As I always do, I’m taking this last post of 2022 to extend thanks and holiday greetings to the readership of Beyond Prague.
If you’ve followed me for several years already, thank you for your continued readership. If you’ve started following in 2022, thanks for coming on board and I hope you will stay for a long time to come.
Time to Reflect
The November/December timeframe of 2022 marked the tenth anniversary of Beyond Prague and my other website, Pickled Wings. I started building the websites at the urging of a friend and never imagined they’d become the long lasting and satisfying hobby that they have become.
Let’s take a look at where Beyond Prague is after ten years:
For most of the website’s existance, it was a free sub-domain of WordPress. A few years ago, I decided I’d put enough work into it and it had developed enough of a following for me to justify buying a top level domain name for it.
A few years ago, I decided to connect the website to social media via Facebook and Twitter. While Facebook works well enough, having Twitter really didn’t make any difference. In 2022, I shut down the Twitter connection and replaced it with Instagram. So far, Instagram is working better than Twitter did for bringing extra traffic to the website
The most surprising, though not unwelcome, direction Beyond Prague went in was a book writing deal. In late 2018, I was approached by UK based Kuperard Publishers to write the second edition of the Czech Republic volume of their Culture Smart! book series after they had seen the website and liked my writing style. In early 2022, the paperback and ebook editions of the book hit the market
After ten years, the top five most viewed pages on the site are:
This past weekend, we took a trip to Budapest. You may be familiar with my existing article about the Hungarian capital city; if not, you can find it here.
Budapest is a delightful city and certainly not to be missed if you’re traveling through central Europe. This weekend, we mainly went to take in the Christmas markets, but we also fit in a cruise on the Danube river.
On October 4 of 2022, the formerly Russian held territory of Kaliningrad and the Czech Republic proudly announced that the Baltic sea enclave had seceded from Russia to become a Czech governed region.
The secession follows a referendum where more than 97% of Kaliningrad residents voted in favour of leaving Russia. In becoming part of the Czech Republic, the region’s name has been officially changed from Kaliningrad to Královec.
What Does the Change Mean?
The first changes have already taken place in Královec as Czech flags have been raised where Russian flags once flew, and most municipalities have officially changed their names to Czech forms rather than Russian ones.
Other changes currently in progress are the shift to the Czech koruna as the official currency and an increase in the availability of Czech language courses in private language schools.
Czech will eventually become the official language in all public schools in the region, as it will become the official language of Královec. Generous financial incentives have been offered by the Czech government to teachers of the Czech language who are willing to relocate to Královec and expedite the Czech language learning process there.
Of course, changes are underway in the main part of the Czech Republic as well.
The new territory means that the Czech Republic now has its own coast, with well established ports and seaside resorts ready for an influx of Czech tourists eager for a seaside holiday within their own borders.
One of the first changes has been the establishment of a high speed rail link between Prague and the capital city of Královec. More rail links from other Czech cities, as well as air links, to points in the new territory are currently in the planning stages.
Of course, the security of the new region is of paramount importance. Units of the Czech army and air force have taken up permanent station in Královec and the establishment of a naval element of the Czech military is being given top priority.
In these early days, Czech military vehicles and aircraft going into Královec have been painted with a large “Ř”, a letter unique to the Czech language, in addition to their standard markings to ease quick identification of them as Czech.
The Beer Must Flow
Along with the transportation and military infrastructure going into place, a beer pipeline from the Czech mainland to Královec is under construction and will ensure that quality Czech beer is always available there.
The first stage of the pipeline, known as Beer Stream 1, will run from Prague to Královec via Poland. There is a major junction in the line at Warsaw, with a plan to run Beer Stream 2 to Tallin, Estonia in the future. Latvia and Lithuania have agreed in principle to allowing Beer Stream 2 through their territories.
Paying a Visit and Learning More
If you’re in Prague and wish to visit Královec, the high speed rail link mentioned earlier in this article is ceratinly an option for you.
A visit to the official tourism website of Královec, visitkralovec.cz, will give you a good idea of what’s there to see and do. Keep in mind, these are early days and the website is a work in progress so not all functions may be working yet.
