Interest in Prague

Trip Start May 20, 2005
Trip End Jun 07, 2007

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Flag of Czech Republic  ,
Tuesday, May 24, 2005

The Czech Republic is hardly found on the well-beaten path for American tourists. That is different for Europeans, mostly Germans on holiday or Brits coming here on a "Stag Party" (I bet you can guess what that is all about). For continentals, Prague  is a destination town, but Americans are not seen here in great numbers. Travel complications and language barriers tend to keep it off the "If it is Tuesday, this is Belgium," list.

The exceptions:

1. Students come here because it is still cheap, slightly mysterious, strangely exotic and a good, clean safe alternative to the usual student destinations.

2. Determined academics, like myself who like exploring places off the usual track or who have specialized interests (see below) that fit with the Czech Republic.

3. A dwindling number of ex-pats who came here in the heady years following the so-called "Velvet Revolution" (1989-1990) to experience/help/broker/invest in the emerging new world of post-communist East Europe.

My interests in this wonderful little corner of the world are three fold. There are many stories here that will enrich the listening experience of A Moment in Time. I will be focusing on:

1. The role played by Bohemia, of which the Czech Republic is a significant part, in helping spark the Protestant Reformation. Jan Hus (along with England's John Wyciffe), in many ways, laid the groundwork for the conflagration that enveloped Europe 100 years later.

2. By contrast, this part of the world was also the cockpit of the Counter-Reformation. Here, in brutal fashion, Bohemia, by force of arms, was wrenched back from Protestant affection and returned to the Roman Catholic fold. If you want to see the terrible toll exacted by religious intolerance, come to Prague.

3. Finally, on at least two occasions the Czechs took the lead in resistance to communism. The sputtering Prague Spring of 1968 demonstrated what freedom could mean to a people that had known nothing of it since being abandoned by the liberal west (England and France) at Munich during the Sudetenland Crisis of 1938-9. Russian tanks crushed that experiment of "Socialism with a Human Face."

The Velvet Revolution in the late 1980s and early 1990s proved that Czechs had had enough of Marx, Lenin and all their works. It was time to give freedom a try. This time the Russian tanks didn't show and so there was no turning back.

Next time: The City of Contrasts
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