Letter from Prague

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I know this is supposed to be a letter from Prague, but I today I would like to point out that there is life beyond the boundaries of the Czech capital. Yeah right, we know that, I hear you say, but many times when listening to Radio Prague I get the impression that there's nothing happening anywhere else.

But I don't really want to talk about 'golden' Prague, no matter how much of a goldmine it is for business, tourism or the entertainment industry. Sooner or later it all gets too much, and you realise you need to take a break from the golden city. So let me point out a historical and geographical fact that is often ignored, both in this country and abroad: the Czech Republic is made up of three different and distinct parts: Bohemia, Moravia and Silesia, all of them worth seeing.

Now because I am--as my boyfriend says--a Moravian nationalist, living in Silesia, I will speak for the latter two regions. Just to make things clear: In Moravia they grow hops in the north and vines in the south. Silesia is the former coal-mining capital and industrial heart of the country. The natural boundary between those two historical regions is the Odra River. And to explain my origins, I was born on the Moravian side of the river, but actually live in Silesia.

What's all the fuss about then, you think, you're all Czechs anyway. But there are a couple of differences, the most noticeable being language. Prague has a very specific accent, and whenever I come here, my ears ache from all that slang. At the same time everyone here can tell immediately that I'm Moravian by the way I speak. I always feel a strong resentment at the way people in Prague speak. If you'd ask me they're ruining our beautiful language with their awful pronunciation. Moravia is the place where you're more likely to hear Czech as it should be spoken.

Another difference is that the Silesians, especially those living around Ostrava, have a reputation somewhat similar to the Scots. People say they're a bit stingy, and will do anything to save money. But this is a result of their difficult economic circumstances, and like the Scots, they have a wonderful sense of black humour.

On the other hand South Moravians are well known for their incredible hospitality. While interviewing an elderly couple on their memories of the Jewish community in south Moravia, I was offered not only refreshments and fruit from their garden, but also a pair of shoes the lady had bought the week before but couldn't wear because they were too tight for her. Moravians have not only vineyards but also make excellent plum brandy called slivovice, which they will offer you on any occasion.

We have several jokes about the people of Prague. As far as we can tell, nothing ever happens in the capital before nine in the morning, while the rest of us are already hard at work. And the only reason it keeps going at all is because there are so many Moravians living and working there.

Author: Zuzana Šmídová
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