‘You’re moving from Prague to Brno?’ ‘Yes’ ‘From Prague..to Brno?! ‘Yeeep’ ‘..but…Brno? Why? It’s…?’
Take your pick of what follows next,
but I can tell you that in five years of living in Prague, I never
got a glowing recommendation.
Of course at the time, my reason for
moving to Brno was justified. I had just been offered a new job and I
felt it was logical to relocate, rather than commute from Prague.
But there was another reason, one that
had aroused my curiosity and festered in my mind since I first heard
about Brno. Something that none of the ‘experts’ and ‘reviews’
mentioned, but all agreed on in that hidden-between-my-words kind of
way, like a predetermined guilty verdict rendered in a lawless court.
Brno is the underdog.
And that was the clincher for me.
Let me explain.
See, I love movies.
In particular, I’m a sucker for a good
You name it.. Rocky Balboa, Flashdance,
Dirty Dancing, Rambo, 8Mile, Captain Jack Sparrow, the Good Soldier
Svejk.. the underdog has been keeping me entertained and motivated
for as long as I can remember. Whether it’s the relentless gritty
fighter, the zero to hero artist, the smart drunken pirate or the
simple comedic genius of a fool, the character always appealed to me,
as I’m sure it appeals to many of you.
So naturally, having heard all the
DEFCON 4 warnings about this somewhat enigmatic place, I couldn’t
wait to move there.
And so the day came, in Autumn 2018,
when I packed my bags and left the ‘City of 100 spires’. The
farewell wishes felt more like condolence speeches for a recent
demotion, but I was more excited about venturing into the unknown. As
I sat on the train, having a hearty breakfast (guess which train I’m
on?) I examined the few ‘facts’ that I had gathered so far about
my soon to be home.
Second largest city in Czech
Republic… check. Over a thousand years of history… check.
Universities, so in effect a student town… check. Lots
of wine, i think… check. A castle… check. Oh, and
a strange name (is it just me, or does it look like it’s missing a
letter?) … Czech.
I pulled into a train station that
looked a hundred years old (about 180 years old it turns out, and
one of the first railways in the world…huh) and followed the
rest of the people leaving the train to the exit.
Outside, I got my first view of Brno.
Tram tracks running up and down the road in front of me, trams
tracking to and fro, different people, different races hustling and
bustling around me.
And yet, the atmosphere seemed calmer
somehow, warmer… first good sign.
I was supposed to meet a friend and had
been given instructions to ‘meet him by McDonalds in the main
square’. I did a quick scan of the Czech language in my head
and found the sentence to ask for directions (I’m sure we’ve all
worked out by now that I’m not Czech.. we’ll get to those proper
introduction another time).
‘Can I help you?’
Surprised, I turned to face to a young
man in his early 20s wearing a baseball cap and a rucksack on his
‘Hi,’ I replied. ‘I’m looking for
the main square’
‘Ah, yes’, he pointed across the
tramlines to a cobbled pathway between two buildings that curved
around a KFC and out of sight.
‘Follow that road over there till you
see the black cock and you will be there..’
‘Till i see…what?’
‘.. the black clock,’ he
‘Aha.. thank you’..
‘No problem, Cau!’ He
smiled, threw me a wave and was gone.
I set off in the given direction,
making a mental note of the interaction as another factor that
complimented this city… people were …nicer? Second good
I walked up the narrow cobbled street,
flanked on each side by shopping outlets, eateries and phone shops,
looking upwards for my target. Just how far was this..black
I had definitely misheard him..right?
Or maybe I just chose to hear what I wanted to hear, a good ol’
Freudian slip and all. But, hadn’t I seen a cheeky smile dancing in
his eyes?.. surely he knew what he said? Or maybe…
That’s when I saw it.
Clarity swept in and I cracked up
‘I’m gonna love it here’
…and i have.
It’s been quite an adventure, and as
much as I could entertain you with the rest of this tale, and indeed
regale you with the many other little adventures, time is fleeting
and there is a point to this story.
Yes, ..but why Brno?
I’m sitting in a bar and a new friend
has just posed the question to me.
This time, I’m not thinking of the
usual social response. It’s been almost a year since I got here and
in that time I’ve learnt to view this city in a different light. Not
through the eyes of its sister city, the golden city, the
largest city, Prague. That’s not a fair comparison. Brno is half the
size, and in spite of that still has most of the same grand,
high-quality architecture I’ve come to expect from the Czech
So, right now, I’m thinking of the
And I’m back to the tale of the
The word, like many in the English
language, has evolved from demeaning humble beginnings into a
conquering force for good. When it first appeared on the scene back
in the 19th century, the term was used in reference to actual dog
fighting and saved for the weaker ‘inferior’ competitor.
Interestingly enough, it was mostly used in comparison with the top
dog, the fan favourite, and with those odds the underdog
never stood a chance.
By the turn of the 20th century, the
terms had become a part of our everyday language and the significance
had evolved to refer to social status. So ‘dog fighting’ became
the ‘rat-race, the ’top dog’ became the the 1% (whether
we are talking about people or places)… and the underdog? Well,
that’s the rest of us, the Average Joe, more commonly known as the
And the middle class underdog was a
whole different breed.
Where once the roles had been
distinctly defined, by the mid 20th century both roles began to be
recognised for their wider attributes and characteristics rather than
their original literal meanings.
The topdog pretty much remained the
same, except moving slightly further towards an association with
power and money. However the ‘underdog’ now came to
represent survival, passion, relentless spirit, hope, growth, and
above all compassion and love. This change was mostly recognised in
the world of sport (ironic, since the term had originally come from a
sport, albeit a despicable one) but soon crossed over to the world of
movies and books.
And here we are, in the 21st century
society and at the apex of this rant. We all know the topdogs of
course (maybe uncles, aunts or distant relatives) or socially
(myspace, facebook, twitter, instagram, we got them all right?) but
what about the underdog? Well, we still use the term but we apply the
characteristics which are more relevant.
Which leads me back to Brno.
Brno is a really great city: the sheer
beautiful architecture on a smaller scale than Prague, but who’s
comparing? Or the warmth of the people here that makes me feel like
I’m talking to old friends, or how going out to my local pub or bar
feels like leaving my bedroom… to go to my living room. But what
intrigues me most are the sights between the stories. Those tiny
screws that make the city stand out. Whether it’s the phallic
sculptures (the horse in Moravske namesti, that’s one for the books)
or the defiant cherub mooning on a church (Sv. Jakub’s Church,
unreal), or the history behind the big black c(l)ock, Brno
proves it’s not like every other city out there. What you get here is
the raw, honest, undiluted, no-holds barred, straight talking
underdog. From people to scenery, Brno dares to be defiant and human.
And that’s what we can all relate to. Being human.
Standing up even when the world doesn’t
believe you can, living the best way you know how, continually
training and fighting for what you believe in and what you want…
and not letting anyone stop you (anyone that has seen a good underdog
movie, knows that the struggle just makes way for a great montage
scene). Because you have people who are going through the same thing
around you and can relate. So you can be your fullest self because
you are all moving as one..
In comparison, Prague is a fast-growing
metropolis, and while it retains its gorgeous culture, it can be more
of the same: a chaotic rat-race that can give you the sense of being
lost and alone in the crowd. Everyone is too ‘fast’ to care too
much about the little things.
So I figured, given a choice, I’d take
the humanity of Brno over the hustle and bustle of Prague any day.
But that’s just me.
I guess that’s why I moved.. And that’s why i stayed.
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