Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Coffee Talk

Let's take a break from political pandering. I can't assume all eyes are on the United states Democratic race, but it is neck and neck and talk of sharing the ticket has begun. So, really the decision seems to be about who will be the headliner of the show. With that said a break is in order.
As some of you many know, I like to spotlight parts of the world that take an interest in my blog in a series I am calling, "This is your life."
Well, Brno, this is yours...

Brno (IPA: [ˈbr̩.no] (help·info); German: Brünn) is the second-largest city in the Czech Republic. It was founded in 1243 although the area had been settled since the 5th century. Today Brno has over 380,000 inhabitants and is the seat of the Constitutional Court of the Czech Republic, Supreme Court, and Supreme Prosecutor's Office.

Brno is located in the southeast part of the country, at the confluence of the Svitava and Svratka rivers. The city is a political and cultural hub of the South Moravian Region (estimated population of 1,130,000 for the whole region). At the same time, it represents the centre of the province of Moravia, one of the historic lands of the Czech Crown. It is situated at the crossroads of ancient trade routes which have joined northern and southern European civilizations for centuries. Due to its location between the Bohemian-Moravian Highlands and the Southern Moravian lowlands, Brno has a moderate climate.

Brno as such was acknowledged to be a town in 1243 by Václav I, King of Bohemia, but the area itself had been settled since the 5th century. From the 11th century, a castle of the governing Přemyslid dynasty stood here, and was the seat of the non-ruling prince.

During the mid-14th century Brno became one of the centers for the Moravian regional assemblies, whose meetings alternated between Brno and Olomouc. These regional authority organs made decisions on political, legal, and financial questions. They were also responsible for the upkeep of regional records.

During the Hussite Wars, the city remained faithful to King Zikmund. The Hussites twice laid siege to the city, once in 1428 and again in 1430, both times in vain.

During the Thirty Years' War, in 1643 and 1645, Brno was the only city to successfully defend itself from Swedish sieges, thereby allowing the Austrian Empire to reform their armies and to repel the Swedish pressure. In recognition of its services, the city was rewarded with a renewal of its city privileges. In the years following the Thirty Years' War, the city became an impregnable baroque fortress. In 1742, the Prussians vainly attempted to conquer the city, and the position of Brno was confirmed with the establishment of a bishopric in 1777.

In the 18th century, development of industry and trade began to take place, which continued into the next century. Soon after the industrial revolution, the town became one of the industrial centres of Moravia — sometimes it even being called the Czech Manchester. In 1839, the first train arrived in Brno. Together with the development of industry came the growth of the suburbs, and the city lost its fortifications, as did the Spielberg fortress, which became a notorious prison to where not only criminals were sent, but also political opponents of the Austrian Empire. Gas lighting was introduced to the city in 1847 and a tram system in 1869. Mahen Theatre in Brno was the first building in the world to use Edison's electric lamps.

During the "First Republic" (1918 - 1938) Brno continued to gain importance — it was during this period that Masaryk University was established (1919), the state armory (Československá Statni Zbrojovka Brno) was established (1919), and the Brno Fairgrounds were opened in 1928 with an exhibition of contemporary culture. The city was not only a centre of industry and commerce, but also of education and culture. Famous people who lived and worked in the city include Gregor Mendel, Leoš Janáček, Viktor Kaplan, Jiří Mahen, and Bohuslav Fuchs.

In 1939 Brno was annexed by Nazi Germany along with the rest of Moravia and Bohemia. After the war, the ethnic German population of approximately 270,000 was expelled.

Brno today

The Augustinian Abbey of St Thomas, Brno.
St. Peter and Paul Cathedral
Courtyard of the Špilberk Castle
Gate of the Old City Hall
Dominikánská Street in the city centre
Villa Tugendhat
Brno Exhibition CenterBrno Exhibition Center, established in 1928, is the city's premier attraction for international business visitors. Annually, over 1 million visitors attend over 40 professional trade fairs and business conferences held here. In 2007, the center hosted the 14th Meeting of Central European Presidents, and a Rolling Stones concert. Exhibition and convention industry contributes heavily to the region’s economy, while 90% of Czech population associate Brno with trade shows. Thanks to its excellent infrastructure with modern facilities, Brno Exhibition Center has a prominent position in the region. Therefore, Brno can be nicknamed the capital of trade fairs of Central Europe.
Masaryk University, located in Brno, is the second biggest public university-type school in the Czech Republic and the first in Moravia. Today, it consists of nine faculties, more than 190 departments, institutes and clinics. It is recognised as one of the most significant institutions of education and research in the Czech Republic and a respected Central Europe university with democratic traditions advocated since its establishment in 1919.
Špilberk Castle is one of the principal monuments, as is the Cathedral of St. Peter and Paul, also known as Petrov. The cathedral was built during the 14th and 15th centuries. Its bells ring noon at 11 a.m., a tradition since the siege by the Swedes in 1645.
The town has a long history of motor racing. The first races were run as a checkpoint for the Vienna – Breslau race in 1904; in the 1920s, the town hosted the Brno – Soběšice hillclimb race; and in the 1930s, all races were held on the street course called Masaryk Circuit which led through the streets of the western part of the town and neighbouring villages, such as Bosonohy and Žebětín. A series of Czechoslovakian Grand Prix was held from 1930 to 1935, in 1937 and also once after the war, in 1949. Since 1968, Brno has been a permament fixture on the European Touring Car Championship (ETCC) series, and has held motorcycle races since 1965. The road course ceased to be used at the end of 1986 when all motorsport activities resumed at the new permanent Masaryk Circuit, which was completed in 1985 in the northwest section of the town. Among other events, it hosts the Moto GP series. The Czech Moto Grand Prix in 2006 was won by Loris Capirossi.
Ignis Brunensis, an international fireworks competition, is held each June. The show attracts more than 200,000 spectators regularly.
Villa Tugendhat, a unique example of modern functionalistic architecture, designed by Mies van der Rohe and built in the late 1920s close to the centre of the city, was designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2002. Another renowned architect who changed significantly the modern shape of Brno was Arnošt Wiesner. Many of his functionalistic buildings can be found all around the city.
In the 1990s, after more than 70 years of discussion, the city council decided to build a new main train station farther from the centre of the town and to develop a more modern area of the town, which is currently occupied by train track. This plan has been criticised for its possible economical and ecological consequences. The whole Brno railway junction is to be reconstructed, which is very complicated due to its 170 years of development since the first train came to Brno from Vienna in 1839. The construction is projected to finish in 2017. After municipal elections in autumn 2006 this project has been put on hold by new city leadership and it appears that an upgraded main station in the city center will be reconsidered.
The Brno University of Technology, established in 1899, has been developing the Czech Technology Park since 1995.
Every September, Brno is home to a large wine festival (Slavnosti vína) to celebrate the harvest in the surrounding wine-producing region. [1]
Hantec is a unique dialect that originated in Brno, however most peoples' knowledge of it is restricted to a few words.
Brno is the home to the highest courts in the Czech judiciary. The Supreme Court is on Burešova Street, the Supreme Administrative Court is on Moravské náměstí (English: Moravian Square), and the Constitutional Court is on Joštova Street. This makes Brno a second capital of the Czech Republic — or would, if the constitution didn't define the capital as being solely Prague. Thus, Brno might be thought of as the "capital of the judicial branch of government" in the Czech Republic.

So, relax, kick your shoes of and take a visit.
Brno: for a day or a lifetime

(thank you to wikipedia. Without it this post would not have been possible.)