Charles University in Prague

Aug 20, 14:34 Filed under history

Faculty of Arts, Charles University in Prague “Learning is like a jigsaw puzzle. When you first lay the pieces out, it doesn’t make much sense. When you start to connect the pieces, you then begin to see how it all fits together”. These words were said by an anonymous writer long time ago. But this person exactly described the meaning of the word education. When you say the words Charles University you will describe the word education as well as the author of the mentioned quotation.

Charles University is a center of education in the Czech Republic. It is the oldest university in the Czech Republic and one of the oldest universities of the world. It was founded by the decision of The Church. In this case it was founded by the bull of Klement VI, certified in Avignon on 26 January in 1347.There were four faculties: the preparing faculty for liberal arts and continued faculties were the faculty of laws, medicin and theology. At The University there were four nations: The Czech, The Bavarian, The Saxon and The Polish.

In 1403 the teaching of John Wyclif was forbidden to distribute. In 1409 The King Václav IV. regulated the deciding powers of The Czech by The Kutnohorský decree. It had the effect that some professors left to the University in Leipzig.

Nowadays Charles University contains 17 faculties. Over 42,400 students study there and there are more than 4300 foreign students—750 of which study academic programs in English language.

Charles University aims to be recognized as a competitive research university on the world stage and stresses international cooperation with prestigious educational and scientific establishments. Charles University has entered into 450 bilateral contracts and 170 international partnerships with foreign universities.

The incredible Charles Bridge

Jul 14, 15:25 Filed under history

Charles Bridge at night This famous bridge has just celebrated 650th birthday!! How cool is that! That is hell of a lot years, don’t you think? Just think about it: in 1357, English poet Geoffrey Chaucer was only 14 years old; the Hundred Years War between France and England was about to end in next 96 years; Columbus was about to discover America not sooner than 135 years later; Pilgrims celebrated their first Thanksgiving after long 264 years… Jeez, do you know any older bridge that serves thousands of pedestrians every day?

It is truly amazing that the Charles Bridge has survived all those floods and wars it had to undergo over the time. Many legends about its incredibly good condition surrender the bridge from the very beginning – the date and time for the launch of the construction was chosen very carefully.

The first stone was laid in the year 1357 on the 9th of July at 5:31 in the morning. This exact timing forms the sequence of ascending and descending odd digits: 135797531. I was speechless when I found out. The Emperor, Charles IV, believed that this magical combination of numbers would protect the bridge. And maybe it did in deed.

Another legend says that during construction, real eggs were added to mortar to strengthen the bridge. It is to say that eggs are not really typical addition. The eggs were collected from villages from the whole kingdom. People in one village, however, were afraid that the eggs would break on the way and so they sent boiled ones. Everyone in Prague laughed at them but in the end those eggs served as a good snack for the workers.

So what made the difference? The eggs or the timing? Who knows! But what I know is that the “birthday party” for the Charles Bridge was huge!! However, in order to celebrate more of its anniversaries in the future, complete renovation of the Charles Bridge is in progress. This renovation will take many years, but don’t worry, the passing will be permitted.

Commemoration Day of victims of Communism

Jul 8, 14:05 Filed under history

Milada Horakova In the Czech Republic, June 27 has been declared a day of remembrance in honor of the victims of communism. Why this day and not any other? Well, it is all related to the history and one exceptionally sad story of one incredibly strong woman.

On this day, in 1950, Milada Horakova, a Czechoslovak politician was executed by Communists because of a false accusation of treason and espionage. The trial of hers and her twelve colleagues was nothing but a show trial. It was broadcasted on radio and people were forced to listen to it when they had breaks; before every movie in the cinema there were short versions of the trial. The evilness of the regime didn’t stop at nothing and so there were even letters from little children petitioning for the death penalty for her!!!

In spite of efforts of famous names such as Albert Einstein, Winston Churchill or Eleanor Roosevelt, who asked for her life, Horakova was sentenced to death along with three of her colleagues, and hanged. She was only 49 years old.

She is regarded as a symbol of anti-Communist resistance for her firm and courageous stance during her trial. She was fighting for the truth till the very end although she had to go through some tough communist interrogations repeatedly. She was defending herself in front of the “judges” with her head held high even though she knew she was fighting windmills.

This monster trail was here for one and simple reason. Unfortunately for Horakova, somebody had to die so that people would be scared and obedient. And after her execution, they really were. For many years…

You can commemorate this terrible event when visiting the Memorial of the Victims of Communism in Petrin Hill. But think about all those other people who suffered or even died because of the communistic regime. There were many others like Milada Horakova and we shall never forget them.

