Sunday, 22 January 2017

Do you know that in Czech you can book a holiday as back in the era of communism?

This is not anything new and actually gets more and more popular every year. A travel agency Atis started to offer "Dovolena s ROH" a few years back. "Dovolan s ROH" means a retro holiday as back at the time of holiday with national trade unions in Czechoslovakia. Just to explain - back in communism, the best workers in each factory, plant or any place of work were awarded and got a chance to go for "dovolena s ROH". This was typically one week holiday in one of the holiday resorts in Czechoslovakia. The price was rather low and included accommodation, full board and also the full week programme. What does it actually look like nowadays? Enjoy the reading

The holiday "Dovolena s ROH" takes place in Tatra Mountains in Slovakia in the hotel Morava. Hotel Morava is one of the few hotels in the Czech Republic or Slovakia that still keeps the atmosphere as well as the equipment as back in time. Plus it is a famous place from one of the Czechoslovakian traditional movies Andel na horach (Angel in the mountains). 

Participants of this retro holiday can come to Tatranska Lomnica (location of the hotel Morava) by a special "train for holidaymakers". During the era of communism, there were specialized holiday trains that were dedicated only for holidaymakers from the national trade union. After coming to the hotel Morava, paticipants are welcomed by borovicka, traditional spirit in Slovakia, and get an introduction of the programme for the whole week. 

Every morning, there is a wake-up music playing at 7am all over the hotel. As the wake-up music, the old workers' songs from the era of communism are used. Ten minutes later, a warm-up exercise starts outside. Every day, there is a special programme prepared, which can vary from visiting nearby places to hiking in the mountains or also cleaning the surroundings of the hotel. 
For the second evening, the welcome party is prepared. It is expected to dress up for the evening programme. During the welcoming evening, each person stands up and says his or her name and where he or she works. People get to know each other, then there are several games prepared as well as oldies music at the dancing floor. Each other evening there is a retro programme prepared. 
Hotel Morava has until these days kept all the old equipment related to the national trade unions in Czechoslovakia. And for the time being of these retro holidays it really seems as if you turned back in time. 

On the top of that you may also join the traditional 1st May retro parade, in case you happen to be there on May 1st. Parades on 1st May (as a day of labor) were compulsory for all workers all over Czechoslovakia before 1989. Nowadays, it is more a parody and for some people a part of memory.

The concept of "Dovolena s ROH" is successfully running already for many years and is especially welcomed by the older generations. Does that all sound crazy? What most participants say - it is all about fun. And on the top of during this holiday you really get to know all other people in the hotel, which is something that basically does not happen nowadays. If you want to try pretty unusual holiday or want to learn about and really experience how it was back in times before 1989, then maybe this might be a nice option for you :-)

Czech Television even made a documentary movie about this retro holiday concept. 
You can watch it here (it is in Czech only). 

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Generation Y - Millennials in the Czech Republic

By Generation Y or Millennials in the Czech context I mean people born between early 1980's and early 1990's. Czech millennials were still influenced by the era of communism in their early childhood but further on moved towards the global technologically interconnected environment. There are many studies about the Generation Y. But how is generation Y in Czech like? 
Enjoy the reading

1. The last generation that played outside 
Till mid 1990's it was completely normal to see groups of kids running around the towns, villages, playing outside hide and seek, exploring the neighborhood. Technologies as cell phones, PCs any smart gadgets existed only to a very limited extent and only as tools used in offices. 
Kids' world was outside, that was their playground.

2. Combination of eastern and western mindset
While growing up, Czech millennials were influenced by the mindset of the regime before 1989. To meet someone meant to go and meet the person face to face. A telephone was used only in urgent situations. When anything stopped working, it was completely normal to repair it. Things were reused as much as it was possible. People knew names of all their neighbors, colleagues and schoolmates. 
After the change of the regime, Czech millennials were the first generation that learnt language and started to travel globally in mass. Unlike the previous generation, the millennials did not fall in love with the American dream so deeply. They already got a chance to see both the old world of their kids as well as the reality and the dark side of the western life style. 
Czech millennials became far more open-minded than previous generations, learnt to work hard in order to succeed  as well as did not fully jump into the commercial and consumption based one-use life-style.

