Juraj Jánošík: how an outlaw became the Slovak National Hero

Juraj Jánošík, the outlaw who supposedly robbed the rich and gave to the poor (a deed often attributed to the famous Robin Hood), and who has inspired really countless artistic works, was once an ordinary man, despite there are very few accounts about his life. One of them is the protocol from his trial in March 1713 when he was sentenced to death, other are the two documents from the archives in Trenčín, and lastly, there is the registry office of the parish in Varín. Thanks to the latter, we…

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Wandering through Wallenstein Palace Garden in Prague: the Dripstone Wall

We are in Prague, a magnificient city full of hidden alleys and charming walkways. Hidden behind the high walls, at the heart of baroque palace grounds, among a variety of buildings, is a palace lush garden with fountains, statues and other unique features. Constructed at the behest of Bohemian military leader who fought on the Catholic side during the Thirty Years’ War Albrecht Vaclav Eusebius of Wallenstein, between 1623 and 1630, the Wallenstein Palace (Valdštejnský palác) enjoyed a centuries-long first life as a magnificent private residence for various generations of…

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“Faces of Century”: the same people photographed as young and centenarians

Youth is a phase of life that is (almost) always remembered with happiness and, indeed the period flows quickly, especially if you look with your eyes turned to the past. So many things change when a person ages. Wrinkles, graying hair, are only some examples. But one thing that always stays the same is a person’s identity. In his series, Faces of Century, photographer Jan Langer from Opava, Czech Republic, visually presents the inevitable changes that accompany aging. With 100-year-old Czechs as his muses, he composed of several pairs of…

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3# From the bathtub to the table: Christmas Eve Carp!

There are many ways to ensure your meal is fresh: first, you can grow it yourself, or you can buy it directly from the farm. Or you can take it home alive and let it swim in your bathtub! The latter method is a Christmas Eve carp tradition in Slovakia, Poland, and Czech Republic. For centuries, families throughout much of central Europe have relied on one simple main course for Christmas Eve dinner: the common carp, a symbol of good luck and classic meat-free meal for Christians. Strong Catholic traditions…

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Prague: the magnificent European capital cobbled with Jewish gravestones

Prague is one of the most touristic cities in Europe. It is a large UNESCO World Heritage site, full of fairytale towers, ornate statues and art nouveau façades. The beauties of its historical and cultural heritage arouse the imagination and evoke its millenary history in the heart of the Holy Roman Empire and of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. However, in the midst of all this beauty, there are stories that people probably would rather forget. Despite its 3.5 million tourists a year, Prague has a history of pain, suffering and genocide…

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The macabre Bohnický Hřbitov Cemetery, the ‘cemetery of fools’ near Prague

Behind a rusty gate, under tall, dark trees in the suburbs of Prague, there is an old graveyard that used to belong to the nearby mental asylum in the village of Bohnice, even if the last dead were buried here in 1963. The graveyard has been abandoned since then. Today not many people take care of this neglected cemetery and the graves have been robbed by thieves and marked by acts of vandalism throughout the years. Crosses have been stolen and sold for iron, tombstones have been taken and incorporated…

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The Devil Heads that loom over the village of Želízy in Czech Republic.

A macabre sight awaits hikers exploring the pine forest above the village of Želízy in Protected Landscape Area Kokořínsko in Czech Republic: two enormous demonic faces carved into sandstone blocks, who stare visitors with their empty eyes. Created by Vaclav Levy (1820/1870), the sculptor founder of modern Czech sculpture, in the mid 1800s, the about 9 meters tall stone heads are known locally as Čertovy hlavy or the “The Devil Heads” and have been a local attraction for generations, while other carvings by the artist including artificial caves and scenes…

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The macabre legend of Houska Castle, about 50 km distance from Prague.

In the second half of the 13th century, a mysterious Gothic castle was built in the forests north of Prague. It wasn’t near any water, it is never been a strategic battle location, and didn’t seem to have anyone living in it. It was not built to repel attacks or to keep something out. So why was this random fortress built? It was built to hold something in and, as story goes, It was built to close the gateway to hell. According to local legend, it was meant to trap…

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The Capuchin Crypt in Brno, CZE.

