadel. In 1777 the Brno Bishopric was established. In 1839 the first train arrived in Brno from Vienna, this event was the beginning of rail transport in today's Czech Republic. In the years 1859-1864 the city fortification was almost completely removed. In 1869 a horsecar service started to operate in Brno, it was the first tram service in today's Czech Republic.

Veveří Castle
In the mid 11th century, Moravia was divided into three separate territories; each one of them had its own ruler, coming from the Přemyslids dynasty, but independent of the other two, and subordinated only to the Bohemian ruler in Prague. Seats of these rulers and thus "capitals" of these territories were castles and towns of Brno, Olomouc, and Znojmo. In the late 12th century, Moravia began to reunify, forming the Margraviate of Moravia. Since then, until the mid of the 17th century, it was not clear which town should be the capital of Moravia. Political power was therefore "evenly" divided between Brno and Olomouc, but Znojmo also played an important role. The Moravian Diet (cz: Moravský Zemský sněm), the Moravian Land Tables (cz: Moravské Zemské desky), and the Moravian Land Court (cz: Moravský Zemský soud) were all seated in both cities at once. However, Brno was the official seat of the Moravian Margraves (rulers of Moravia), and later its geographical position closer to Vienna also became important. Otherwise, until 1642 Olomouc was larger than Brno as the population number is concerned, and it was the seat of the only Roman Catholic diocese in Moravia. Since 1573, Olomouc was also the seat of the only Moravian university existing at that time (nowadays Palacký University of Olomouc).

Mahen Theatre
In 1641, in the midst of the Thirty Years' War, the Holy Roman Emperor and Margrave of Moravia Ferdinand III commanded permanent relocation of the diet, court, and the land tables from Olomouc to Brno, as Olomouc's Collegium Nordicum made it one of the primary targets of Swedish armies. In 1642 Olomouc surrendered to the Swedish army which then stayed there for 8 years. Meanwhile Brno, as the only Moravian city which managed to defend itself from the Swedes, served as the sole capital of the state (Margraviate of Moravia). After the end of the Thirty Years' War (1648), Brno retained its status as the sole capital. This was later confirmed by the Holy Roman Emperor Joseph II in 1782, and again in 1849 by the Moravian constitution. In 1948 the communist government of Czechoslovakia abolished Moravian autonomy, stripped Brno of its title, and transferred all political power in the country into one center which is Prague. At the present day, the Moravian Land Tables are stored in the Moravian Regional Archive, and ranks among the national cultural sights of the Czech Republic.

In 1919 two neighbouring towns, the town ofKrálovo Pole, and the town of Husovice, and 21 other municipalities were annexed to Brno, creating Greater Brno (cz: Velké Brno). Greater Brno had 7 times larger area and population of about 222 thousand - before that Brno had about 130 thousand citizens. In 1921 Brno became the capital city of the Land of Moravia (cz: země Moravská), before that Brno was the capital city of the Margraviate of Moravia. Seven years later, Brno became the capital of the Land of Moravia-Silesia. In 1939 Brno was occupied by the army of Nazi Germany, and in 1945 it was conquered by the Red Army.

When the First World War ended in 1918, the population of Brno included about 55,000 German speakers, including almost all inhabitants of Jewish origin. However, most of Brno's Jewish population of about 12,000 were murdered by the Nazis during the German occupation of the country in the years 1939-1945. All Czech universities including that of Brno were closed by the Nazis in 1939, and the university dormitory in Brno was subsequently used as the headquarters of Gestapo. About 35,000 Czechs and also some American and British POW´s were imprisoned and tortured there, with about 800 civilians killed. One source says that executions were public for local Germans for a 3 Reichsmark fee. After the end of the Second World War in 1945, the surviving ethnic German residents were forcibly expelled, as was the case throughout Czechoslovakia. In the so-called “Brünn death march,” beginning on 31 May 1945, about 27,000 German inhabitants of Brno were marched 40 miles overland to the Austrian border. According to postwar testimony collected by German sources, about 5,200 of them lost their lives during the march. However, later estimates by Czech sources put the death toll at about 1,700. The Czech sources say that most deaths were due to an epidemics of Shigellosis.

At the beginning of the Communism Era in Czechoslovakia, in 1948, Brno ceased to serve as the capital city of Moravia. Since then Moravia has been divided into several administrative regions subordinate to Prague, and Brno is the seat of the Regional Authority of the South Moravian Region, originally called the Brno Region. In 1968 Brno was recognized as a statutory city.