3. Working is an important part of life but not the only part
This is a key measurement not only for millennials in Czech but globally. With this generation, topics as work-life balance, good personal relationships, spending enough time with own family became a key pillar of life. For the previous generation X having a good job and enough money, keeping social prestige were the most important values. In the Czech context the previous generation were called "Husak's kids" as they were born in the era of Husak's presidency called "normalization". Husak's kids wanted to move forward but the regime was suppressing any too new ideas. The new era after 1990's allowed the generation of Husak's kids to finally start doing what they liked. The possibilities were infinite, huge enthusiasm was partly covering the complete lack of experience. Husak's kids became Czech first businessmen with all good and bad sides it brought in 1990's following their American dream of own business, big money and in some cases extravagant life style.
Czech millennials come to the stage after this first huge wave of new Czech businessmen. They already got a chance to study, to travel, to explore and experience living as well as working in different environment, in different countries. The job is still an important part of their life though they were the first ones who brought up topics as work-life balance, time for personal development, enough time spent with family onto the stage. 
Czech millennials start balancing the original western values of hard work and big money followed in 1990's with the traditional values of good relationships, quality time with family and happiness.

4. Social responsibility is not a buzz word any more
In the Czech Republic, the environment protection was not an existing topic before 1989. It was completely normal back then to take a car and drive it onto a bank of a lake or into a river in order to wash it. It used to be normal to build heavy industry factories in the clean environment such as mountains. After the revolution and later due to the entrance to the European Union, many environmental friendly and sustainable steps were forced to be taken, so people and companies did so. 
Millennials are coming to the stage with a completely different mindset. They break up this mindset of forcing business at the first stage and along with that playing some social responsible policies.They just do it the other way around. Generation Y simple cares about the planet, about the nature. Therefore millennials are starting to build their life style in alignment with these natural resources and and not because it is a rule but because they want to do so.

5. Czechs millennials explore the world and later come back  home
Thank to the boom of internet and interconnection within the whole world that millennials naturally became part of. It is easy for them to find out what is happening in the other side of the world, to read and study what they are interested in or also to travel and physically explore the world. Millennials are no longer following the model of picking up the field of study, find a job and keeping this one work field throughout their whole life. They prefer exploring and trying new things. 
Czech millennials were the first generation that was as whole allowed as well as educated to go and study and work abroad. 
In the global context, millennials often become international people moving among the countries. In Czech generation Y go and explore the world but later often come back home and settle down in the Czech Republic. Why is that? Because we as Czech millennials want to work hard but at the same time we want to provide good and friendly environment to our families, we want to spend time with families and we want to be on the move but not rushing constantly. I guess, this is actually a great news for the Czech Republic. We as Czech millennials got the knowledge and experience from abroad, which we are using in our daily life in a way how we run businesses, how we work, how we care of the environment. At the same time we remember the key values we learnt in our childhood that we want to further give to our children. How often does it happen to you abroad that you would be singing in a pub :-)? 

I am looking forward to exploring how we as Czech millennials will further develop in the coming decades in our private, family, work as well as public life. 

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Tips for visiting Czech mountains

The Czech Republic is surrounded by countries offering great mountains areas such as Alps in Austria and Germany or Tatra Mountains in Slovakia. Though, there are also very beautiful mountains spots directly in Czech. Enjoy the reading and even more importantly enjoy your own exploration through these areas.

1. Rychlebske hory
It might be the case that you have never heard of these mountains. Rychlebske hory are located at the far end of the country near a town called Jesenik. It takes quite some time to get to this area. The infrastructure is not as developed as in other parts of the country. But if you are looking for a quite spot, real nature in its purest form, beautiful scenery and trails that are not overcrowded by tourists, go and explore these forgotten mountains in the North-East.

2. Sumava mountains
Sumava mountains are located in the south-eastern Bohemia on the border line with Austria and Bavaria/Germany. Sumava offers great cross-country skiing and cycling opportunities. The majority of the landscape in these mountains are covered with deep forests and therefore Sumava can be called as forest mountains. Due to its location nearby borderline, part of this area was closed for public during the communism era and many original German speaking villages were not populated any more after the WWII. Sumaba therefore has a very unique atmosphere as well as preserved nature beauty. If you enjoy beautiful hilly landscapes with woods all around you, this is a great place for you to visit.

3. Brdy
The Brdy mountains appeared recently on the list of must visit hiking places in Czech. Brdy are located in the south of Prague. The ridge starts nearby Mnisek pod Brdy and continues toward Pribram and Rozmitat pod Tremsinem. This area used to be closed for public for many years and was used only by the army forces for the training purposes. The wild and undiscovered character of these mountains is an attractive attribute why many hikers as well as families with kids start exploring this region.

4. Beskydy and Hostynske vrchy
Beskydy and Hostyndke vrchy are located at the most eastern part of the country and create a natural borderline with Slovakia. These Moravian mountains are pretty different from other mountains in Czech. There is no main ridge, instead many rounded hills are located literally next to each other. Beskydy and Hostynske vrchy have been also historically populated by Czech (or Moravian :-)) speaking inhabitants and therefore did not experience any big changes in populations as other mountains areas. Local people still keep old traditions in their original form. It is worth visiting also the museum in Roznov, where you can walk through the traditional local village and town as well as try delicatessen that this region offers.