The Capuchins came to Brno in 1604 at the invitation of the Bishop of Olomouc, František of Dietrichstein. For their first monastery, they opted a place in the eastern suburbs of the city, called the Gate of Měnín, and laid the foundation stone in the spring of the same year. The church was dedicated to Saint Francis of Assisi and in 1606 it was consecrated by Cardinal Dietrichstein himself. His decoration was supported by the outstanding painter Kosmas from Castelfranco, a priest of the Venetian province, who created not only…

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The “Indecent” little man on the church of St. James in Brno, Cze

On the southern window of Brno’s Church of St. James, the same church that houses Europe’s second largest ossuary, one sculptural element of the impressive structure seems somewhat out of place: an indecent little two-headed man cheekily displaying his bare butt to the world. This little guy is called “Neslušný mužícek” – the Indecent Little Man. There are two stories attributed to the little man, both involving the competition between the Church of St. James and the Cathedral of St. Peter and Paul on nearby Petrov Hill, to build the…

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Ossuary underneath the Church of St. James in Brno: Europe’s second largest ossuary

One of the most popular destinations for tourists in Czech Republic who venture outside Prague is the town of Kutna Hora, famous for its ossuary, in which thousands of human bones are arranged into various shapes, including a chandelier and a coat of arms. However, also in the Moravian capital Brno is possible enjoy a similar macabre place that is worth visiting. This is Europe’s second largest ossuary, it wasn’t discovered until 2001 and opened to the public for the first time in June of 2012. Before doing renovation or…

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Brno Astronomical Clock: a peculiar clock that commemorates a historic victory

In 1645, near the last stage of the Thirty Years’ War, the city of Brno became popular across Europe because it managed to thwart a siege by the previously undefeated Swedish army, numbering 30.000 soldiers and led by General Lennart Torstenson, thanks to a a very brilliant tactic. Even if the Swedes laid siege to the city for nearly three months, the citizens of Brno didn’t give up: facing a stalemate, the Swedish commanders decided to give up the siege if they wouldn’t manage to conquer the city before noon.…

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Old Town Hall of Brno and the legends of the Dragon and the wheel.

Hanging in the Old Town Hall of the largest Moravian city, a little bit as the hanging crocodile in Verona’s church, in Italy, is the carcass of a real “dragon”, or so the originators of the Brno Dragon legend would have you believe. One of the most famous legends in the city of Brno is that of the dragon that once threatened the people, and there are several versions of the story. The most popular has that the beast was threatening the citizens and all of their livestock, and no…

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The bone church – Sedlec Ossuary in Czech Republic.

The 40,000 to 70,000 skeletons within Sedlec Ossuary (known also as Kostnice Ossuary Beinhaus) in Czech Republic welcome you, literally, with open arms: the ossuary, located close to Kutná Hora is a singular place, displays some of the world’s more macabre art, and undoubtedly is a fascinating destination not to be missed. Known to most as “the Bone Church,” its history begins in 1278 when the Abbot of the Sedlec Monastery (Abbot Henry) brought a handful of earth back from a journey to the Grave of the Lord in Jerusalem.…

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The Golem of Prague and the origins of the myth of the clay giants

In Jewish folklore, a golem is an animated anthropomorphic being that is magically created entirely from inanimate matter (usually clay or mud). The word was used to mean an amorphous, unformed material in Psalms and medieval writing and it plays a very important role in the history of the city of Prague. In fact, the term seems to derive from the Hebrew word gelem, meaning raw material/lifeless earth clod. Not only that, it seems that the name recalls the mud of the Moldova river with which the small humanoids were…

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17# Christmas Around the World: Czech traditions and Superstitions.

Christmas is coming, and today is already December 17th! We are very happy because our advent calendar is truly appreciated by readers from all over the world, and every day we have really lot of visitors! Our collaborators have already tells about Christmas in Slovenia, Milanese Panettone and the traditional Christmas market in Milan, and Christmas traditions in Bulgaria. So, Christmas is coming. It’s time to slow down, be more good (maybe), recharge batteries and spend some time with the closest friends, family, but also have fun with some Czech…

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Vinárna Čertovka: the narrowest street in Prague has a pedestrian traffic light!

Vinárna Čertovka is known as the narrowest street in Prague. The half-a-meter-wide path is probably more of a staircase than a proper street, but that hasn’t stopped people from celebrating its peculiarity. Only one person at a time can pass through the thin passageway, which cuts between two houses in one of the historic city’s neighborhoods. There’s absolutely no space for two people approaching from opposite ends to pass one another, and so, to remedy this problem, someone installed a traffic light on either end of the street. With the…

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The “Hunger Stones”: sinister messages of the past discovered in Děčín.

The low water levels in the river that begins in the Czech Republic then crosses Germany into the North Sea has exposed stones on the river bed whose appearances in history used to warn people that hard times were coming. “Wenn du mich siehst, dann weine” (If you see me, weep): this menacing warning is engraved in a rock, popped up from the bed of the Elbe river, in Czech Republic, after months of prolonged drought. This inscription is found on one of the numerous so-called “hunger stones” re-emerged from…

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Koláč: how a delicious Czech pastry became a texan speciality.

Non-Texans people probably may be surprised to know that their State has the largest population of Czech-Americans in the United States. Czech immigrants began coming to Texas in the 19th century, where they settled in little farming communities known as tiny Praha, in southeast of Austin. They brought with them, of course, the koláč, an open-faced pastry traditionally prepared with a sweet filling, which is now beloved across all the state. So, the Czech koláč became “ko-lah-chee” for Texans, and its fillings have evolved over time. Many Texans first experienced…

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The Codex Gigas: the Devil’s Bible.