This article at the Radio Prague International website will give you more information on how Královec became Czech. It includes a quite interesting section detailing how the Czech Republic could have a genuine historical claim to the region. Rather than seceding from Russia, Královec may just be “coming home”.
Very recently, I bought a new camera. The old one, which has served me well for the past 12 years or so, was starting to show its age.
In the last couple of weeks, I’ve been playing around with the new camera and I’m quite happy so far with what I’m seeing. I’m confident it will help take quality up a step or two where imagery is concerned in my websites.
Today after work, I went to the Masaryk University botanic gardens here in Brno to get some more practice with the new camera. Here are some of the results:
Škoda automobiles are easily one of the most recognized of Czech products around the world. Indeed, Škoda Auto is one of the world’s oldest still active automobile maunfactures and Mladá Boleslav is the company’s home.
A visit to this city, located approximately 50 kilometres north-east of Prague, would certainly not be complete without a visit to the Škoda Museum. However, as I discovered on a day trip there in July of 2022, there is much more on offer in Mladá Boleslav than simply automotive history.
Let’s spend some time in Mladá Boleslav:
Young, Relatively Speaking
The name Mladá Boleslav translates into “Young Boleslav”, though the city has a history stretching back to the latter half of the 10th century.
The city takes its name from Duke Boleslaus II (c.927/928-999) of the Přemyslid dynasty. Boleslaus II established a fortified settlement on the rock promontory where the city’s Old Town district sits today.
A town grew up around the settlement and the name “New Boleslav” was used for it by the early 1100s, as there was already a city called Boleslav near to Prague. The existing Boleslav was created by Boleslaus I (915-972), Boleslaus II’s father.
Eventually, the two towns were named Mladá (younger) and Stará (older) Boleslav to differentiate them.
The city’s castle sits on the promontory and marks one end of the Old Town district. The castle dates to the 13th century and has served many purposes over the ages. It currently serves as the seat for the regional museum and archives, a role it has held since the early 1970s.
In its history, Mladá Boleslav has been a royal city as well as an important centre for the Moravian Church. At the end of the 30 Years War in 1648, the city went into a period of decline that would last until the late 19th century.
in 1895, Václav Laurin (1865-1930) and Václav Klement (1868-1938) established their bicycle company, Laurin & Klement, in Mladá Boleslav. This turned the town’s fortunes and put it on the road to being the dynamic and prosperous city it is today.
While Laurin and Klement started with bicycles, they moved into motocycles and three wheel type vehicles before going into four wheeled automobiles in 1905 and becoming the largest automotive manufacturer in the Austro-Hungarian Empire soon after.
In 1925, Laurin & Klement sold their company to the Pilsen based Škoda Works and Škoda Auto was born. In spite of World War II and the rise and fall of the Socialist regime, Mladá Boleslav has never really looked back since that point in time.
A Day in Mladá Boleslav
As I mentioned earlier in this article, my experience with Mladá Boleslav comes from a day trip I made there. My trip was made by bus from Mělník, where we had our hotel during a week of holidays in July of 2022.
My plan was to travel to the city airport after arriving and work my way back through town and finish at the Škoda Museum, which is across the street from the city’s bus station.
I opted to use the city public transportation to get to the airport, but the experience was disorienting as the route had many strange turns and the stop announcement system on the bus I was on did not work well. After finishing at the airport, I decided to try walking back through town and found it very doable. If I did it again, I’d probably just walk through town in both directions.
Methodius Vlach Air Museum
Being a lifelong aviation enthusiast, my first stop on my visit was to the Methodius Vlach Air Museum (Letecké Muzeum Metoděje Vlacha) at the city airport.
The collection at this museum is composed of 28 to 30 aircraft, some replicas and some originals, as well as other aviation related artifacts and art. A large percentage of the aircraft in the collection are flyable, so you might be lucky enough see some of them flying if you visit. The museum also has a very spacious caffeteria with an outdoor terrace that faces directly onto a runway, so you can enjoy drinks and snacks while taking in whatever aircraft movements might be taking place.
