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.