Brno, besides only having one vowel, is the second-largest city in Czech Republic, but you wouldn’t know it by looking at it. While the trams look the same and some of the chains remain (Bageterie Boulevard!), it has its own feel. Namely, it’s quieter. The pace of life is much slower, something I noticed as no one on the crowded sidewalk attempted to cross the street until the light changed, even though there wasn’t a car in sight. Friends lingered over breakfast, students chatted on street corners, no one itching to get away to the next best thing. It takes a certain type of person to choose a life in Prague, but it also takes a certain type of person to choose a life in Brno.
It was an early morning for me and my friends Julianna and Shelley, as we wanted to get the most out of our day in Brno. Awake before the sun, we trekked through the lamp-lit streets to our metro stop. As soon as we got to the bus station and climbed into our seats, we promptly feel back asleep. Two-and-a-half hours later, we arrived in Brno.
While admittedly we visited Brno on a weekday, we were still some of the only tourists in the city. As a place where pedestrians and cars share the same cobble-stoned streets, it has next to no tourist culture (such a rarity! I love it!). I couldn’t even find a storefront where I could buy a “Brno” magnet! The closest notion to tourism is the token trdelník counter, because as any good Czech will tell you, trdelník is not a traditional Czech food (but still the tourists eat it up!).
Our first stop on arrival in Brno was Café Podnebí, a quaint nook nestled at the foot of Špilberk Hill. We had a fulfilling brunch of porridge, crêpes, and eggs before trekking up the hill to explore Špilberk Castle!
Since the morning was quite overcast, our view of the city from the castle was a bit obscured, but I think it added to the ambiance. Once inside Špilberk Castle, we toured through some fascinating art exhibits as well as the old casemates (prison). One of my favorite parts of being in Czech Republic is seeing the art made by the locals. Since the country has such a rich and varied history, seeing the art created by its citizens throughout the decades and centuries gives you an incredible glimpse into the Czech experience and the psyche of Czech Republic’s people.
Then, we just explored the city, trying to get a feel for it. We tried to go to the Cabbage Market Square (Zelný trh in Czech–try pronouncing that!), but unfortunately it wasn’t in season. We stumbled on the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul, which is beautiful and oh-so-tall! The stained glass inside is something else, but photos weren’t allowed so you’ll have to see it for yourself!
The cathedral was on what I believe to be Petrov Hill, and there was a nice little park with a pretty overlook of the city and surrounding mountains, so of course we visited it and took a break from all the walking we’d been doing.
Then, we went back into the main downtown area for some window shopping (and actual shopping!). I found a great pair of high-waisted jeans from Lindex that are so comfortable I don’t think I’m wearing any other pair of pants ever again.
One of the most interesting parts about Brno (and most of Czech Republic for that matter) is the juxtaposition of the old and the new, the ancient and the modern. Walking around, it’s remarkable how such stunning architecture that is truly a work of art is just a normal part of the everyday backdrop, and how these same, centuries-old buildings have KFCs or lekarnas operating out of them. If I think about it too much, my head starts to hurt.
For an early dinner, we stopped by U Richarda, a cozy spot on a quiet street. I got a four-cheese (four! cheese!) veggie burger with Belgian fries, and Julianna got a massive burrito.
Being the tourists we are, we couldn’t resist stopping by the trdelník window on our way to the bus station. Juliana got a “trdeldonut” which is basically trdelník but bigger and covered in chocolate, but I balanced her out with some trdelník dippers, which are trdelník rings with Nutella on the side!
On the train ride home, I did a lot of reading and watching the countryside pass me by. I’ve been trying to tackle Paris by Edward Rutherfurd, an 800-page masterpiece of a novel, for a few weeks now, and (finally) I’m almost finished! The best part of long train rides is that I get to read, uninterrupted, for hours on end, which is a rarity with my busy life as a student. I’m tackling mid-terms at the moment, which is one of the most stressful weeks of the semester, but I have loads of travel to look forward to next month, and I can’t wait to take you along with me!
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Here’s a bonus photo because I’ve never seen a building painted like this before! Plus, it’s a theatre! How #onbrand
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