Velehrad – Saints, Slavs and Fish

The Heart of Great Moravia 

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Velehrad’s Basilica of Saints Cyril and Methodius, the Czech Republic’s most important pilgrimage destination.

The first Slavs began arriving in what is now the Moravian regions of the Czech Republic in the 6th and 7th centuries AD. By the early 9th century, the first recognised Western Slavic homeland had been established there.

Known as Great Moravia, the kingdom lasted from the early 800s to the early 900s and covered present day Moravia as well as parts of what are now Bohemia, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia. Today, the village of Velehrad sits near what was the heart of Great Moravia in the south east of the Czech Republic.

The period of Great Moravia was a time of great social and spiritual development for Slavic culture as a whole. This was particularly true during the reign of the second Moravian king, Rastislav.

Bracketed by Germanic tribes to the west and the Byzantines to the east, Rastislav sought to minimise the influence of Germanic missionaries in his kingdom and turned to the Byzantines for assistance. The Byzantines dispatched two monks, Cyril and Methodius, to the area to bring Eastern Christianity to the Slavs.

The two monks created the Galgolithic alphabet, which was developed into the Cyrilic alphabet used by Bulgaria and Russia today. Through that alphabet, they translated religious texts from Greek and Latin into Old Church Slavonic and converted the majority of Slavs in Great Moravia to Christianity. Roman Catholicism became the religion of majority after Methodius died in 885 and the Cyrilic alphabet was replaced with the Roman one in the region.

Beyond bringing Christianity to the Slavs, the monks also wrote the first Slavic Civil Code that was used in Great Moravia.

Celebrating the Saints 

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View of the basilica church.

The contributions of Cyril and Methodius to Slavic cultures survive to the present and it’s no surprize to see them memorialised and honoured in numerous ways.

In the Czech context, the biggest tribute to them exists where they did their work. The basilica at Velehrad is consecrated to them and is the most important point of pilgrimage in the Czech Republic.

The basilica’s present Baroque face dates to rebuilding that took place after a large fire in 1681. However, the land it sits on has been occupied by religious buildings since a monstery was built there in the 13th century.

July 5 is St. Cyril and Methodius Day and is a state holiday on the Czech calendar. Many devout people from within Czech borders and points further away take part in the annual pilgrimage to the basilica.

The importance of the basilica at Velehrad is underlined by the fact that it was the first place visited by Pope John Paul II after the fall of Socialism in 1990.

Living Great Moravia 

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General view of Archeoskanzen.

Less than a kilometre’s walk from the basilica, you’ll find the Archeoskanzen in the adjoining village of Modrá.

Archeoskanzen is an open-air archeological museum that was established in 2004. it represents a ninth century village of the sort that would have existed in Great Moravia.

Different buildings are dedication to the vocations that were important to running the village, while others show places of governance and commerce. One room shows how Cyril and Methodius may have lived while they were in the area doing their work.

The museum is generally a self-guided place and it is possible to get information leaflets in English, and possibly other languages, to help you understand what you’re seeing.

Something Fishy 

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An example of local fish at Živá Voda Modrá.

In the same area as Archeoskanzen, you’ll find Živá Voda Modrá. This is a nature centre that has its focus on the flora and fauna of Moravian wetlands.

The inside part of the display goes into some detail about the biodiversity of Moravia. Upon entry, you can ask for a leaflet in English to help you through the information.

The real showpiece of the centre is a small tunnel that places you below water level of an outdoor pool that houses a selection of fish native to Moravian waterways and wetlands. Among the fish types you can view are: carp, catfish, perch, pike, sturgeon and trout.

Outdoors, you can view the fish pool from above and examine a variety of native Moravian plant varieties.

Paying a Visit and Learning More

This is not the easiest of places in the Czech Republic to visit if you don’t have a car available to you. There are buses from the nearby small city of Uherské Hradiště, but there are only a few per day so you really will need to be mindful of the schedules.

Taxis also will run from Uherské Hradiště to Velehrad, but there’s no guarantee of the driver being able to speak anything but Czech. As such, this is not an ideal option unless you speak Czech or have a Czech speaker going with you.

If you’re the more intrepid and active type and are visiting in spring or summer, you may be able to reach Velehrad via one of the many cycling trails that run through the area.

If you’re visiting Velehrad as a day trip, I’d suggest taking some snacks with you as dining options are rather limited.

It’s also a good idea to have some cash on hand if you visit the attractions in Modrá. Neither Archeoskanzen or Živá Voda Modrá accepted card payment at the time we visited in April of 2019.

The following links will give you more information about the attractions in Velehrad and Modrá

http://www.velehradinfo.cz/en/

https://www.archeoskanzen.cz/

http://www.zivavodamodra.cz/

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A Floral Interlude

Hello all,

It might be a while longer before the next full length article here at Beyond Prague, partly that’s to do with some things going on in other aspects of life and partly that both my blogs here are in need of some serious housekeeping before I put too much new material up.

In the meantime, I’ll hold the space by sharing with you some images of a recent day trip we made to the lovely UNESCO listed Lednice chateau and gardens.

