I was in Prague for the last weekend of February. Have been there once before – in a warmer weather. This time it was cold and grey but still the place held its charm.
The last time I was there, I went to see all the places of tourist attraction but didn’t get any anecdotes nor historical significance of anything simply because I was with a set of friends who were living there on short term projects – which made them neither unfamiliar with the place nor experts. So this time, I made it a point to have a guided walking tour to understand the city and the country. I will post snippets from my tour one by one and here’s the first one.
Now as you might know, the Czech Republic is pretty young – having named thus in 1992. It was part of the Habsburg empire (Austro-Hungarian) at the beginning of the century. Then it became the Republic of Czechoslovakia in 1918. Then in 1938, Germany occupied Bohemia and Moravia while Slovakia became a Nazi puppet state. After world war II, Czechoslovakia again became an independent state in 1945. In 1948, it became a communist country. It remained so until 1989.A brief period of liberalization was introduced by Alexander Dubcek in 1968, but it was crushed by Soviet invasion. Digressing here a bit to quote an anecdote about that invasion. While the armies were proceeding towards Czechoslovakia, the people had interesting ideas to slow down the movement and confuse the soldiers. Although the national leader Dubcek implored people not to resist for fear of loss of lives, people did it nonetheless in their own way. Several villages renamed themselves as “Dubcek” and painted off the road signs except for the ones pointing towards Moscow. As there were no GPS systems then, the marching armies kept getting confused that they just came from a village named Dubcek, then how did they end up again in Dubcek! And people would tell them tales like, “Oh you must be coming from the Big Dubcek. This is the small Dubcek.” All this confusion impeded the armies’ movement but sadly, couldn’t stop them. The other aspect that people might not know is that the soldiers themselves were reluctant to march so far away from their countries but they didn’t have a choice – such was the fear of the Soviet communist regime of the time.
Coming back to the story, Andrea, my tour guide told us that her grandmother who lived up to a ripe age of 94 years never left her village where she was born and yet, was a citizen of 5 countries in her lifetime! So now to the national anthem – “Kde domov muj” which translates to “Where is my home” in English, makes perfect sense as with so many political changes, the people must be unsure about which country do they call their home!
However, Andrea had her tongue in cheek, when she also brought our attention to the fact that Czechs drink a lot of beer and therefore, every night, there are many people outside the bars wondering “where is my home?”, so much so that could be why it is their national anthem! How about that?
With this I end this post and leave you to wonder about your national anthem. More to come soon. Stay tuned :-).