At the same time, Brno is a comparatively young city: The settlement was only first mentioned at the end of the eleventh century, but it experienced a rapid rise. In 1243, King Wenceslas I made it the royal city of Bohemia, from 1349 the city became the seat of the Margrave or Moravia, and from 1641 it replaced Olomouc as the capital of Moravia. Brno was thus of strategic importance during the Thirty Years’ War and it is perhaps hardly surprising that the city was besieged by Swedish forces between 1643 and 1645. The second siege is also the reason why the church bells of the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul continue to ring noon at 11 o’clock instead of 12 o’clock to this day. Legend has it that the Swedes had agreed to call off their siege if they had not succeeded in taking Brno by midday on August 12, 1645. At this, the cunning defenders moved the clocks of the cathedral forward one hour – and the Swedes withdrew empty-handed.
Part of the fortifications was the city’s town hall, although it is actually famous for something other than this role: One of the towers on the decorative façade is crooked. According to legend, it was a way for the building’s architect, Anton Pilgram, to get revenge on the city council, which had cheated him out of his fee. Others maintain, however, that he was just completely drunk, which is also very possible. At any rate, the Swedes had as little success with their siege as the Prussians had almost a century later, in 1742.
Beneath the “Crooked Tower of Brno” is a passageway, from whose ceiling a crocodile hangs – or at least that’s what a layperson would assume. In reality, of course, it is the famous Dragon of Brno. In the early years of the city, the beast terrorized the residents and animals, until a butcher came up with the idea of filling a sack made from animal hide with limestone. After the dragon had devoured the sack, it became so thirsty that it drank itself to death. The residents of Brno celebrated the victory by stuffing the dragon and hanging it from the ceiling beneath the town hall building. Hopefully the dragon will not suddenly come back to life – like some of its mythological predecessors – and start spreading fear and dread again.
There are no records stating whether Gregor Mendel, the father of genetics, was inspired by the dragon to conduct his research. However, the Augustinian friar spent a large part of his life in Brno and carried out his experiments on pea plants in the garden of St. Thomas’ Abbey, which ultimately culminated in the laws of Mendelian inheritance that we all had to learn in biology at school. His Capuchin friar colleagues, who were also present in Brno, may not have revolutionized genetics, but they nonetheless helped to lend Brno a slight Egyptian touch as a result of the mummies that were laid in their crypt from the eighteenth century onward.
Of course Brno not only boasts a rich history, but also has quite a lot to offer today. Motor sport fans have long been familiar with the Czech city, because competitions have been held on the Masaryk racetrack since 1930, initially on cobblestones – it goes without saying that the course was dangerous – then on asphalt, and since 1987 on a track converted specially for motorbike sport. The Moto GP is held every August in Brno.
Those who prefer more of a fantasy atmosphere should head for the Macocha Gorge – also known as the “Stepmother Abyss” – which is located roughly half an hour north of Brno. The abyss was formed when the dome of a large cave collapsed. Its folkloric name comes from the legend of the stepmother who sent her stepson to search for berries in the forest so that she could get rid of him in favor of her own son. She pushed him into the gorge, but the boy became entangled on a root and was able to be saved – at which the stepmother chose to throw herself into the abyss instead.
Besides crooked towers, dragons, and stepmothers, we have put together a list of other places worth visiting while in Brno:
Restaurant: Forky’s (www.forkys.eu/en/)
There’s no such thing as vegan and tasty? The people who run Forky’s beg to differ. The tastefully decorated fast-food temple serves healthy, vegan fast food ranging from burgers to super bowls.
Restaurant: Monte Bu (www.monte-bu.cz)
Don’t worry, meat fans aren’t short-changed in Brno either – Monte Bu makes sure of that. The Wild West themed restaurant serves – as one might expect – steaks of all kinds, from “happy Japanese cows” among others. We’re serious!
Restaurant: Zlatá Loď (www.zlatalod.com)
One of the best restaurants in Brno is the Zlatá Loď, the “Golden Boot”: Besides burgers, the specialties of the house include sirloin steaks. The menu features a balanced mix of Czech, Spanish, and French cuisine.
Bar: The Bar That Doesn’t Exist (www.barkteryneexistuje.cz)
A philosophical question: If a bar doesn’t exist and yet drinks are still served there – is it possible to get drunk on them? The Bar That Doesn’t Exist serves many outstanding cocktails that may help you to answer the initial question.
Bar: Super Panda Circus (www.superpandacircus.cz/en)
Those who enter the Super Panda Circus don’t (only) do so because of the drinks: Guests are greeted by a world of colors, paintings, and a circus atmosphere. It absolutely has to be seen.
Hotel: Barceló Brno Palace (http://www.brnohotels.cz/barcelo-brno-palace_d.php?site=brno)
The five-star Hotel Barceló Brno Palace in the city center offers luxury and comfort at a reasonable price. The historical building houses a modern luxury hotel with first-class service.
Hot spot: Observatory
The Czech Republic’s biggest 3D observatory is located in Brno. Anyone who likes observing the stars will love this renovated building.
Hot spot: Luzanky Park
Luzanky Park opened in 1786, making it one of the oldest public parks in Central Europe. Located in the center is a Renaissance Revival pavilion, which was built in 1855. There is also a children’s playground and plenty of shade provided by all kinds of trees – the ideal place for relaxing.