Written by Gaela LaPasta, (Cornell University) Student Correspondent CET Film in Prague, Spring 2018
Brno is the Czech Republic’s second largest city with a population around 370,000. While Brno’s size makes it feel more like a large town than a second city to an American tourist, this difference should not be a deterrent to explorers. Brno is full of life, art, and character, which make it a perfect weekend destination for anyone in the area. I had one of the nicest weekends in my time in Europe here: relaxing, but still full of interesting sites and experiences. Brno is home to great restaurants, cool art galleries, beautiful architecture, and world-class bars- seriously I had the best cocktails of my life in this little city!
I left for Brno from Prague with a group of other CET students on a Friday afternoon. We took the train from Praha hlavni nadrazi and in about three hours, after passing through little towns, forests, and fields, we found ourselves in Brno. The train ride was delightful. We had a compartment to ourselves and Harry Potter jokes abounded as we sipped complimentary fresh mint honey tea and enjoyed the great free Wi-Fi.
We were all starving after the long, hard travels on the comfy train. I had a hankering for homemade, fresh pasta. Luckily, Brno is both small and full of great food, so finding a great place nearby was easy. The restaurant I chose is called Cattani and it’s a local chain in Brno- I wish it were in Prague too! All eleven of us went there and had great meals for very reasonable prices. A big bowl of homemade pasta- you pick the shape and the sauce- is only 129 crowns or about six American dollars. We also bought them out of tiramisu!
After our meal, we headed over to The Church of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary to hear an Easter choral concert. The church and the concert were both really beautiful. This event proved to me just how much there is going on in Brno- on a Friday night there is an array of musical and other events going on, even during Easter weekend when many Czechs are away on vacation. After the concert, we decided to wander around and look for bars.
I don’t know what it is about Brno, but the place has amazing cocktail bars! The two most famous are the Bar that does not Exist and Super Panda Circus. Both have a mysterious vibe and really amazing drinks. On Friday night we went to the Bar that does not Exist. My favorite drink from the night was flavored with earl grey tea, bergamot and gin. Pro tip: the fries there are also really amazing!
On Saturday we set about exploring. We wandered through the cobblestone streets and within an hour had seen most of the main city. We wandered up to the castle and found the castle garden, which is home to a bunch of adorable goats! The goats saw us and came right up to the fence to check us out. The weather was overcast with the threat of rain, so we were the only ones visiting with the goats. I believe that on a sunny day the goat enclosure is open for goat petting and feeding.
We got lunch at a local favorite, an Indian restaurant called Annapurna. The food was really delicious- I highly recommend the garlic naan, which was perfectly charred and covered in a healthy dose of garlic. The portions are so huge that I ended up taking half of my food home. Afterwards, we all kind of wanted to curl up and take a nap but instead we continued walking until we stumbled upon an intriguing art gallery.
The Brno House of Arts was a lucky find. It is one of many contemporary art galleries in Brno. I was surprised to find that the streets of Brno are covered in contemporary sculptures and other interesting public art pieces. The Brno House of Arts showcased two fascinating exhibits that were the last things I expected to find in sleepy Brno. One was on computer graphics, the highlight of which was a VR experience that recreated a past exhibit from the museum. The other was perfectly suited for film students, called Like in a Movie, it explored how films and their tropes interact with and affect the real world.
After an exciting day of cute animals and thought provoking art, we headed to a hip little café called Atlas to relax. The décor was really funky and their playlist was great. We sipped extremely thick, extra dark hot chocolate and took advantage of the WiFi to plan our night. We left at 6pm so that would make it to Super Panda Circus when it opened.
Super Panda Circus is a cocktail bar shrouded in mystery. It doesn’t have a sign, just an unmarked door and a doorbell with instructions to ring if you want in. The place is so popular that we had to come right when they opened to get a seat- and even then we waited for ten minutes in their funky waiting room before being led up to the bar. There we were informed that they had no menu, so we could either “try our destiny” or tell the bartender our preferences. We opted to chat with the bartender and I got an amazing Bloody Mary in a soup bowl with a side of Parmesan cheese. All the drinks here are wild: some smoke, some come with balloons or hats, and all are delicious.
Earlier in the day we had spotted a sign for a barbershop quartet of all things playing that night. After a quick dinner of delicious vegan burgers at Forky’s, we headed to Music Lab for live music. It was 80 crowns or about four American dollars for the show- well worth it because we had a great time. It was a bit odd watching a Czech barbershop quartet sing classic American songs to an adoring Czech audience, but that only made it all the more enjoyable. Music Lab also has a bar and seems to have live music every night- definitely something to consider checking out if you’re in Brno looking for some jams.
Alas, on Sunday we had to say goodbye to Brno. It was a little sad to be going so soon, but it still felt as if we had gotten a good feeling for the city and its character. If I had more time, I definitely would have gone to a couple more of the art galleries such as the Moravian Gallery or the Moravian Museum. I also would have liked to see the famous Villa Tugendhat, a UNESCO World Heritage site and fine example of functionalist architecture. We all had a really great, relaxing time in Brno. I’m still in awe of how great the food and drinks were and how much there really is to do there, especially for art lovers. I highly recommend a visit, if even a short one, to get a taste of the Moravian vibe of Brno.