Brno

My wife and I visited Brno for a weekend in February 2003. Arriving at the bus station after a long journey from London, we were very tired, but excited at visiting somewhere new again! The coach from London which we normally take to go to Prague, continues its journey to Brno, Olomouc and Ostrava, so getting here was very easy.

We purchased tickets for the public transport at a tabák in the bus station, and made our way to the tram stop which we needed. The advance planning came in very useful here. We had booked into a guest house on the outskirts of Brno, on Seifertova, and we knew that we needed to get tram #1 and ride to the terminus. Using the street plans and maps online, and then the purchased street map we had, we knew pretty well where we were going, but we were in for a bit of a shock.

Seifertova is a long road going past some blocks of flats and we were fairly sure that a guest house would not be in a block of apartments. The address and name we had written down filled us with confidence as we alighted from the tram and pulled our suitcases on the pathway through the apartment complex to the main road. Of course, by now it was dark, although still quite early, but that did not worry us unduly.

Our first shock was finding that the side of the road we were on, had the wrong numbers. Our guest house was on the opposite side of the road. But there were no houses on the opposite side of the road! Looking to our right, towards Brno, we could see a light in a building about 300 metres away. Perhaps that was our guest house? We made our way along the road only to find that it was a small shop. Beyond the shop was a large roundabout - the end of Seifertova!

Don't panic! Remembering the comforting words on the cover of the best travel guide in the universe, we found a telephone box. We had the number of the guest house, so no problem, right?

Has any tourist ever found out how to operate public telephone boxes in the Czech Republic? I seriously doubt it. After two attempts, we searched for another phone - we thought that this one was probably vandalised - but the next phone box took my money without connecting me too.

What next? Ah, a bus stop. Let's ride a bus along Seifertova and see if there are houses beyond where we can see. Success! After a few minutes' ride, we saw lights of buildings on the correct side of the road. Alighting, we walked a few metres and arrived at our destination. It looked like a building site.

The front of the property was fenced off and padlocked. There was a cement-mixer and piles of sand and gravel in front of the building, and planks leading to the door. The building itself was in darkness. My wife and I looked at each other. Here we were in a foreign country, in a city we had never been to before, in a fairly sparsely populated area of that city, in the dark, pulling suitcases, and standing before a padlocked gate of a "guest-house" that looked like it was not built yet. No problem! I rang the bell that hung from its wire on the fence.

After what seemed like an hour but was probably less than a minute, a light glowed in the building. Then the front door opened, shedding a warm light into the gloom. A man approached us, and I introduced myself in halting Czech. Ah, yes! He smiled and opened the padlock. We followed him into the building, still not totally convinced that we were not to be murdered by this stranger!

Inside was such a contrast! Beautifully decorated and appointed, the guest house was warm and welcoming. The owners apologised for the appearance of the outside and explained that they were still working on the building. The room was excellent, and the food amazing!

Our landlady was very kind to us. Breakfast was like a feast; the table almost groaned under the weight of food at our disposal. She also kindly showed us a local restaurant - John Silver's - where the food was excellent and inexpensive.

The Town

The old town part of Brno is quite pretty and also quite small. It really does not take very long to get oriented, and find your way around. The tram system is excellent and one can easily familiarize oneself with the routes. We were there for only a long weekend, but found that we could take in most of the sights in that time.

What could we describe as highlights? Špílberk castle was something that I am glad we visited. Not exactly a hrad nor a zámek, more of a fortress I suppose it could be described as. Used by the Germans as a prison during the war, and by others similarly in times past, it commands an imposing position above the town. The Town Hall was interesting, although the tower was closed when we visited. Do not miss the Brnenský Drak (a stuffed crocodile, no less) in the entrance.

Brno is a recommended place to visit, and we would certainly like to renew our acquaintance with this town in the future.