Hello from Europe---
Okay, so it might not be the greatest city in the world, but it is pretty sweet. After a lot of travel [1 hour flight to Chicago, 8 hour flight to London, 2 hour flight to Vienna, & 2 hour taxi to Brno], I have arrived in Brno, and I have some good stories to share. Let me just say that Brno rocks and is an awesome city.
Well, let's start with the flight from Chicago to London. Unfortunately, I did not get to catch up with my mom in the Chicago airport, who was flying to Rochester, NY, to see the birth of my newest nephew. We got into Chicago around 3:30 p.m. where the flight attendant told us that our gate was K16 if we were flying to London-Heathrow. Let me re-iterate, with my Type A personality, that I have always quadruple checked to see what my gate was in case there was some sort of international conspiracy against me. Maybe it was the Ambien CR that I took, but I believed her and went to sit down by the gate. Well, 5:30 rolls around, and still no one boarding. I was still in a Cinnabon coma, so no big. At 6:00 p.m., my senior, Justin Knolhoff, turns and says, 'Dude, it's 6:00 p.m., are we sure that we have the right terminal'? We then go to check the board where our gate was K14, not K16, and luckily it was right next to us, where we say the gate was closed. We asked the desk lady if we could get on, and she says no way, we have been paging you for an hour, which had to be a lie since we were sitting directly next to the gate. She claims that they had already removed our bags due to safety concerns and we couldn't get on. I thought we were totally out of luck. Luckily, bag dude called and said they hadn't been removed, and we got on the plane. Total luck...it didn't help that Justin and I were laughing because we were idiots and the lady was really mad at us for being late. Oh well.
No other snags along the way. Got into London fine, no one drove any cars with explosive and nails into the airport, and we took off on time for our flight to Vienna. We then took a two hour cab ride to Brno, which is in the very southern part of the Czech Republic. It was a very cool drive with lots of picture-esque photo opps and stuff.
We got to Brno about 4:00 p.m. [we are 7 hours ahead of the central US time zone], and Justin and I met at 5 to see the city. We got tons of cool pics [see the link to the right shortly for more], and got to see all kinds of cool castles and churches. The best part? We found the Budvar beer garden, which is the Budweiser brewery over here. We also went to an awesome restaurant [mad props to the hotel concierge] for a great dinner, that cost a grand total of $30. We also convinced them to give us the beer steins for their local brewery, Starebrno, for a whopping 50 cents a piece. We also saw a bunch of other sites, which are uploaded in the pic link, but here is a quick synopsis of the highlights:
**Spilberk Castle -- The castle was built in the first half of the 13th century on top of a hill bearing the same name. The original building often changed hands and the medieval part was later rebuilt. In the 18th century Špilberk was transformed into an enormous Baroque fort which also became a feared prison, with the casemates being particularly notorious. It became the place of grim, lenghty suffering for French revolutionaries, Italian carbonari, adherents of the Young Italy movement as well as Czech political prisoners. The prison was also a place of terror during the second world war.
**Petrov -- The Cathedral of St. Peter and St. Paul is located on the top of this hill, known as Petrov, on the presumed site of the former Brno castle (including a chapel) that dates from the 11th and 12th centuries. After the castle`s demise the free-standing Romanesque basilica was rebuilt as a Gothic cathedral in the 13th century, further modified in the 15th and 16th centuries, and converted to the Baroque style in the 18th century. Its current neo-Gothic form dates from the turn of this century. Since 1777 the cathedral has been the seat of the Brno bishopric. The original church crypt from the 12th century is now accessible to visitors.
**The Church of St. Jilji -- This church originally formed part of the Benedictine provostship which was established in 1104. Most of the knowledge of the history of this, one of the oldest buildings in Brno, has been gained from archaeological excavations. During the Hussite (1421) and Bohemian-Hungarian (1468-1478) Wars, it was largely destroyed, and the church has therefore undergone a great deal of reconstruction and repair over time.
**Freedom Square -- Freedom Square is one of the most imposing squares in the historical city centre. In the past it was called Dolní rynek (Lower Market), and in medieval times was surrounded by houses owned by important burghers and Moravian noblemen, who built palaces for their use when they were in Brno (for example during regional assemblies and courts, visits by the ruler, and on other such occasions). This statute was built with the break from Russia in 1989.
**Mahen Theater -- The Mahen theatre was built from July 1881 to October 1882 according to the design of the Viennese architects F. Fellner and H. Hellmer with sculptures by T. Friedl. It was the first theatre in Central Europe to be illuminated with Edison's light bulbs.
**Old Town Hall -- The city administration was situated in this, the oldest secular building in Brno until 1935. The historical origins of the building go back to around 1240. Before 1510 the tower entrance was hoded-through to the courtyard which A. Pilgram decorated with a stone protal with reliefs of heralds and town dwellers. The original allegory of justice was replaced in 1660 by the present statue. At that time the city´s new coat of arms was added to the protal which Brno acquired in 1646. The portal closes the original Late-Gothic gate. The tower lies on early Gothic foundations, its roofing is a copy of the original renaissance roof.
**Parnas Fountain -- The Baroque Parnas fountain was built in 1690-95 on the site of a Renaissance fountain from 1597 to a design by Johann Bernhard Fischer of Erlach. The cave was built by Adam Tobiáš of Vienna and the sculptural decoration is the work of A. Rigi, A. T. Kracker and an unknown Italian sculptor. It is the most valuable piece of Baroque sculpture in Brno; an isolated example of Baroque naturalism and illusion of considerable dramatic force. In the centre of the fountain is built a three-sided craggy rock.
The city is awesome, totally laid back, and small enough to not be overwhelming [300k people], but big enough to have a ton of sights to see. More on Brno later, but I love the city. I wish Steph & Onyx were here to see it.