The Czech Republic is one of my favourite countries as it has perfect weather for me. It is not too humid, not too hot, and not too much of anything. It is just perfect for me. In addition, this is one of the main reasons I love the country and I visited many parts of it.
This time around, I have been to Brno and it proved to be a great experience. Though it is not the biggest city in the Czech Republic, (it ranks up second), it sure comes up with many things to do and you just cannot seem to cover everything in one single trip.
I would say one thing – the Czech people are very nice and try to make you feel welcomed everywhere and this is very important for me on every trip I make. I have had some experiences where people were not that friendly or welcoming but I guess it depends a lot on the culture and how they know to express their feelings.
Places to visit
This was my first stop the second day I arrived in Brno. This is an amazing place, a fortress that is one of the most important cultural places in Brno for the locals. While it offers, a gorgeous view over Brno this place became synonym with the most terrifying dungeons in Europe.
Back in the days, it was a royal castle, then a fortress, a fearful prison of the Austrian monarchy and a military barrack. While I took the taxi up to it, it only leaves you at the entrance, which is actually at the bottom of the hill. To get to the castle you have to climb a steep slope. However, you can find some restaurants and cafes when you get to the Castle, so if you feel exhausted you can rest a while before visiting the surroundings.
While it was initially constructed to signify a castle, it marked the history as being one of the toughest prisons in Europe of those times for very dangerous criminals. Even though no one wanted to get here in the back days of the 17th and 18th century, nowadays people are able to go through the rooms once others so hard feared of.
Despite its dark period, it offers an amazing view on Brno and it is an excellent place where people can just come and relax, walk, have a great few hours outdoors.
This may sound like a code or something but it is actually a quite important thing in the history of Europe. It is the name for the most highly classified fallout shelter in Brno from the Communist era.
It was built as a shelter during a nuclear war or a mass destruction war that could house as much as 500 people for three days tops. Its aim was to protect the city’s important people. Until 1993, it has been classified as a top-secret shelter that no one knew anything about. However, the Americky fond made it possible for it to be seen by the public in 2016.
I could say this was one of the most impressive things I have ever seen. While we all know the history and embrace what we know, when you are actually on the “field” let’s say, the feelings that try you are so strong, you couldn’t even imagine they could be like this.
It houses 65 rooms in a total area of 1500 square meters. As far as I could see, there are some rooms that are not opened and people do not even see them. While there are rooms one can enter in and see them, there are some that are protected and you can only see inside through some grills. You will get to see the communication means they had in place, the deciphering messages centre, the army clothes, the gas masks – and even try them out if you like, the kitchen they had, the electric reseau they had and everything they thought were needed for survival.
You can also see the last messages written on the walls of the death cells from the former Brno prison in Cejl Street.
You can either take a guided tour, a single tour with the help of a map you receive at the entrance or a night tour (that is for those that really have steel nerves).
Nowadays for those that want new experiences, it can also be a place to stay overnight, as a part of it is a hostel, but I would really not recommend it. I could t even have lunch at its restaurant if you can imagine.
It is a great place, a must if you are in Brno and it is a true revelation for the past times and how well they prepared with the means they had. It is impressive.
Cathedral of Saint Peter and Saint Paul
On top of the Petrov Hill, one can see the Cathedral of Saint Peter and Saint Paul.
It is for sure one of the go-to sights in Brno and it was even put on the 10 Czech crown coin. It is very tall and it is one that helps form the city’s view with its two tall Gothic-style towers. While it was first built in the 14th century, century by century it was rebuilt and the present Cathedral was actually reconstructed by the Viennese architect August Kirstein. He is also the one that gave the Cathedral the two towers.
Though the cathedral as it is nowadays was rebuilt in the 20th century, inside it you can find several statues that belong to the back times centuries, with different architectural styles as it is normal, being a very old building – like the one of the Madonna and the child, you can see the baroque altars and the Romanesque-Gothic Crypt.
The bells here strike at 11 o’clock instead of 12 o’clock, which is usual for a cathedral. There is a nice story that stays behind this. When I went to visit it I thought I could not as I heard the bells stroke, but it turned out it was an entire story behind this.