If you’re an aircraft fan, this museum should definitely go on your “To do” list if you visit the city.
To the Centre
After finishing at the aviation museum, I decided to walk back to the historic centre from there.
I walked back along Regnerova street ( the street that goes past the museum) towards Pražská street until I found Štyrsova street. Pražská is a main road and quite busy; Štyrsova is a quiet residential street just before Regnerova joins Pražská and it runs roughly parallel to Pražská.
Following Štyrsova will take you through a residential area and light industrial area before it joins with Nádražní street. once you reach Nádražní street, you will clearly be able to see the city castle on your right. From there you can walk to the controlled junction of Nádražní and Ptácká streets, directly below the castle.
If you follow Nádražní street, you will come to a staircase that will get you to the top of the promontory and into the Old Town district. Alternately, you can follow Ptácká street and you will eventually find a large glass lift to take you up.
Working through the Old Town district, with the castle as your starting point, will take you past a nice selection of historic buildings of various styles that include Renaissance, Gothic and Neo-Romanesque to name a few. The historic centre of the city is a protected urban monument zone under Czech law. The square has plenty of cafés and restaurants for you to have a drink or meal while taking in the ambience of the area.
Old Town Square, with the Jizera fountain as its focal point along with the sgraffito details on the Old Town Hall is certainly worth taking the time to absorb the details of. In the midst of the historic buildings, the Jizera fountain is a nice reflection of the city’s more modern and dynamic aspects.
The fountain is named for the Jizera river that runs through the city and it includes a metal trough for water to run through and represent the river as well as statues of young people having fun and enjoying the river.
My last stop in the centre was to the city tourist information office to buy a few postcards and ask the best way to the Škoda Museum as well as a recommendation for a restaurant to take lunch in.
They directed me to Václav Klement way (tř. Václava Klementa), which starts about 200 metres straight ahead from the tourist office door.
Václav Klement way will take you directly to the Škoda Museum and present several dining options to you along the way. It will also take you past the lovely Výstaviště park, where you could sit on a bench and give your legs a rest if you felt the need.
The Škoda Museum
My last stop of the day, and the main reason most people visit Mladá Boleslav, was the Škoda Museum.
As befitting a company with the long history that Škoda Auto has, this museum is extensive and comprehensive. The collection will take you from the early days of Laurin & Klement bicycles to some of the latest vehicles coming off the company assembly lines.
Pamphlets to guide you through the museum are available in various languages and there are also uniformed guides around the museum to help you further. This is truly a world class museum and even if you are not passionate about cars, the experience will still be accessible and enjoyable.
A short distance from the main museum hall and collection, you can find the depository hall of the museum.
The depository hall is dedicated to Škoda rally cars and other motorsport types as well as vehicle prototypes that never reached production.
The museum also has a well stocked gift shop for you to take home a memento of your visit.
Given the size of the museum collection, you may work up an appetite during your visit. In that case, you should definitely stop in at the museum’s restaurant, Václav. The restaurant is a very spacious and relaxing place with a lot of natural light coming in.
Paying a Visit and Learning More
Even though I only took a day trip there, Mladá Boleslav clearly is one of those places that can be very flexible to a variety of visitors.
The city makes an easy day trip from Prague as there are several buses between the two cities. If you are visiting from Prague, the majority of those buses depart from the Černý Most bus station which is the eastern terminus of the B (yellow) line of the Prague metro system.
The average travel time between the cities is 45 minutes to an hour depending on the bus you take.
There is, however, enough on offer in Mladá Boleslav and the surrounding tourist region that there is no need to limit yourself to a day trip there. With a variety of accomodation options available, you could use it as your base for a holiday in the region. In fact, Mladá Boleslav is considered one of the symbolic “gate” cities into the stunning and picturesque Bohemian Paradise (Český raj) region, so it would serve you well as a base if you wanted to access that region.
The city’s official tourist information website will give you a good deal of information about accomodation options, tourist attractions, dining options and so forth. While it is all in Czech, it does respond reasonably well to online translators.
The official website of the Mladoboleslavsko region will give you more information about Mladá Boleslav as well as points of interest nearby the city.
