living in brno, czech republic
** Updated July 2018
You've probably never heard of it, and if you have, you may think of it as Prague's uglier and less popular sister.
When in fact, Brno is one of the Czech Republic's best kept secrets.
We moved to Brno from New Zealand in 2015 which as you can imagine was a massive change. We ended up living in Brno for over a year, and I don't think we could have picked two places more opposite had we tried. Whilst Brno can't compete with New Zealand's pristine beaches or crystal clear lakes, what it can offer you is location and that old world charm.
Brno is Czech's second largest city, located about two and a half hours east of Prague, very close to the Austrian border. If you want to see Europe then this is the place to be, only a couple of hours from Vienna, three from Hungary and Poland, four from Germany and just an hour from Slovakia, you will never run out of places to explore. The Czech Republic also offers one of the best transport systems in all of Europe, it's fast, efficient, cheap and always on time. It has a national and amazingly convenient bus service called Student Agency whose buses pass through the city in all directions, bound for anywhere between Italy and Sweden. It makes it almost too easy to explore Europe.
But, It's not just Brno's fantastic location we love, It is also a breath of fresh air from Prague's bustling, tourist filled centre. Brno has managed to hold onto the thing Prague seems to have lost over the years, it sense of self. It is the locals drinking Czech beer in the bars, not the tourists. The food is good, old fashioned Czech; Slabs of meat, succulent gravy, sauerkraut and don't forget the all important dumplings to help soak it all up.
The highlight of the city is the stunning Cathedral which overlooks it from a hilltop. Now, I will admit it's buildings may not be as grand as Prague's, nor as impressive but it has a certain old world charm which is appealing in all the right ways. It's not as boisterous or as breath taking but quietly seductive. You will find you yourself slowly falling in love with its winding streets and cobbled lanes.
In the summer months people sit outside the local bars drinking delicious beer long after the sun goes down. There is always something happening at the city's main square from the Christmas markets in December to the wine tasting stalls in the summer. When the local vineyard owners come to town, Burcak is unleashed. Burcak is a Czech wine which is extremely fermented and it continues to ferment in your stomach long after you have drank it. This means you may have a few glasses of 5% alcohol but after an hour or so, that 5% is now 15%! There is also beer festivals, arts & craft markets and much more.
Did I mention that it is cheap too? The cost of living in Brno is super affordable! The price of beer is about 70p on average, a quarter of how much it costs in the capital. You can get a good meal for 3 GBP and local transport around the town costs as little as 50p. To travel further afield, the bus to Vienna for example costs 6 euros. This makes it the ideal place as a base in Europe.
English isn't as widely spoken here as it would be in Prague, but considering we know very, very little Czech you can still get by easily enough. It's really refreshing to be in a place which isn't catered towards tourists, it has enabled us to see the real Czech Republic without those tourist tinted glasses on. Living in Brno was never something we had considered before and had you asked us before we moved there, where ideally we would live in Czech given the chance, we would have said Prague - mainly because we couldn't have named anywhere else. But I am so glad that we didn't live in Prague and instead, I get to see the other side of this country which tends to live in Prague's shadow and I'm hoping through exploring and writing about the lesser known regions I can help and shine some light on them.