5. Krusne hory
Krusne hory are mountains located on the borderline with Saxony/Germany. This mountains are in one way similar to Sumava due to their popularity among cross-country skiers and bikers. On the other hand, the nature is not so pure as in Sumava due to the intensive mining and heavy industry built in this region. The nature in Krusne hory is slowly recovering and nowadays becomes again a popular spot for weekend travelers and mountains fans. Beside the nature, you can also visit historical places and learn about the not that far history of this area, i.e. the uranium mining industry in the Jachymov area.

6. Jeseniky mountains
Jeseniky are the highest mountains in Moravia. The highest mountain is called Praded (1491 m. above the sea level). Jeseniky offer a wide range of natural beauty and therefore many areas are protected by ecologists, who do not allow massive construction of ski or hotel resorts. This is a great message for pure nature lovers. The main ridge around Praded is pretty popular especially during the summer and winter months but even in this peak season is still worth visiting. There are also many other areas and hills in Jeseniky that are bit hidden and where you can enjoy the real quietness and simple being. If you want to explore the mountains in its full beauty within just one day, you can sign up for the Jesenicka 60, which is a contest organized every June when mountains fans are walking 60 kilometers through the whole Jeseniky ridge.

7. Krkonose mountains
Krkonose or in English Giant Mountains cannot be left out of any list of Czech mountains. Krkonose create natural borderline between Czech and Poland, are located in the north-east Bohemia just two hours driving from Prague. The highest mountain Snezka (1603 m. above the sea level) is also the highest mountain in the Czech Republic. Krkonose are beautiful in all seasons of the year. Krkonose are probably the best prepared mountains for tourists and visitors. In Krkonose, you can find a wide range of accommodation options as well as many restaurant, mountain cabins, buffets etc. Together with their beauty, this is the reason why they became so popular among people from Prague, who became next to locals the big lovers and frequent visitors of these biggest mountains in Czech.

8. Palava
Palava does not belong to mountains but comparing to its flat neighborhood covered with wine yards, it can already be considered as hilly area and therefore belongs to this list as well. Palava is located in the south Moravia. You do not meet here high mountain hikers but rather people, who love wine in all forms and who want to enjoy the beauty, hospitality and warm climate of this region. In the area around Palava there are many wine cycling paths. Bike is therefore the best mean of transport, how you can explore this region. And who would resist the delicious local wine.

There are more hilly and mountains areas to see and explore in the Czech Republic that this list shows. Nearby Prague you can visit Kokorinsko or Krivoklatsko area. The borderline to Germany can be crossed not only via Sumava or Krusne hory but also in Cesky or Slavkovsky les. In the middle of the Czech Republic, you can discover wide and also still wild Vysocina as well as Zdarske vrchy on its nothern end, which are further followed by Ceskomoravska vrchovina and Moravsky kras with its typical wide cave systems. In the north of the country, you can continue from Krkonose to Adrspach, Broumovske vrchy and Orlicke mountains on the Polish border or to Jizerke mountains on the western side and bordering with Germany.

Czech is a little country but has a lot of offer. Enjoy the exploration!

Monday, 9 January 2017

My personal 10 favourite places in Prague

Prague is one the most popular tourist destinations in Europe. There are hundreds of spots worth visiting in this city. I want to share with you my own personal tips discovered during my students and early career life. Enjoy the reading.

1. Prague castle in the middle of the night
Prague castle is a top place to go for all Prague visitors. Therefore, the place might be a bit overcrowded - especially during the holiday times. I love going up there in the middle of the night. All the stands with tourist gadgets are closed, only a few other people walk around and the view out of the castle on Prague at night is splendid.

2. Vysehrad
Vysehrad is a place for dates, gathering with friends as well as a very pretty location for family walks. Vysehrad has its own unique atmosphere that you can enjoy at any time of the day. My favourite tip is to sit on the top of the wall surrounding the area and enjoy the view of either the castle or the river towards Podoli or just the trees around.

3. Farm market on Jiriho z Podebrad square
Not the oldest and not the most known farm market but I still prefer this one over the others. The farm market is located on a big square still close to the city center but apart of the crowds of people. I love taking the Moravian wine, local great bread and cheese and enjoying the breakfast under the trees in the little park on this square.

4. Delicatessen store Liberske lahudky on Vodickova street
This is very similar to the location above - not the most unique delicatessen in Prague but rathe a bit r old fashioned and definitely purely local and traditional place. At this place you can get all types of bread, rolls as well as sweet cakes, typical Czech desserts as well as open sandwiches or even salads (in Czech with mayo). There is also a little table to stand at, if you want to try what you got right away.

