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Let’s discuss Brno! Inside Prague’s pretty sister city

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Gosh, I spy a rare free seat on the jam-packed Bar Ktery Neexistuje, which translates as The Bar That Doesn’t Exist.

Gazing up at an illuminated floor-to-ceiling wall made up of each bottle of booze conceivable, I’m soon sipping a pitch-perfect Manhattan.

This establishment is at the center of medieval Brno — once the capital of Moravia, now the Czech Republic’s second city.

Martin Symington explores the Czech city of Brno, which attracts only a fraction of the visitors Prague gets. ‘The whole lot within the historic centre is tightly packed and there may be a fizz and hum across the old city partitions and cobblestoned squares,’ he reveals. Above is Freedom Square at the center of the old town

Pronounced Brrrno, it attracts only a fraction of the visitors Prague — some 130 miles away — gets, and there are direct flights from Stansted to Brno’s toy-sized airport.

The whole lot within the historic centre is tightly packed and there may be a fizz and hum across the old city partitions and cobblestoned squares, where people dine al fresco with floodlit spires soaring overhead.

Go within the second week of August and you possibly can experience Brno’s Maraton hudby — Music Marathon. This famous festival covers a rare number of genres, from jazz and rock to opera and folk.

With greater than ten universities and an enormous international student population on this city of around 400,000, the youthful vibe is hardly surprising. After I meet guide Martina Pospisilova on the Old Town Hall gatehouse, she shows me a dangling crocodile carcass. Referred to as a dragon, that is Brno’s mascot.

Legend has it that the beast lived within the Svratka river and devoured up residents, until a heroic butcher poisoned it by filling an ox hide with caustic lime.

On a visit to the 13th-century Spilberk Castle, pictured, Martin learns that 'cruel and strange things' happened there in the medieval era

On a visit to the Thirteenth-century Spilberk Castle, pictured, Martin learns that ‘cruel and strange things’ happened there within the medieval era

We climb to Spilberk Castle, which stands alone on a hilltop. The Thirteenth-century castle has been a fortress, a Moravian royal palace and a notorious prison.

‘Cruel and strange things happened here within the medieval era,’ I’m told in a whisper. Then a peal of bells from a turreted tower marks the hour with a bizarre rendering of Elvis’s Love Me Tender.

Time to drop in on Villa Tugendhat, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and considered one of Brno’s headline attractions.

It was built by the rich Czech-Jewish Tugendhat family (Tom Tugendhat MP, the recent Tory leadership hopeful, is considered one of their kin) just before World War II. I feel transported into the longer term, somewhat than back greater than 80 years, as I wander through minimalist expanses enclosed by glass and partitions of translucent onyx.

The villa fell into the hands of the occupying Germans several years after it was built. Later it became a plaything of the Eastern European communist elite.

Martin drops in on Villa Tugendhat (pictured), a UNESCO World Heritage Site built by the wealthy Czech-Jewish Tugendhat family. 'I feel transported into the future, rather than back more than 80 years, as I wander through minimalist expanses enclosed by glass and walls of translucent onyx,' he says

Martin drops in on Villa Tugendhat (pictured), a UNESCO World Heritage Site built by the rich Czech-Jewish Tugendhat family. ‘I feel transported into the longer term, somewhat than back greater than 80 years, as I wander through minimalist expanses enclosed by glass and partitions of translucent onyx,’ he says 

TRAVEL FACTS

Love Holidays offers three nights in Brno, including flights from Stansted and B&B on the Hotel Continental, from £197 per person (loveholidays.com). For more information in regards to the city, visit gotobrno.cz.

More recently, it was chosen because the signing venue for the historic and amicable ