The Czech Republic had two national holidays the same week that Canada celebrated its 150th birthday of Confederation.
The first of the Czech holidays was July 5. It celebrated the missionaries that brought Christianity to the Slavs in the 9th century. One of the two, St. Cyril, invented the Cyrillic alphabet which for the first time enabled a written Slavic language. Today, over 300 million people use some variation of that script. http://www.officeholidays.com/countries/europe/cyril_and_methodius_day.php
The second holiday followed on the next day. It commemorated the martyrdom of Jan Hus, who was burned at the stake on July 6, 1415. Hus had been influenced by Wycliffe, and believed common people had every right to be able to read the bible in their own language. Hus also preached in the Czech language, when preaching in Latin was the general practice.
70 years before Luther, Hus condemned the commercialization and corruption of the Christian Church. At the time, the selling of indulgences was a significant source of revenue. His views got him in trouble with the authorities to the point that it cost him his life. http://www.officeholidays.com/countries/czech_republic/jan_hus_day.php
It feels like the Czech national identity incorporates two competing narratives. The founders are celebrated on the first day and the rebel celebrated on the next.
Perhaps it appealed to the “Canadian” in me. In our national identity, we have had to manage the tension of competing stories between settlers of French and English origins. This accommodation has had its rough patches over the decades. But by and large, Canada has made the tension a positive, creative and inclusive force.
Czechia is another country with two competing stories. And they celebrate them both – in back to back national Czech holidays.
What impact has this had on Czechs? It’s impossible for me to say with any confidence. Has it provided them with skills and ways of thinking that will prove valuable in the world of the 21st Century? Possibly.
For whatever reasons, the Czechs maintained their unique national identity within the Hapsburg Austro-Hungarian Empire for more than 300 years.
Their national identity was also sorely tested during two occupations of the 20th Century – first by the German Nazis and then by the Russian Communists.
Their first freely elected President at the end of the cold war, was a jailed poet.
Despite not knowing the language, I felt a strong affinity with the Czechs I met. Their interactions with me were, without exception, respectful, authentic, helpful and kind.
Honza Galla and Patrik Ištok at AZUB Recumbents http://azub.eu/ were good examples. They took time to give me invaluable advice. The two helped me extensively to chose a route and to prepare for my unusual tour. They didn’t have to, but they did it anyway.
There was a “down to earth” quality in the Czechs I met that made me feel at home. At no time when I was in the Czech Republic, did I have an unpleasant encounter. I would have a hard time saying that after spending a month in my own country!
In other words, all the Czechs I met, acted like Canadians when we are on our best behaviour.
The Czech Republic has so much going for it. It’s capital city, Prague, is one of the most beautiful in Europe.
Czechia has been at the heart of European history from earliest ages. Their UNESCO World Heritage sites are merited and protected for good reason. The countryside is picture postcard perfect.
Here is a gallery of some favourite sights:
Plan B* is about creating and embracing new possibilities. What happens when those possibilities greatly exceed expectations?
My experiences in the Czech Republic greatly exceeded my expectations. I was not prepared for how sad I would feel once my visit there came to an end.
I hadn’t thought of sadness as a measure for enjoyment. But in a way, it makes sense. We are usually made sad by what we have lost.
For me, bidding a sad farewell to the Czech Republic is the measure of the meaning, pleasure and enjoyment I experienced there.
What’s the Czech secret? I can’t honestly say. I’ll only suggest that a country that celebrates founders and rebels at the same time has to have something unique going for it.