Why Are Czechs Called Czechs And Not Anything Else?

Jan 27, 16:20 Filed under history

Amazing view from Petrin Observation Tower History is, without any doubt, an important aspect of any nation and it’s self-awareness. And historical myths have even better impact because they are often better known than the facts. So let’s retell the two most popular Czech legends narrating how it all began. Once upon a time…

There were three brothers named Czech, Lech and Rus. One day, they decided to find for their tribes and themselves a new place to live, and so they all set out for a long journey across the Europe. After some days had passed, the brother Rus suddenly said. „This is the new home for me and my tribe!“ and so they stayed and founded Russia.

The two brothers and their tribes walked for many days, when they climbed up a hill that is now called Rip (Říp). There they had a wonderful view of the land that the forefather Czech called the „land of milk and honey“, and decided to settle here with his tribe.

To honour this great man, the people of his tribe started to call themselves Czechs. And they still do now. And brother Lech? He continued his journey with his people and settled in present-day Poland.

The Rip Hill is about 50 km north of Prague and you can see it from the Petrin tower at Petrin Hill. The Petrin tower, which is “Prague’s miniature Eiffel Tower”, is open from 10 a.m. till 8 p.m. and costs 30 CZK. You get to see not only Rip Hill but also the whole city and it’s surroundings. It’s worth it!

Albert Einstein lived in Prague as well

Nov 29, 11:18 Filed under history

Albert Einstein Did you know that Albert Einstein himself was in Prague? The famous German-born American theoretical physicist widely regarded as the most important scientist of the 20th century and one of the greatest physicists of all time was walking the streets of Prague some 95 years ago! He did not only visit Prague, he actually worked here!

Later Nobel Prize winner in Physics, Albert Einstein, came to Prague in 1911 when he was 31 with his family – his wife Mileva and two sons, Hans Albert (7 years) and Eduard (1 year). Einstein was appointed a full professor at the German University in Prague. He held lectures about mechanics and kinetic heat theory.

A new flat was built for Einstein and his family in the Prague district Smichov. They lived in Lesnicka 7 at the left bank of the Vltava River. But Einstein spent most of his free time in the salon of Mrs. Bertha Fanta on the Old Town Square where a debating circle met regularly. Famous participants apart from Einstein here were writers Max Brod and Franz Kafka. Einstein liked coming here with his violin and between literary discussions he took part in musical events to entertain his friends.

Einstein’s years in Prague are an important milestone in the life of this important researcher and philosopher. In Prague Albert Einstein found – according to his own writings – the necessary composure to give the basic thought of the general theory of relativity (1908) a more definite shape. During his 17-month lasting stay in Prague, Einstein wrote 11 scientific works, 5 of them on radiation mathematics and on quantum theory of the solids.

You can visit the place where famous Albert Einstein played his violin. Look for a memorial plaque outside a house on the Old Town Square. It reads:

“Here in this salon of Mrs Berta Fanta, Albert Einstein, Professor at Prague University in 1911 to 1912, founder of the theory of relativity, Nobel Prize Winner, played the violin and met his friends, famous writers, Max Brod and Franz Kafka.”

Velvet Revolution

Nov 17, 09:02 Filed under history

In November and December, Czechs commemorate the Velvet Revolution. It refers to a bloodless revolution in Czechoslovakia that saw the overthrow of the communist regime in 1989, and brought back democracy to Czechs after fifty years of lack of freedom – after Nazi occupation and communist rule.

Velvet Revolution is very special since revolutions usually go hand in hand with fighting. Because of its peacefulness it was named “Velvet” as the revolution was as smooth as this material.

It started off on November 17, 1989, as a peaceful officially-sanctioned march in Prague to commemorate Czech student Jan Opletal, who died at the hands of the country’s Nazi occupiers 50 years ago, in 1939. Students, however, soon started to scan slogans against the communist regime.

It is said that about 15 000 students had joined the demonstration. They walked to the grave of Jan Opletal and – after the official end – continued from the Czech National Cemetery at Vysehrad to Wenceslas Square calling for democratic reforms. They never made it there, however.

At about 7:30 pm, when they were halfway in their march, at Narodni Street, were the students stopped by a cordon of police. After few minutes, when the students offered flowers to the police shouting rhythmically: “We have bare hands” and singing songs, the police suddenly began to beat the young demonstrators with night sticks. Before that, the police managed to block all escape routes. Nearly 200 people were injured. One student was reported beaten to dead. Although this was later proved false, is served well for mass student’s support among general public.