Czech food is mostly based around pork and potatoes. A Czech favorite is smažený sýr, fried cheese, which is available at many restaurants and fast food stands. A good option is to visit one of the many pubs or restaurants that usually offer traditional Czech food all day long. You could easily find a restaurant where you get a meal and a drink for around €5, even in the city center. Many of these places also offer cheaper special (limited, pre-prepared) menus at mid-day. Cafés offer a nice selection of rolls and pastries if you're looking for breakfast food. Visit the cukrárna near the House of the Four Idiots on nam. Svobody and try a rakvička ("little coffin", small pastry covered with cream). This is the only place in the Czech Republic to find the chocolate ones. 

The traditional Brno beer is Starobrno, a traditional non-alcoholic drink is kofola (a very different but captivating kind of cola). Both must be tasted in draught form! Dark beer (černé pivo) is sweet and not very common here. There is a small private brewery named Pegas a block west from the steeple of St James Church (sv. Jakub). The pub is equipped with modern brewing technology, beer is made right in front of the guests' eyes.

The go-to bar is the cramped and smoky Charlie's Hat (know to most locals simply as Charlie's), east on Koblizna street from the north end of Freedom Square (50 Kč entry, includes drink voucher). A cluster of more down-tempo bars frequented by students can be found along Dominikánská (Kavárna Trojka - students caffee and bar)and Starobrněnská just west of the Zelný trh (cabbage market square). Around the main square you can find a lot of clubs, pubs, restaurants, coffee houses and lounge bars.

                                                        Brno’s Top 5:
  1. The Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul is located on the Petrov hill in Brno-Center. It is a national cultural monument and one of the most important architectural monuments of South Moravia. The interior is mostly Baroque, while the impressive 84m high towers were built between 1904 and 1905 by architect August Kirstein in the Gothic Revival style. Traditionally, the bells of the Cathedral toll midday at 11 o'clock in the morning instead of at 12 o'clock. According to the legend, during the Thirty Years' War, the invading Swedes laid siege to the city of Brno but had promised that the attack would be halted if they had not succeed in taking the city by midday on August the 15th. When the battle was underway some shrewd citizens decided to ring the bells an hour early, fooling the Swedes who broke off the siege and left empty-handed. Brno was the only city to repel the Swedes during this war.
  2.  Moravské zemské muzeum (Moravian Museum in English) is the second largest and oldest museum in the Czech Republic. The museum was founded in July 1817 by Emperor Francis I.  Its collections include over 6 millions of objects from many fields of science and culture.
  3. Veveří Castle  is a castle located some 15 km northwest of Brno,  on the River Svratka. According to legend, the castle Veveří ("squirrel" in Czech) was founded by Přemyslid Duke Conrad of Brno in the middle of the 11th Century, then only as a hunting lodge. Nevertheless, the first credible recorded mention about the castle is from the years 1213 and 1222, when King Přemysl Otakar I used the fortified castle as a prison for rebellious peers. Initially, it was apparently a wooden residence situated near the church of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary west of the present compound. In the 1220s a stone castle on the extremity of the rocky promontory behind a deep moat cut out of the rock started to grow. The so-called keep is the only structure which has remained well-preserved from this oldest building stage.
  4. Mahen Theatre is a Czech theatre situated in the city of Brno. Mahen Theatre, built as German Deutsches Stadttheater in 1882, was one of the first public buildings in the world lit entirely by electric light. It was built in a combination of Neo-renaissance, Neo-baroque and Neoclassical architectural styles. The city theatre Reduta in Brno burned down in 1870, and the city council decided to build a new theatre building within a short time period. Thanks to the efforts of then mayor Gustav Winterholler, the decision was taken to build a bigger and better theatre at the place of Obstplatz (today's Malinovský square). The commission was assigned to the renowned Vienna architectural studio Fellner and Helmer. The studio was specialized in projects of theatre buildings. Around 1880, their modern type of theatre building was considered as a model.
  5. Špilberk Castle is an old castle on the hilltop. It began to be built as early as the first half of the 13th century by the Přemyslid kings and complete by King Ottokar II of Bohemia. From a major royal castle established around the mid-13th century, and the seat of the Moravian margraves in the mid-14th century, it was gradually turned into a huge baroque fortress considered the heaviest prison in the Austro-Hungarian empire, and then into barracks. This prison had always been part of the Špilberk fortress.

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