In the present, Tábor is an important transportation hub and commercial centre in South Bohemia. However, the origins of this city can be found in one of the more pivotal events in Czech history: the Hussite Wars (1419-1434).
Named after religious reformer, Jan Hus (c.1372-1415), the Hussites were a Protestant movement that rebelled against Roman Catholic forces for 15 years before eventually being defeated. Tábor was established in 1420 as the command centre for the Hussite forces; it was also home to the Taborites, a radical branch of the Hussite movement.
The city took its name from Mount Tabor, in present day Israel. However, the word “tábor” in contemporary Czech, translates into “camp” or “encampment” in English; a very appropriate name given the history of the place.
From 1437 to 1547, Tábor grew and prospered to gain great influence in Bohemia at the time. It was granted status as a royal city in 1437 and enjoyed a great degree of autonomy.
The city’s fortunes took a downturn in 1547 when it took a stand against helping Ferdinand I, then king of Bohemia, in his campaign against German Lutherans in the kingdom; an event known as The Estates Revolt. For that refusal, the king confiscated a great deal of the city’s lands and wealth.
In 1618, at the outbreak of the Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648), the city stood against Habsburg forces. While the city held its ground for three years, it did eventually surrender and was heavily looted by Austrian forces. In the last year of the war, the city was looted by Swedish forces.
In the wake of the Thirty Years’ War, Tábor knew a long period of peace and rebuilding. Eventually, it became a centre of culture and enlightenment and played an important role in the Czech National Revival movement of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. This movement was a response to the Germanization policies of Habsburg rule, which had done severe damage to Czechs’ knowledge of their own culture and threatened the existence of the Czech language itself. The movement rekindled interest among Czechs in their own customs, history and language.
Let’s spend some time in Tábor:
Start at the Heart
The centre of Tábor is a well preserved and an urban monument reservation protected under Czech law. Žižka Square is the focal point of the city’s historic centre and a good place to start your exploration of Tábor. If you’re looking for inspiration and advice, the city’s tourist information office is on the square in the town hall.
The square is lined with architecturally and historically valuable burgher houses of Renaissance style and is a reminder of the city’s prosperous period between the mid 1400s and mid 1500s.
You will also find a prominent statue of Jan Žižka (c. 1360-1424), for whom the square is named. Žižka was a follower of Jan Hus and a very successful general during the Hussite Wars in spite of eventually losing both eyes in battle. He is enshrined as a national hero among Czechs. In the context of Tábor, he could be seen as a hometown hero given that he was born in the nearby village of Trocnov – a district of the contemporary town of Borovany.
To find out more about Žižka, the Hussites and the Hussite Wars; a visit to the Hussite Museum is certainly in order. The museum is located in the old town hall building on Žižka Square. The museum is separated into multiple sections and you can pay to see all of it or just selected sections.
Aside of the historical aspects, Žižka Square is also home to several restaurants of differing cuisine styles. In the summer months, most of these restaurants have outdoor dining terraces so you can have a view of the square with your meal.
Going off Centre
There’s more to Tábor than just the historic centre. The city is generally walkable and the tourism website gives tips on some self-guided walking tours.
Just to the east of the centre, you can visit the Jordán reservior that dates to the late 1400s and is the oldest reservoir in central Europe. Historically, it stored water for the community; however, it serves as a recreational area today and you can see many people partaking in water sport of one sort or another in the summer months.
The church is consecrated to the Assumption of the Virgin Mary and dates to the early 1700s
Among some of the city’s other attractions, you can visit the small botanic garden. Established in 1866, it is the second oldest botanic garden in the country.
For something a bit lighter and more whimsical after taking in all the history, Tábor also offers some smaller museums that include one dedicated to chocolate and marzipan and another dedicated to Lego.
Getting There and Learning More
As Tábor is on the train line that connects Prague and České Budějovice, rail is the best way to get there if you are travelling from either of those cities and don’t have a car.
If you decide to stay directly in Tábor when you visit, the city offers a variety of accomodation options to cater to just about anyone’s taste in travel, from campgrounds to four star hotels.
