Dry February Kicks off in the Czech Republic

Image credit: Suchej Únor

Taking a Shot…at Not Taking Shots

2023 marks the seventh year that Dry February has taken place in the Czech Republic. In Czech, Dry February translates as Suchej Únor.

2023 also marks the first time I’ve decided to give the event a try myself.

The Czech Republic has a deep association with alcohol production that forms part of the nation’s image at the international level.

Beer has been made in the Czech lands since years had three numbers and wine has been made here since the days of the Roman Empire. That is to say nothing of the wide variety of spirits produced by Czech hands.

Anyone who visits the country, even for a short period, will come face to face with the easy availability of alcohol on their first day here. Alcohol is available not just in pubs and restaurants, but also every corner store and supermarket.

Everywhere you turn in the Czech Republic, alcohol of some sort is within easy reach. Breweries, large and small, dot the nation’s map densely and even the smallest of villages have at least one drinking establishment.

Many breweries, distilleries and wineries around the country offer tours of their facilities that include tastings of their products.

Many beer festivals, large and small, take place around the country throughout the year and wine festivals are common in the Autmn months.

In spite of alcohol being so deeply woven into Czech history and national identity, it may come as a surprise that it’s not a point of pride for all Czechs.

I’ve met many Czechs, particularly younger ones, who abstain from alcohol completely for a variety of reasons.

To underline the fact that not every Czech is proud of the part alcohol plays in their history and the view much of the world has of the Czech nation and people because of it, the Dry February event enjoys a surprising popularity among Czechs.

This Radio Praha article goes into a bit of detail about how and why the event appeals to Czechs.

Nepít je Úmění – Not Drinking is an Art

In the Czech Republic, Dry February is organized by the Czech branch of the League of Open Men NGO. While that organization’s main focus is mens’ health issues, Dry February is certainly not aimed exclusively at men. A quick look at the Suchej Únor wesbite and social media pages shows a significant number of women also participating. This is a good sign, as alcoholism among women in the country is on the rise according to this Radio Praha article.

The theme of the 2023 edition of the event is “Not Drinking is an Art”. The idea behind it is that the time and money people save by not drinking for the month can be put into artistic talents they already enjoy, or towards taking up a new hobby of a creative sort.

As someone with a background in the arts, I find this a fascinating approach. There is an age old mythos that connects arts and alcohol, and many believe that alcohol is a help in “getting creative juices flowing” due to its ability to part people from their inhibitions.

I believe this is a mythos very much worth breaking as, with a bit of research, it’s not difficult to find a number of great artists and creative minds down the ages who were noted as very light drinkers if not outright teetotalers.

In this view, I have empathy for Czechs who wish to make alcohol a much smaller aspect of their national character as outsiders perceive it.

A Foreigner, Like Me

While I’ve been living in the Czech Republic for nearly two decades, have attained permanent residency, and am happy to call it home; I am still foreigner enough to have empathy for the newly arrived in the Czech lands.

The majority of foreigners in the Czech Republic come from countries where alcohol is heavily taxed or otherwise regulated by law and not so easy to access. Going from that into a place where alcohol is comparatively cheap and plentiful is a recipe for disaster for many foreigners here.

As a growing portion of the population of the country is made up of foreigners, many of whom are here for work or study, an event like Suchej Únor can serve foreigners just as well as it can native Czechs.

If you are a foreigner new to the country, or soon to arrive in the country, keep the following in mind:

  • Not all Czechs drink alcohol and many are not proud of the country’s history of alcohol production.
  • Czechs are not likely to be offended if you decline an offer of alcohol. Feel free to say “No”.
  • Consuming ridiculous amounts of alcohol will not impress any Czech who is worth impressing.

As For Myself…

I paid a visit to the Suchej Únor website and had a look around. it’s all in Czech, but I found it responded well to online translator functions. If you’re a foreigner in the country who doesn’t speak Czech, you should still be able to get something from the website in English at least.

I filled out the alcohol test questionnaire on the website and it rated me in the “Moderate” category in alcohol consumption. Not bad, but something to work on.

As writing is the main art I indulge in these days, I’ve decided to use “Beyond Prague” in my Suchej Únor endeavours.

My goal is to create a permanent page on the website that will be a comprehensive resource for native Czechs and foreigners in the country who have alcohol problems, or friends and family who have them, to find counseling services wherever they may live in the country.

To this end, I have reached out to a number of agencies and organizations around the country who may be able to help me gather enough information to create such a page in the near future.

At the time of writing this article, I have heard back from one or two. Hopefully I will hear from more before Suchej Únor is done for 2023.

Královec – The Newest Czech Region

Královec in relation to the Czech Republic (credit: visitkralovec.cz)

Kaliningrad Under New Management

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.

Updated map of the Královec region showing the new Czech names for major towns and cities. (credit: visitkralovec.cz)

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.

A Czech air force transport aircraft departs for Královec. (credit: J. Cimrman)

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.

A map showing the route of the Beer Stream 1 pipeline. (credit: KralovecCzechia via Twitter)

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.

If you have a Twitter account, you can visit them at KralovecCzechia.

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”.