Brno, the second largest city in the country...

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I had a friend from Brno visiting last week. I didn't see much of her; every moment she could she spent sightseeing, or visiting exhibitions, she even managed to get to visit the National Theatre, even though I have no idea how she managed to get a ticket, all the performances are hopelessly sold out well in advance. Anyway, she had a wonderful time and loved Prague, as she always does, as long as we kept to the topic of architecture, historic monuments and culture.

As soon as we came to contemporary Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic, she was a changed person. I had to listen to how Prague and the people living in it are selfish, they take it for granted that life in the capital is so much easier, the salaries are higher, the city takes up too much of the state budget, people here think they're the centre of the universe and that people living in the rest of the country are uneducated, stupid, just no good. To sum up, I heard all the usual. It's amazing, how divided 10 million inhabitants living in a country as small as ours can be, how critical they are of those living in other parts of the country. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that we're not really used to moving around. One reason, of course, is the lack of apartments. If you want to live somewhere else, you'll have a real problem finding a place to stay. But there is more to it than that.

For example, people don't even try to move from one district where the unemployment rate is high, to another, where they'd have less trouble finding a job. They won't leave their house or apartment, the place they are used to. Of course, there are exceptions. Young people tend to move to bigger cities, including Prague, like they do anywhere else in the world. But, generally speaking, only young people, and only some of them. As a result, various parts of the country are developing on their own, there is less mutual influence than one would expect in such a small country. Brno, the second largest city in the country, and my friend's home town, is less than two hours' drive from Prague, but in many ways, it's a different world. Even the language is a bit different, the local slang, I mean, and there are some words you can hear in Brno that a Praguer doesn't even understand. Some of them are nearer to Slovak than Czech - Brno being the capital of Moravia which borders on Slovakia and the two cultures being closer.

Moravian mentality is a bit different, too. I always think that that has something to do with the fact that Moravia, like Slovakia is wine growing and drinking country, while beer is the national drink in the Western part of the country. Anyway, and I'd hesitate to say so in front of my friend, because I don't want to quarrel, Brno has always been jealous of Prague, it would like to play a more important role in the country. True, the Supreme Court is located there, and the newly-appointed ombudsman's office is in Brno, but that's not enough. One realistic ambition is expanding the city's role as a center of international trade. The annual Brno International Trade Fair is a well known event whose heyday, however, seems to be over. But my Brno friend would point out that the fair's organisers are expanding the grounds, that they have many very good plans and that all of them will materialise as soon as the city's airport achieves international status and therefore becomes more easily accessible for foreign businessmen. All of which will be an important asset towards recognising the importance of Brno and placing it on the international map in even brighter colours.

Here I fully agree with my friend. Only I'm inclined to add that it would help not only Brno, but the whole country. Is that my Prague local patriotism talking?

Author: Olga Szantová
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