5. Walking from Troja around the Prague ZOO to Stromovka and further up to Letna
This is a beautiful walk with many nice spots around - I sometimes started even up on the hill in Bohnice to enjoy the view of Prague from that part. The area around the ZOO and the Troja castle is usually bit more busy and then come Stromovka - sport and family park in the middle of Prague. I love just walking on different paths around this area. After that I walk up towards Letna. If you want to take a break - either the café in Bio Oko or the beer garden in the Letna park are definitely places that I can recommend.

6. Taking traing from Prague main train station to Prague Smichov
This is just 10 minutes ride but I still enjoy this journey a lot. The rails are placed among old houses in the Vysehrad area, where you can almost see inside people's flats. Further on, the train crosses the rail bridge under Vysehrad with beautiful view of the Prague castle and in a few moments it stops in Smichov. If you want to come back to the centre again, take the walk through the rail bridge and continue on the other side of the river along the river bank called Naplavka.

7. If you really want to turn back in time and try local food as during the communism era, visi the canteen in Palmovka
Though not far from nowadays refurbished Karlin, Palmovka still keeps its own touch. Historically, it has been an area, where workers used to live and until nowadays you can still see and feel that this is a bit different Prague than in the city center. But it is real and authentic. If you are fans of the Czech traditional food and maybe are short of money, visit the canteet that is located just next to the tram stop towards Kobylisy. The portions are huge and price very low. This place is not about luxury but more about experience or as said cheap warm meals.

8. Sign up for the national library in Klementinum
This is not a tip for one time visitor but rather for a person staying in Prague for some time. The national library in Klmenetinum is a unique place with charming character - especially the main library hall. I used to spend there a lot of time when I was writing my diploma thesis and really loved it there. This is a place, where I literally felt the history and the old wisdom.

9. From Strahov to Ladronka
Strahov is probably not on any list of most visited places in Prague but I would recommend it anyway. There is a regular bus going from Karlovo namesti toward Strahov. In Strahov, you can see the huge Strahov stadium that was used for the sport gathering in past. Strahov is on the top of the hill, so you can again enjoy the beautiful view of Prague. Further on you can walk towards Ladronka, a nice green area nearby Prague center

10. Little alternative cinemas
Prague offers a wide range of cultural events. My favourite places are local cinemas such as Bio Oko in Letna, Svetozor next to the Wenceslas square or Lucerna just opposite to Svetozor, Kino Atlas in Florenc or Kino Aero in Zizkov. All these cinemas are showing alternative movies - most of them in the original languages with Czech subtitles. Going to any of these cinemas is already experience on its own. This is not about the unified world of multiplex cinemas, this is a cultural event on its own.

Sunday, 8 January 2017

My favourite facts about the Czech Republic

I love Czech people and the Czech Republic. These are a few facts that I find typical for this country. 
Maybe some of them might be familiar to you as well. Enjoy the reading.

1. Czech vs. the Czech Republic
The official name of the country is the Czech Republic and locals are clearly proud of that. Whenever foreigners call the country Czech, they get promptly corrected that it is the Czech Republic.  I am still not sure, why it is so critical to emphasize that the country is a republic, though locals will appreciate, if you use the full name.

2. Czech beer
Czech people love their beer. The Czech Republic has highest consumption of beer per capita and locals are clearly proud of it. Beer prices are still rather low comparing to other European countries and the taste of the Czech beer is just delicious. One of typical Czech traditions is to go for "one beer" (na jedno) after work. Usually it does not end with just one. 

3. Czech pessimism
The Czech Republic was called as the second most pessimistic country in the world ( The truth is that Czech people sometimes create this impression. A friend of mine (a foreigner) wrote an email to his Czech colleague asking him how he is and continuing further with a work related question he had. The answer from the Czech guy was "Hi, I won't answer the first question. Regarding the task...". My take on this one is that Czech people are not used to small talks or nice superficial conversations. Skepticism and expectation of a worse scenario is simply a part of the Czech mentality. But this still does not mean that Czech people are negative, they simply do not want to be positive.

4. DIY country
Czechs are do-it-yourself guys. Historically. the Czech nation was known for their technical skills. During the Austrian Hungarian Empire, Czech country was the most industrially developed region within the empire. During the communism era, it was rather difficult to get any developed tools or machines. Therefore people got used to creating them on their own. Most people at the age of fifty or older built their own house or a cabin - or if none of that - they at least made some home contraptions. Until today, Czechs are still used to do many things on their own rather than to call specialists.

5. Czech humor
Czech humor is ironic, sarcastic and knows absolutely no taboos and locals love it. Many jokes are based on the Czech language and especially on double meanings it offers. Czechs love making jokes out of anything, especially current news no matter how sad they could be. There is no topic that Czechs would not make a joke of. From foreigners' perspective, this might be a sign of disrespect but that is not really the case. Czechs simply love black humor and use it whenever they can.