Reuniting with old and new friends in Brno

I think we are both happy that we decided to stop in Brno before heading on to Prague from Vienna. The visit with Christo and Yuliya has given us such a calming respite between one large city and another.
Christo is a friend I met at a former employer and it’s been absolutely fantastic reconnecting with him and getting to know Yuliya. She worked for the same company previously too, but I didn’t really know her. I wanted to visit Brno partly because my father used to come here for business back in the 60s and 70s, but also to visit Christo and to see the city he likes so much, including the ubiquitous functionalist architecture, like this (slightly more ornate example):

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We really appreciated that Christo told us about Student Agency as a way of getting here by bus. Bus may not be our preferred way to travel but it was an efficient way to get here yesterday and pretty cheap. We didn’t love that we were at the back of the bus and not able to spread out like we would on a train but it was nice to check out a movie and zone out for a while. We both watched the movie Before Sunrise because we wanted some escapism. It finished just as we pulled into the bus station in Brno.
So, my favorite things so far about our visit have totally been the time spent and meals shared with Christo and Yuliya. Last night Christo made us a wonderful dinner of chicken and rice. I could have eaten the whole thing, and then this morning Yuliya made us a wonderful spread including the best eggs I’ve had in I don’t know how long. And all along the conversation has been flowing and covering all sorts of topics, both personal and worldly. Then at lunchtime today the two of them took a break from work and met us for a meal. They took us to the Café Savoy, which first opened in 1929 and has a really cool design including a cool double staircase up to the upper floor. Apparently it’s not as great as it was when it was first built because of Soviet-style reconstruction, but we liked the place and it’s openness.
In between the time we’ve spent with our lovely hosts, we took our own walking tour of the city (based on the Use-it map), and took a guided tour of the labyrinth that is found under the city. To summarize from the map, in the medieval era, people started digging cellars to store food and wine, and it turned into a huge labryinth of interconnected tunnels and cellars about 1km long. It was quite interesting. The other interesting things we saw today included some very cool parks, including Tyršův Sad, which was first converted from a cemetery to a botanic garden and then into a general park. Apparently a lot of locals don’t know about it either. It’s actually the only park in town that closes at night (they actually lock it up, and part of the reason people don’t know about it is because it has walls and a gate). Another park we liked was the largest one in the city, Lužánky.
Here are some pictures from our touring around today. The first picture is of the main square and the controversial Brno Horlage, a weird clock that is apparently known to locals as the phallus.

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I also wanted to share one other picture from Tyršův sad that warned us not to set off fireworks, harass the birds, or shoot up, among other things.

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The biggest disappointment of the day for me was that we were unable to even visit the gardens of the Mies van der Rohe-designed Vila Tugendhat. Even if we’d known that you have to book your tickets for this place one month or more in advance, I don’t think it would have worked out for us, since I don’t even think we were sure two weeks ago that we were going to make it to Brno. We probably could have entered the gardens if we had known how to ask, but we didn’t.
Oh, wow, I almost forgot to mention the wild boar! There are some woods near Christo and Yuliya’s flat and after we arrived yesterday he recommended we take a walk down here. We did and it was super cool. We only saw one deer, but Christo also told us if we walked down a bit, there was an enclosure where we could see wild boar. And we did. I only saw one of them, munching on something a visitor had left but Angie, who has better eyes, saw a couple more.

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