Enjoy and I hope to have some new longer posts for you soon.

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Poslední Zvonění – School’s Out!

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One of the many groups of graduating students in Brno’s 2019 Poslední Zvonění week.

Poslední Zvonění – The Last Ringing

If you find yourself in a Czech city around April or May, you’ll likely see groups of young people dressed up in all kinds of costumes and asking people on the street for money. You’ll also see themed picture boards featuring groups of young people in the windows of shops.

It’s an annual tradition that confuses many visitors and creates divided opinions among Czechs themselves. Let’s take a look at Poslední Zvonění:

The tradition is connected to the writing of the school leaving exam, Maturita in Czech, and takes place during a week long break the students are given between the written and oral parts of the exam. The week is used to study at home, but also to have a bit of fun as they say goodbye to school and hear the ringing of a school bell for the last time.

Graduating classes typically make a themed picture board showing all members of the class as well as the teachers. These boards are displayed prominently in the windows of shops who have agreed to letting the students use their windows.

As for the costumed part, it’s mostly up to the students’ imagination as to what the group theme will be and the themes can be quite varied indeed. The money they collect is used to fund their graduation parties. It’s not unusual for the students to have some small sweets as an exchange for the money. Not much money is expected beyond a bit of pocket change.

Most Czechs are quite happy to accept the tradition as a bit of fun. However, there are some that see it as a nuisance despite the fact that there are rules of etiquette for the  students to follow and they are polite and friendly when carrying out the tradition.

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On the move in Brno’s main square.

 

A New Way to Explore Czech Monuments

 

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Vila Stiassni, in Brno, one of several monuments available to view and explore through a new 3D website launched recently.

Very recently the National Heritage Institute (Národní Památkový Ústav) of the Czech Republic launched a new website that allows you to explore various heritage sites around the country in 3D online.

The site works with both traditional mouse control and touch screen technology and can be used with virtual reality technology as well.

Follow this link to the site and have a bit of fun exploring. I hope it will be successful and we’ll see it grow and develop:

http://www.pamatky3d.cz/

 

 

New Czech Law Sticks it to Scammers!

Very recently, the Czech government passed a new law that puts more power in your hands when dealing with dishonest money exchangers. The law was put in to help combat money exhange scammers which are rampant in the centre of Prague. However, it’s a national law and can be applied anywhere in the country.

Very simply, the new law gives you the right to demand your money back within three hours of a bad exchange. You can involve the police if need be.

This video by the Honest Guide guys will tell you more:

https://d.tube/#!/v/honestguide/xy6v5zxt

 

We’re Getting Noticed Again!

Time to Show Some Gratitude

Very recently, Beyond Prague was noticed by a couple of parties and I’d be remiss in my duties as a blogger if I didn’t thank them publicly.

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Firstly, I would like to thank the Travelosource website for visiting Beyond Prague and thinking highly enough of it to place a link to it on their page of Czech Republic travel resources.

In the sidebar, you’ll notice their logo. Clicking on it will take you directly to their Czech Republic page.

 

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I also wish to thank the people at the Čezeta scooter company for paying a visit and linking my recent article about their scooters to their Facebook page.

It’s always great when those who I write about take notice and show their thanks.

The reciprocal effect is that through linking that article to their Facebook page, I got a big spike in my blog stats and the article became the blog’s most shared article literally overnight.

 

 

Made in the Czech Republic – Čezeta

Get on Your Pig and Ride! 

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An example of a 501 series Čezeta. The 501 was the first of the classic Čezeta line and debuted in 1957.

Motor scooters are a very popular way that many people around the world choose to get around, particularly in crowded cities where parking for traditional four wheel cars tends to be at a premium. Indeed, the entire point of the motor scooter as a vehicle has always been a balance of economical operation and effective utility.

The real heyday of motor scooters was from the immediate post World War II years to the late 1960s. Two of the earliest and best known motor scooters of this period came from Italy in the form of the Piaggio Vespa and the Innocenti Lambretta. Both types of scooter were immediately popular as the time period they debuted in was marked by recovering post war economies around Europe where many things, particularly petrol, were strictly rationed in many places

Through the 1950s, many more companies around the world began producing motor scooters as demand for them was growing. Through the late 1950s and into the early 1960s, the motor scooter truly came into its own as a popular vehicle with youth in many places as it came to be a symbol of status and affordable freedom for young people with lower paying jobs. The scooter became an inseparable part of the Mod subculture which was popular in Great Britain through the late 1950s to the mid 1960s.

The Čezeta debuted in 1957 and was the former Czechoslovakia’s contribution to this golden age of motor scooters. Immediately distinguishable from its contemporaries by its very different design which included a long front section ahead of the driver that terminated in a single headlamp, this aspect of the vehicle’s design would see it given the affectionate nickname of “Pig” in its homeland. Indeed, with its long snout, the Čezeta resembled that farm animal more than anything else.

The Čezeta exists in both a classic and a modern line. The classic line was produced from 1957 to 1964 and encompassed three versions.  The Čezeta was revived in modern form in 2017; though the classic shape has been kept, the modern version is a very different breed of pig from the classic.

