8 Interesting Facts About the Czech Republic

My arrival in the Czech Republic means not only a new country for me, but a new installment of “8 Facts You Might Not Have Known…”

1) Prague is the defenestration capitol of the world.

If you are like me, you probably love a good defenestration. Two of the most famous defenestrations in world history both occurred in Prague. The first defenestration occurred on July 30, 1419, when seven members of the Prague city council were thrown out by a mob led by a priest demanding the release of several prisoners. When the city council didn’t give in to their demands, the mob stormed the city hall in Charles Square and threw seven people out the window where they were subsequently killed. The second defenestration took place on May 23, 1618, when a group of Protestants threw three Catholic representatives of the Emperor out a third story window in Prague Castle. All of the defenestrated survived the fall by landing in a pile of horse manure. One of the victims, Philip Fabricius who was a secretary to one of the imperial regents, was later given the title the “Baron of Highfall”.

There have been other less noteworthy defenestrations in Prague over the years as well.

2) The Czech Republic is west of the west.

During the Cold War, Czechoslovakia was considered part of Eastern Europe. However, Prague is actually further west than Vienna, Austria which is considered part of Western Europe. Historically speaking, the Czech Republic should be considered part of Central Europe rather than Orthodox Eastern Europe. Historically, the borders of the modern day Czech state were similar to that of what was Bohemia and Moravia. The Czech language used to be known as Bohemian as early as the 19th Century.

3) The Czech Republic is the #1 beer drinking country in the world.

The Czech’s drink more beer per capita than anyone else in the world, consuming on average 43 gallons (160 liters) per person, per year. The original Budweiser can be found in the Czech Republic. The Czech city of Pilsen is the home of pilsner. Former Czech president Václav Havel used to take visiting heads of state to local pubs to have a beer. Beer is known to have been brewed here since 993AD.

4) Famous Czechs.

Some of the famous Czechs you might have heard of include: NHL players Jaromír Jágr and Dominik Hašek, Oscar-winning director Miloš Forman, Oskar Schindler, Sigmund Freud, Ivana Trump, supermodel Petra N?mcová, tennis greats Martina Navratilova and Ivan Lendl, composer Antonin Dvorak, writer Franz Kafka, and early geneticist Gregor Mendel. Best of all, the polka tune “Roll Out The Barrels”, played during the 7th inning stretch at every Milwaukee Brewer game was written by a Czech Jaroslav Vejvoda.

5) The Czech Republic is castle capital of the world.

Given its location in the center of Europe, there were armies from all sides who always wanted to come through what is today the Czech Republic. As such, they built a lot of castles. Over 2,000 of them are in the country today which is the highest density of castles in the world. Prague castle is also the largest castle in the world by area at over 7 hectares (18 acres).

6) Standard of living.

The Czech Republic has the highest standard of living of any former Soviet Bloc country. Current per capita GDP is on a par with western European countries like Portugal and Greece. They have the most hospital beds per capita in the EU, the highest rate of secondary education, and the 5th freest press in the world according to Reporters Without Borders. Per capita GDP in Prague is higher than any other EU country except for Luxembourg. I’m sure I could cut and paste the bit above about beer consumption here too.

7) It has been split up and divided many times.

A 100-year-old person who spent their entire life in the same village in the Czech Republic may have been a citizen of many different countries depending on where in the country they lived. The Czech Republic, Czechoslovakia, Germany (annexed the Sudetenland), Poland (annexed the Zaolzie area), the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia (Nazi controlled). and the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Before that, it was also part of the Holy Roman Empire, the Kingdom of Bohemia, and Moravia.

8) Czechoslovakian creation and dissolution.

Modern Czechoslovakia was actually created in Pittsburgh, PA by the Pittsburgh Agreement which created the country after the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire after World War I. The country was peacefully split on December 31, 1992. Surprisingly, at the time of the split, most citizens in both countries didn’t favor it. Only about 1/3 of the people in each country wanted total independence. Most people wanted a type of confederation or lose association. The amazing thing about the “Velvet Divorce” is that is it one of the few examples of a peaceful split between two countries in the 20th Century.

15 Replies to “8 Interesting Facts About the Czech Republic”

  1. Jan Masaryk was quite important He wae defenestrated in 1947 I think After the 1618 defenestration the war lasted 30 years

  2. The first defenestration occurred on July 30, 1419 when seven members of the Prague city council was on Old Town Square (Staromestske namesti), not Charles’s Square. Charles’s Square ( Karlovo namesti ) is somewhere else in Prague. :)

  3. Please do something about the background color – white text on black is an extreme contrast and hard to read. White background is a common practice.

    If you disagree with me, you can have a poll and take the opinion of your regular readers.

  4. Fun post about one of my favorite countries (I lived there in the 1990s and loved it). I’d like to mention that there are some great Czech writers that would be a good addition to the famous people list. It is so true about the beer and castles– both seem to be everywhere! And about it being west of the west, something many people don’t think about because of its frequent inclusion in “Eastern Europe.” The Czechs are an intellectual, music-loving, educated, and Soviet-hating lot.

  5. Fascinating details! I haven’t been back to Prague since summer of 1990 after the Wall came down – went to the Rolling Stones concert there with V. Havel a stone’s throw away- you’ve reminded me it is time to go back!

  6. This was my first time visiting your blog and I enjoyed this post! My great grandparents came to America from Czechoslovakia. I plan to visit the Czech Reblic next summer for the first time. It’s great to learn new and interesting facts about the country my ancestors came from, especially that it’s the castle capital of the world! I hope you enjoy your stay there “)

  7. Gary – really enjoyed the post. I had no idea what defenestration was and that the Czech Republic is the #1 beer drinking nation in the world. Would have thought that honor went to Germany. Love your concept of 8 things you might not know – great idea!

  8. Purely fascinating tidbits, and good on you for doing your research on a new country. It will surely deepen your experience there.

    That and… hey, I learned a new [defenestration] mot! (though I should have been able to noodle it out from my ancient French and Italian.)

  9. Hi Gary, first, I enjoy your pod-casts, so, thanks for that!

    Second, my tips for your part of the world – Kutna Hora, just outside of Prague, is a god day trip… also, don’t miss Bratilslava, Solavkia – one of the great small cities. Also, geographically, the dead center of Europe.

    Cheers,
    Nathan

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