The Middle Ages is certainly not an era devoid of mysteries and strange symbolism, but the Codex Gigas is a real puzzle for the experts of ancient writings. The book is the largest medieval manuscript, with a height of 92 centimeters, a width of 50 and a weight of 75 kilograms. Initially, the pages were 320, but 8 of these were lost, fueling a mystery that has lasted for almost a thousand years. Literally meaning “giant book”, the Codex Gigas was created in the 13th century. The manuscript contains not…

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Kostel svatého Jiří: the medieval church haunted by the ghosts!

Kostel svatého Jiří (St. George’s Church) in Luková, Czech Republic, has been neglected for more than 40 years. Believing it to be haunted, the congregation refused to set foot into the church, which slowly fell into decay. Until it was saved by ghosts! It’s true: in fact still today, thirty creepy ghosts now inhabit this 14th-century church. The church, was consecrated in 1352, was victim to an unusual number of fires over its long years, and was partly rebuilt and restored many times. The last creepy event happened in 1968…

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The ruins of Choustník castle, history and legends.

There are, of course, some legends linked to the Choustník castle, located in the South of Czech Republic. Perhaps the most popular is about the origin of the castle. A beautiful and brave magician fell in love with the daughter of Emperor Bedrich Rudobrad. The Princess returned his love, but the Emperor was contrary to their love. The lovers therefore fled, and after a long travel they settled in the region of Tábor and built a castle. After a while the emperor forgot his anger and went to look for…

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The ruin of Hrad Zlenice

Zlenice castle was built after 1300 on a rock promontory above the confluence of the Mnichovický creek and the Sázava river. The name of this castle was mentioned first time in 1318, was named after the deserted settlement of Zlenice on the opposite bank of the Sázava river. There were ramparts, a lower castle, stables, and granaries, and the Mnichovsky creek flew around the castle making it thus accessible from two sides only with a draw bridge. At the beginning of the second half of the 14th century this area belonged…

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Dolnì Vitkovice of Ostrava (Cze): once industrial site, now playground of science, technology, and art.

Not even 20 years ago, Ostrava, the third-largest Czech city, was known as the “Czech Republic’s Iron Heart,” especially for this huge industrial plant born in 1830 and now transformed into a playground of science, technology, and art. The plant had an ironworks, a coal colliery, and six coke furnaces, and was the only one in Europe that processed iron from start to finish in one location, only because the site was so massive. In 1828, the archbishop Rudolph Johann of Habsburg organized the construction of the site’s first puddling…

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The lookout tower on the Petřín hill of Prague: the little sister of Eiffel Tower in Paris.

The Petřín Lookout Tower (Petřínská Rozhledna), where tourists can see one of the most beautiful view of Prague, was built as part of the Jubilee Exhibition in 1891 inspired by the Eiffel Tower. In fact, when in 1889 the members of the Czech Tourist Club visited the world exhibition in Paris, they were so impressed by the view of the famous Eiffel Tower, that they decided to create a similar dominant above the capital of Czech Republic. It was decided that a five-time smaller imitation of the Eiffel Tower would…

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Anežka Kašpárková, the ninety-year-old artist who decorate the village of Louka in Czech Republic.

In the small Czech village of Louka, in the South Moravian region, a ninety-year-old lady decided to spend its life with a really particular artistic adventure: beautifying all the houses of the village with floral decorations, typical of this area. Anežka Kašpárková, year ago, was a former agricultural worker who, to a certain age, has decided to become an outdoor painter. His drawings are usually made with a very bright blue-marine color, which today characterizes lot of external facades of Louka’s houses. The small village church is one of the…

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The magnificent baroque library of Prague: a paradise for all books lovers of all the world.

The Prague National Library was opened in 1722, and still today is one of the most beautiful libraries of all the world. With over 20,000 volumes, it is almost a sacred temple for all book lovers. The ceiling frescoes were made by Jan Hiebl, and through his pictorial work there are many symbols that represent the importance of education along with hagiographies Jesuits’s saints. Inside there is also an entire room dedicated to Mozart, with the original writings made by the master of Salzburg. The rare books collected by the…

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The Astronomical Clock of Prague: with 600 years of activity it’s the oldest still functioning.

The Astronomical Clock in Prague Old Town is an amazing example of ingenuity and medieval art. It is one of the main attractions of the city, and every day count hundreds of tourists. Behind this place there are some legends, and like every legend have always spread, and it’s not so important if are true or false, and if you want believe or not, it’s only your choice! The Old Town Astronomical Clock has been often exciting emotions in people, positive or negative, and based on them legends have came…

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