Big demonstrations took part in Wenceslas Square November 17 was the impulse for great changes to come. The six-week period between November 17 and December 29, 1989, that is the time period called the Velvet revolution. On December 29, Vaclav Havel, a dissident and a play writer well known for his anti-communist opinions, became the President of the Czechoslovakia. Soon enough, in June 1990, the first democratic elections since 1946 were held in Czechoslovakia.

Visit the key places where Czech history was in making – Vysehrad Cemetery, Narodni Street and Wenceslas Square, where students were heading. At Narodni Street, best reached by trams 6, 9, 18, 22, 23 – station Narodni divadlo, there is even a memorial to November 17. I am sure there will be candles there on this day and few days after November 17 too.

President of the Czech Republic always lays flowers there on this special day. You may meet him there!!

It is in a passage through on the right side if you walk from the National Theater towards the Wenceslas Square. There is portrayed a hand on the wall showing a “V” with its finger, which stands for Victory. It was a favorite gesture of demonstrators during Velvet Revolution meaning we will succeed.

What is very interesting is that in 1989, November 17 fell on Friday. This year it is Friday too!

November 17 is twice as important for Czechs

Nov 15, 11:46 Filed under history

November 17 is not at all just an ordinary day in the Czech Republic. If you take a look at the Czech calendar, you will see that November 17 is marked as a public holiday. It is called the Day of a Struggle for Freedom and Democracy. It is a very important day for Czechs not only for one, but for two reasons!

On this day, Czechs commemorate two remarkable events in the Czech history – one happened in 1939 and another one exactly fifty years later, in 1989. The former commemorates the student demonstration against Nazi occupation, the later the demonstration against the communist government, which was again held by students, and led to the so called Velvet Revolution. Both evens are significant in fighting for freedom and democracy of the Czech people.

Czech flag But why both events took place on November 17 and not on some other day? Well, both evens are connected. And I will tell you how.

It all started on October 28, 1939, which was the 21st anniversary of the independence of the Czechoslovak Republic. On this day there were big anti-Nazi demonstrations in Prague, which were suppressed by Nazi forces – you probably know that Czechs were occupied by Hitler’s Germany back then. One student, whose name was Jan Opletal, a nineteen year old student of the Medical Faculty of the Charles University in Prague, was seriously wounded there and died few days later.

His funeral, attended by thousands of students, turned into another anti-Nazi demonstration. This provoked the Nazis so much that on November 17 they ordered to close all Czech universities and colleges, plus over 1200 Czech students were sent to concentration camps, and nine students were executed.

Because of this terrible act, November 17 is since 1941 marked as International Students Day by the International Union of Students.

Fifty years after such oppression, in 1989, Czech students organized a demonstration to commemorate the student martyr Jan Opletal and the International Students Day. It started off as an officially-sanctioned march, but turned quickly into demonstration demanding the resignation of the country’s communist government. Students were brutally beaten by riot police. This annoyed the public so much that they went on strike as well, demanding the same thing.

Demonstrations, which were held afterwards, were attended by more and more people. With the growing street protests and with other communist regimes falling around, the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia finally announced on November 28 they would step out.

November 17, 1989, started the so called Velvet Revolution. As a result, the first democratic elections since 1946 were held in June 1990 and brought the first completely non-communist government to Czechs and Slovaks in over 40 years.

About So-Called First Republic and the 28th of October

Oct 25, 02:46 Filed under history

Tomas Garrigue Masaryk As you probably know, on the 28th of October Czechs celebrate a public holiday, which means that many stores and museums in Prague and the Czech Republic will be closed due to this holiday. And what is actually being celebrated on this day? Czechs celebrate Independent Czechoslovak State Proclamation Day. So it is something like 4th of July in the USA.

In 1918, after the First World War, rather on the 28th of October, an independent state of Czechoslovakia was declared, with Tomas Garrigue Masaryk as its first president. Czechoslovakia arose as one of the succession states of Austria-Hungary at the end of the WWI.

Throughout the pre-WWII period, for Czechoslovakia it was time of economic prosperity and democracy. Czechoslovakia became one of the ten richest countries in the world back then since it inherited most of Austria’s industry. This interwar period, which was also a golden age for the culture, is now being called the First Republic.

However, everything nice has to end and so the happy period of the First Republic lasted only 20 years. Czechoslovakia was betrayed by allies in 1938 in the Munich Agreement and so Nazi Germany legally occupied Sudetenland, the Czechoslovakia borders with Germany, and in 1939 the whole country was under protectorship of Hitler’s Germany.

