To keep in the Poland-Ukraine 2012 spirit, I’ll focus on a different country playing in the tournament each day during the month of June; looking not so much at the national football team but more about travel to and visiting the country itself.
Today’s spotlight is on Czech Republic.
My first visit to Prague was when it was still the capital of Czechoslovakia.
I remember the cheap beer and the artists on Charles Bridge trying to add a splash of colour to an otherwise drab-looking, semi-Soviet, Communist country.
If you visit Prague today, you’ll see the statues and castle as the artist I photographed back then saw them in his mind’s eye; cleanly sandblasted and free of the industrial-era soot that troubled me.
The Trials and Tribulations of Independence
The independent country of Czechoslovakia was formed in 1918; after the collapse of the Habsburg monarchy, at the end of World War I.
The Czechs lived mostly in Bohemia and the Slovaks in the largely Hungarian controlled part of the Austro-Hungarian empire.
Initially conceived as a parliamentary democracy of the ‘Czechoslovak nation’, Czechoslovakia’s large German population in the Bohemian and Moravian border regions (the Sudetenland, in German) would pose further problems by the time of Adolf Hitler’s rise in Nazi Germany (1938).
The predominantly German districts were united with Germany and the Czech population kicked out.
In 1944 Czechoslovakia experienced some liberation by Soviet troops from the east and another short-lived period of democracy soon followed.
The Communists took power in 1948, and Czechoslovakia became a satellite state of the Soviet Union in 1949.
It would be almost forty years before the first anti-Communist demonstration took place in Bratislava; signalling the start of the Communist Party’s fall and the election of Václav Havel as president.
On 1st January 1993, the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic (Slovakia) were founded simultaneously. The Czech Republic joined NATO on 12th March 1999 and the European Union on 1st May 2004.
Czech Republic border controls have disappeared although Slovakia beat them to having the Euro as their currency.
With a quick word on the football, the Czechoslovakia national team won the European Championship in 1976 while the newly formed Czech Republic team lost to Germany in the final of England 1996.
Visiting Czech Republic
When visiting the Czech Republic, stay in Prague a few days by all means but please travel around the country to view some of the superb castles and chateaux in the Czech Republic; you won’t regret it.
Short URL: http://tnot.es/CZfocus