Forget Prague and its cohorts of tourists. 200 kilometers southeast of the capital of the Czech Republic, Brno, the country’s second city, is still a secret to be discovered. We are here in the heart of Moravia, this region of Eastern Europe, still largely unknown.
Brno, 450,000 inhabitants, is above all the epicenter of functionalist architecture, a movement born in the interwar period, in the 20s and 30s, explains the Frenchman Franck Ferlay:
“As its name suggests, it had to be open, practical. These are large openings. At the time, it was still rare to have large windows open to the outside with the natural light that enters the rooms. buildings. Today, it’s fashionable, these are houses that are very easy to live in.”
The finest example of this functionalist architecture in Brno is the Tugendhat villa, a masterpiece of modern architecture, listed by Unesco since 2001. Tours are offered there every day.
The place also has a historical significance, he explains: “It was here, in 1993, that the separation of Slovakia and the Czech Republic was peacefully signed since next year, we will celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Czech Republic.”
Born in Ardèche, student in Grenoble, Franck Ferlay has been living in Brno for years. History-geography teacher for 24 years in a bilingual high school in Brno, he also opened four years ago with a friend a wine bar not far from the center, behind the cathedral, “Chez Franck & Thierry“where the two lads got it into their heads to introduce the Czechs to French specialities.
As for the city of Brno, it is worth a detour, assures Franck Ferlay. We are far from the gray and dusty image that we can have of the large metropolises of Central Europe:
“We are under the cathedral near a medieval pedestrian district with a beautiful square and a daily vegetable and fruit market, with local products. Now it’s really a very modern city. There is a high-tech district which works very well with all the biggest IT and telecommunications companies in the world. It really is a beautiful city with diversified activities, be it industry, commerce, but also academia and technology.”
Homeland of the writer Milan Kundera, Brno has 60,000 students, many of whom come from neighboring Slovakia. Located about twenty kilometers from Austerlitz, Brno also entered history thanks to the famous battle of the three Emperors (Napoleon I, François I and Alexander I), and Napoleon’s victory on December 2, 1805. Each year, this memorable feat of arms is also commemorated there.
More generally, the city is at a crossroads in the region, assures the Frenchman:
“You think of Prague when you say Brno. Of course it’s the Czech Republic, but it’s closer to Vienna, Austria, and Bratislava, Slovakia. There are a lot of people visiting the capitals of the Europe and stop in Brno. It’s the ideal and pleasant stopover. We’re not very far from Poland either, it’s the center of Europe!”
Pleasant in the summer, this city is not lacking in attractions either in December, when it celebrates Saint-Nicolas and deploys its Christmas market.
Find out more: visitczechrepublic.com
Accommodation: Hotel Passage
“Chez Franck & Thierry”, the wine bar of the two French people from Brno
Visit Tugendhat Villa
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