After the Second World War, the Nazi troops were replaced by Soviet troops and so the Czechs had to wait for the restoration of democracy till the end of 1989.

So Czechs celebrate the 28th of October mainly to remember this happy democratic era of the First Republic.

Czechs love 28th to public holidays ;-)

Why is Prague called Praha in Czech?

Oct 22, 02:04 Filed under history

Why? That’s the most popular question all over the world. Everyone wants to know why things are the way the are and why they are not the other way. Well, let’s answer one of those questions starting with why.

Church of St. Peter and Paul in Vysehrad in Prague The legend says that the Czechs lived happily in the Czech lands after the forefather Czech settled with his people round the Rip (Říp) mountain. Couple years later, the Czechs had a new leader called Krok living at Vysehrad, which is now the Czech National Cemetery. Krok had three daughters. The youngest one, princess Libuse, ruled the Czech people after her father’s death. She was a woman of great beauty and wisdom who possessed prophetic powers.

Statue if Princess Libuse and Premysl by Josef Myslbek One day, she had a vision foreseeing the founding of Prague – in Czech Praha. She stood atop Vysehrad hill, overlooking Vltava river, and said: „I see a large city whose fame will touch the stars!“ Immediately, she instructed builders to go in direction of her vision, which was across the river, and build a castle where a man was making a threshold – prah in Czech – and so they named the new city Praha.

Rotunda of St. Martin at Vusehrad You can visit Vysehrad, the original residence of the Czech kings and the legendary seat of Princess Libuse as well as the Vysehrad´s cemetery were the Czech outstanding personalities such as artists, scientists and academics are buried. To name some of them – world famous composers such as B. Smetana or A. Dvorak rest here.

Slavin cemetery at Vysehrad - Prague The cemetery is open daily from 8 AM till 7 PM. You just take the subway – red line C and get off at the station Vysehrad and follow the signs, how easy.

About St. Wenceslas and September 28 in the Czech Republic

Sep 27, 08:25 Filed under history

You can’t visit Prague without bumping into St. Wenceslas, in Czech Svaty Vaclav. There is St. Wenceslas Square, which is probably the most important square in Prague because here take place all big demonstrations – last most significant was during the Velvet revolution in 1989 against communism.

statue of St. Wenceslas On Wenceslas Square there is a statue of St. Wenceslas on a horse, which is by the way a great meeting point and a must for every tourist. In Prague Castle you can find Chapel of St. Wenceslas in st. Vitus Cathedral. Czech crown, a great symbol of Czech Republic, is called after St. Wenceslas as well. There used to be a 20 CZK banknote with his portrait, now it is however replaced with 20 CZK coin. St. Wenceslas is simply everywhere.

What is so special about him?
He is a patron saint of Bohemia, and so every time when the Czech nation was in a stew, Czechs prayed to St Wenceslas to help them. An old legend says that a huge army of knights sleeping inside some mountain in the Czech Republic will awake under the command of St. Wenceslas to help Czechs in time of ultimate danger. And since the Czechs had to go through both First and Second World Wars, Hitler’s rule as well as Stalin’s control without the help of St. Wenceslas, one may only wonder what an ultimate danger is going to be like!

View over the Wenceslas Square But why Wenceslas? Who was this famous guy who ordered to build the future St. Vitus Cathedral on the Prague Castle? Was he real?

He is known in the English speaking world as the subject of the Christmas carol “Good King Wenceslas” – yes, it is the same Wenceslas as the one on the Wenceslas Square – Duke of Bohemia, born in 907.

Wenceslas was raised by his grandmother, St. Ludmila. She was a kind and a wise woman, and Wenceslas loved her dearly. When he became the Duke, he listened to her advices carefully and fulfilled many of her wishes. This, however, made the mother of Wenceslas very jealous. She wanted to suppress the influence that Ludmila had on her son, and wished to rule herself. So she ordered to kill her mother-in-law! St. Ludmila was strangled when asleep!

Wenceslas Square and the National Museum This angered Wenceslas and had his mother exiled. And ruled happily till he was murdered by his younger brother who was power-mad! Wenceslas was hacked to pieces on his way to church in 929 or 935. His beloved brother became his successor. Oh, those medieval times!

After his death, Wenceslas was canonised as a saint due to his martyr’s death, as well as several purported miracles that occurred after his death. His feast day is September 28, and since the year 2000, this day is a public holiday in the Czech Republic – celebrated as Czech Statehood Day.

You can see St. Ludmila, the grandmother of St. Wenceslas, on the statue of St. Wenceslas. She is standing on his right. Around her neck is what she had been strangled with.


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