The story behind the Cathedral of Saint Peter and Saint Paul bells
This dates back in the 17th century when the Swedes began a siege on the Brno. Whilst the battles continued for 3 entire months, one day the Swedish commander Torstenson decided eventually that the following day was meant to be the last time they attack the city. In addition, if they did not conquer the city till the bells strike noon, they will retreat. A Brno servant heard the discussion and informed their commander. That day, when the Swedes almost conquered the city and started to bring down the walls, the commander of the Brno army ordered the bell to ring at the Cathedral, even though it was only 11. Since then, 11 is the time the bells ring to commemorate the day Brno was saved.
The Cabbage Market
One of the places you will go once you get to the Brno city centre is the Cabbage Market. This market place has been in use since the early 13th century but despite this farmer’s market, one can also visit the monuments and buildings around this square.
There is the Reduta Theatre building you can admire. While the building has suffered many reconstructions in the past in the late 18th century, it finally got to be the building it is today, the exact size. Of course, some other modifications were made for the inside part especially, but it is important to know that at its mere beginnings Mozart, the child performed here together with his sister.
This baroque style encrusted with allegorical figures fountain is right in the middle of the Cabbage Market. As you can envision, the baroque style has had a lot to say in the architectural style of Brno, despite it looking at a first glance quite Gothic.
I am talking like this, as I love architecture and for me visiting something a building, a cathedral, a monument it is important to know the style it was built in. Trying to understand this monument is not that easy and you should go prepared knowing what each symbolize. It is a wonderful monument but not many know that the woman on top meant to be Europe. Then the big man is Hercules with the three-headed Cerberus and the three other female figures are the ancient empires – Babylon, Persia and Greece.
It looks as clean as it is very whitish and it sure gets your attention even though you are not especially looking for it.
Church of Saint James
In another square in the city centre, next to the Cabbage one, there is the main square where you can find other monuments, churches and important places for the people of Brno.
Church of Saint James is one of them. This is a 100% a Gothic style building and it is believed to be one of the country’s most valuable Gothic buildings. While during the years of its existence (since late 1200) it has been rebuilt adding it a Baroque touch in the interior, in the late 19th century it regained its Gothic style. It contains reliefs of Christ dating back from the late 16th century. where you can also find the tombstone of some important people for the Brno history, and one of them is the one of the commanders that defeated Brno from the Swedish army and made the bell of the Cathedral of Saint Peter and Saint Paul ring at 11 o’clock instead of at noon. The tower of this church has 94 meters and it stands dominant for the city of Brno along with the castle and the two towers of the Cathedral of Saint Peter and Saint Paul.
While it does have an underground part that was just recently discovered, which is an ossuary, I did not visit it. I do believe it should be interesting, but only if you are into these things. I could not. In addition, this goes the same for the next visiting place – the Capuchin Crypt.
The Capuchin Church and Crypt
This is also near the city centre but it is one place I did not visit it, only from the outside. You have to have true courage to see it as it is actually the resting place of many monks through a period of 300 years. There are some interesting things to see I guess, I have heard but I was satisfied with seeing it only from the outside.
However, if you are up for the challenge and want to experience something you do not see every day, this is the place. For sure, it is well preserved but again, it takes more courage than I have.
Clock Machine (Hodinový stroj)
This is one of the most interesting and controversial monuments in Brno.
It is a black monument made of black polished granite and it is in the square since 2010. It has the shape of a bullet through at first, you may not realize this. There are a lot of controversies about this as it cost a lot and the shape does not really do it justice. However, tourists are eager to see it and it is a unique monument in comparison to the others, for sure.
As the story in the previous article with the Swedish army trying to occupy the city, it is supposed to commemorate the thirty years war. Though you cannot exactly tell what time it is according to the clock, you can tell when it is 11 o’clock. This is the hour when the clock releases one glass marble into one of its four holes and if you are lucky you can catch it and keep it as a souvenir.
More on Brno – The Zoo and restaurants to go to, here.