The Habsburg Emperor Rudolf II left a deep mark in Czech history. Various legends and myths surround the 16th century ruler who made Prague his imperial seat and whose diverse interests made the city a centre of Renaissance arts and sciences. One monument from his time is hidden beneath the surface of the earth – a water tunnel carved deep into the rock of one of Prague’s hills.
Last year in this programme I played some archive recordings from the pre-war gatherings of the “Sokol” movement, which brought together tens of thousands of people in displays of mass gymnastics, all in an atmosphere of great patriotic fervour. After the war, the communists suppressed the Sokol movement as part of the old political order, instead staging their own spectacular calisthenics displays in honour of the Communist Party.
In the heart of Berlin’s Neukölln neighborhood is Rixdorf, an area that is also known as the Bohemian Village. The settlement originated in the first half of the 18th century, under the auspices of the Prussian King Friedrich Wilhelm I., who welcomed Bohemian Protestant refugees into his empire. In the Habsburg Empire, they had been banned from exercising their faith. We recently visited this fascinating area of Berlin and talked to Cordelia Pollina, the director of the Bohemian Museum, which is devoted to the history of this neighborhood.
Only a handful of the hundreds of British women who moved to this part of the world with their Czechoslovak husbands after World War II remain in the Czech Republic. Many have died, while some returned home to the U.K. decades ago. One of the few British war brides still living here is Lillian Schořová, whose home is in North Bohemia. Radio Prague’s Sarah Borufka visited her there for this episode of Czech Life.
The Habsburg imperial family ruled the Czech lands for nearly four centuries but few of the emperors and empresses found favour with their Czech subjects. One of the exceptions whom Czechs took to their hearts was Ferdinand V the Benign who spent nearly three decades living at Prague Castle as its last imperial inhabitant. A new exhibition which recently opened at Prague Castle looks at the life and times of the last crowned king of Bohemia.
William N. Oatis, an Associated Press correspondent who served in Prague in the hardline 1950s entered cold war history when the communist regime made him confess falsely to espionage and sentenced him to 10 years in jail. Now, fifteen years after his death, recordings of that shameful show trial have unexpectedly been unearthed in the country’s National Archives.
For first-time visitors the world-famous Konopiště Chateau or Karlštejn Castle are natural choices for daytrips outside of Prague but one destination visitors might want to consider is the royal Czech town of Rakovník, a veritable historic gem found less than 60 kilometres west of the Czech capital. Archaeologists have found that long before it was established as a town, the site of Rakovník and its surroundings, was favoured by tribes as far back as the Stone Age. Finds on display at the local TG Masaryk Museum in Rakovník show some of the oldest
On Sunday Czechs marked the 70th anniversary one of the biggest tragedies in the country’s history the extermination of Lidice village, the Nazis’ brutal revenge for the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich, the Nazi governor of Bohemia and Moravia. The unprecedented massacre of civilians, followed just two weeks later by the razing to the ground of a second village, Ležáky, opened the eyes of the international community to the true nature of the regime and to this day remains one of the most powerful mementos of WWII.