To see a bigger picture of what’s on offer to a visitor in Tábor, please follow this link to the city’s tourism website
It takes a fair bit to make me political. Recent events in Ukraine have managed to put me in such a frame of mind.
In the most general of senses, the vileness of the attack on Ukraine and the regime that’s carrying it out are more than enough to justify global outrage. However, it also hits me from a very personal direction and I can’t be silent about it.
Since the outbreak of attacks against Ukraine, my mind’s been bouncing back and forth between the tragedy currently unfolding and memories of growing up on the Canadian prairies, an area that’s been heavily influenced by over two centuries of Ukrainian immigration. There is nowhere you can go on the Canadian prairies and not see some sign of Ukrainian influence, perhaps in a place name on a road sign or a distinctive domed Ukrainian Orthodox church seemingly in the middle of nowhere in the vastness of the prairies. From a young age, my life has been affected in one way or another by people of Ukrainian heritage who were proud to share it; teachers, schoolmates, friends and many others have had some influence in shaping the person I am today. I have received the gifts of education and friendship from Ukrainians and now it looks like the time to give back may be here. There’s lots of Ukrainians in the Czech Republic and the country fully expects refugees. I will definitely be looking for opportunities to help where I can.
Using my websites will serve as a start to what I can do. Hopefully, I can encourage you to look into what you can do from wherever in the world you may come to my websites from.
Help at Home
If you are among my Czech based readership, the following links will take you to the websites of charities and other groups that have already set up programs to help Ukrainians:
ADRA CZ monitors current events at the border and in cooperation with ADRA Ukraine now wants to help distribute vouchers for food and hygiene supplies. Financial assistance will be aimed at direct assistance to residents affected by conflict.
Care.cz together with the global network CARE is working intensively to solve the situation in the country. In accordance with her humanitarian mission, she is preparing opportunities to help civilians who found themselves in the middle of the war. Currently dealing with a proven partner organization on a specific form of help on the spot and immediately releases resources from its reserves and announces a collection for aid of Ukraine.
Člověk v Tísní – People in Need has released a million crowns for quick help to Ukraine, people can contribute to the collection SOS Ukraine. If the military escalates, it will inevitably cause a big wave of refugees. People in Need in Ukraine closely monitors the situation in Ukraine and prepares various scenarios on how to provide refugees with the fastest possible humanitarian aid.
Český Červený Kříž – Czech Red Cross delivered at the beginning of February on 14. a shipment of humanitarian aid intended for the sick and wounded in Ukraine. Now he is sending out further assistance – it should be additional vehicles, surgical sets, tents, carriers, navigation and other material for the operation of medical teams of the Ukrainian Red Cross worth about 10 miles. Kč. Donors help contribute to a special account for Ukraine.
Diakonie – Diaconia in response to the attack of the Russian army in Ukraine, announces a public fundraiser to support people affected by armed conflict. The proceeds from the fundraiser will be used to support refugees and internally displaced residents as a result of conflict and to help vulnerable groups.
Charita – Caritas in cooperation with Caritas Ukraine for immediate assistance to the residents of Ukraine affected by the war focus on providing basic supplies such as water, food, hygiene supplies or shelter Eish. A part of the intervention is also providing psychological assistance. The proceeds of the fundraiser will help the people affected by the war provide basic life needs.
Lékaři bez Hranic – Doctors Without Borders in Ukraine provide health care and humanitarian assistance to residents affected by long-term conflict and patients suffering from tuberculosis. They provide help to everyone regardless of their origin or political preference.
Help Around the World
If you are not among my Czech Based readership and do not have a local branch of any of the above mentioned organizations, please reach out to the nearest Ukrainian cultural organization you may have to you for advice on what you can do to help:
If you are Russian, or of Russian heritage, and can speak out against the attack on Ukraine without worry of retribution against yourself or family and friends you may have in Russia, please speak out.
If there was ever a time for the world to see that not all Russians agree with Vladimir Putin and his policies, including the attack on Ukraine, that time is now. Be clear and be visible about it.
The world at large needs to see you speak out. Ukraine needs to see you speak out. Perhaps, most of all, Russia needs to see you speak out.