Let’s spend some time with the Čezeta:

The Right Man for the Job 

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Another angle on a 501 series Čezeta, showing the lines that gave it the nickname of “Pig”.

The Čezeta was designed by Jaroslav František Koch (1893-1983). Born in a small village near Prague, Koch studied industrial design and spent the First World War and immediate post war years working for aircraft companies.

Koch was an accomplished motorcycle racer and was responsible for designing the legendary Praga BD 500 series of motorcycles which were produced between 1927 and 1935.

In 1940, shortly before being hired by Česka Zbrojovka (ČZ) at the company’s Strakonice factory, Koch took out a patent on a scooter of quite revolutionary monocoque design. A Monocoque design uses the vehicle’s body shell to give structural inegrity and strength rather than a separate internal frame that the body shell could be attached to. The biggest advantage to the monocoque frame was savings in materials and weight.

ČZ Strakonice became one of the world’s most prolific and successful producers of racing motorcycles from the immediate post World War two years to the mid 1980s. Koch was truly in his element and it was during his time at ČZ that he designed the Čezeta.

A Scooter Apart

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An example of a 502 series Čezeta with trailer attached.

The design of the Čezeta was a clear departure from those of its contemporaries. Other than satisfying the requirements to classify as a scooter for licensing purposes and giving young people in the former Czechoslovakia and other former Socialist countries in Europe a taste of affordable freedom that western scooters were giving to the youth in other parts of the world, the Čezeta was a very different animal indeed as scooters went.

Aside of the aforementioned monocoque body design and “snout” on the front, the Čezeta also featured a notably longer wheel base than other scooters. The advantages of all these features gave the Čezeta a very strong structure, better ergonomics for both driver and passenger as well as improved cargo carrying ability. The “snout” was the key to the Čezeta being able to carry more than other scooters as it allowed the fuel tank to be put out front in a position over the front wheel, thus freeing up more cargo space under the seat. It also created space for a small luggage rack to be mounted on the front section of the scooter.

The classic line of Čezeta scooters comprised three series: 501, 502 and 505. The 501 and 502 were scooters in the truest sense while the 505 brought the utilitarian qualities of the vehicle to the fore.

The 501 series was built between 1957 and 1960 and was built in six sub-variants which were primarily differentiated by changes to the engine and its cooling system.

Debuting in 1960, the 502 series brought a number of improvements including better suspension and engine starting systems. The 502 also brought with it a modest increase in maximum speed and significant improvements in cargo and passenger carrying ability in the form of an available trailer and the ability to be fitted with a side car. The sidecar itself was made by a company called Drupol and was given the name “Druzeta”. The 502 series was built until 1963 and existed in four sub-variants.

An interesting chapter of the Čezeta story occured in 1960 when the NZeta debuted. The NZeta was a license produced version of the Čezeta made in New Zealand from imported Čezeta components and 25% locally made parts in accordance with import laws at the time. NZeta production lasted for three years.

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The 505 series changed the scooter to a transport vehicle first and formost.

Built between 1962 and 1964, the 505 series took the front end of the 502 series and married it to a steel rear frame to create a tricycle vehicle with an emphasis on transport. The 505 could be fitted with a variety of rear cargo sections that included flatbed and cargo box options as well as a van body with a completely enclosed cabin for the driver.

The 505 series had a maximun hauling capacity of around 200 kilograms which made it quite useful for small delivery and courier work as well as light transport around agricultural and industrial sites.

All members of the classic Čezeta line could be fitted with an optional clear plastic windshield for increased protection from debris.

The “Pig” Today and Learning More

Roughly 20 years after the last Čezeta was built, ČZ Strakonice faded from the motorcycle manufacturing landscape and the scooters they produced became collectible rarities. Today, the best chance of seeing one of these classic scooters is at a vintage automobile event or automobile museum in the Czech Republic.

The rights to the Čezeta  name and design were purchased by Prague based British expatriate, Neil Eamonn Smith. Smith set up the Čezeta Motors s.r.o. company in 2013 to begin the production of a new generation of scooters under the Čezeta name. The first of this new generation debuted in 2017 as the series 506.

While the new generation of the scooter has faithfully kept the look of the classic line, everything else is different. The 506 series is fully electric rather than petrol powered and has a composite material body shell over an internal frame as opposed to the metal monocoque construction of the classic series.

The new Čezeta is planned to be limited production only and built to order by individual buyer. As such, the new series is aimed for those with a taste for nostalgia rather than a want for utility.

The following links will take you to articles that will give you some further reading about both classic and new Čezetas:
http://www.bbc.com/autos/story/20151231-electric-power-for-an-icon-of-the-atomic-age

http://www.tresbohemes.com/2018/06/the-return-of-the-iconic-cezeta-scooter/

These articles contain some interesting reading on the NZeta.
https://www.aa.co.nz/membership/aa-directions/features/weird-and-wonderful-new-zealand/a-beauty-like-no-other/

https://www.stuff.co.nz/motoring/bikes/91860773/could-the-iconic-nzeta-scooter-return-with-electric-power