Brno, Should I Stay (In My Pyjamas) or Should I Go (For a Walk)?
Photo: Viewpoint on Bílá hora, Brno (March 2021). Credit: KB / BD.
I first fell in love with the spirit of Brno during my Erasmus, when I was drawn to the city by the prospect of cheap bars, cafes and cinemas. I quickly began to appreciate this mish-mash of a place for its history, architecture and culture. I was fascinated to walk the streets of a city that was besieged, occupied and invaded so many times, so long ago, and surprised that it has preserved its industrial influence and been home to famous composers and architects.
And yet, during the lockdown, I began to worry. Was my notion of living in Brno overly romanticised? Without the local pubs, the tea houses where we played board games, or the weekend hikes where I met dozens of internationals – is life in Brno still as enjoyable?
So with the recent restrictions on cross-district movement, my feet began to itch! Growing up in a small town in Kwazulu-Natal, ‘The Place of the Zulus’ in South Africa, I never would have guessed that I’d end up living in the Czech Republic, a landlocked country scattered with castles. Now, I found myself checking out countries with less risk, imagining a summer in Norway or Iceland. I take my hat off to anyone who decides to emigrate during coronavirus times. I consider it quite a feat to move to a country far from home and find a way to settle in, especially during a pandemic.
So, strangely, something compels me to stay. It may be the moral urge not to travel but also the fact that Brno is familiar and I’m tired of moving.
To make up for the lack of adventure, I went out of my way to look for yet undiscovered places within the permitted area of Brno-město. Not that I desperately want to go traipsing around the city at the peak of a pandemic, but I need exercise, fresh air and inspiration as much as anyone (keeping as far away as possible from everyone, of course!). There are interesting places worth a walk, to avoid the popular spots like Špilberk and Prygl.
While for some this period is frustrating due to the reduced options available, for others it is the perfect time to discover new places in Brno. I took the opportunity to visit Bílá hora and Mariánské údolí for the first time, and it has changed my perspective of the city and the local people. It’s refreshing, not only to be out in nature but to learn a little more about Brno’s cultural and natural heritage. A walk from Anthropos park to Kamenná kolonie provides a perfect opportunity for both and rewards with scenic viewpoints.
But in spite of the charms Brno offers, I must admit that staying at home all week also has its perks. Especially on chilly days, I have recently been binge-watching the Star Wars films and a British drama series called ‘Years and Years’, a nihilistic projection that hit close to home. During lockdown, it’s also the people I live with who make my life indoors more interesting. While I fight the urge to open another packet of biscuits, my most extraverted flatmate spends whole days making puzzles, encouraged by the shaky tunes of her roommate who is trying to learn to play the ukulele.
Everyone’s living situation is different, and has its own challenges; when you live in an apartment of seven, soon cups of half-drunk tea plague any free surface, the Wifi kicks you off on a whim and no-one can remember who left that old piece of cheese in the fridge. Spending so much time at home can be fun, hard, and interesting… often in equal measure!
So on reflection, both going out and staying in have their uses, and maybe it’s a question of balance. Sometimes you just have to get outside to clear your head, and other times the best thing is to treat yourself to a bubble bath with microwaved lasagna and your favourite book. We each have our own small ways of getting through this challenging time, and in the end the most important thing is to find out what works for you, to keep yourself safe and sane!
Please make sure that you follow all current anti-epidemic measures at all times when walking or exercising, including wearing a respirator and maintaining safe distance from others.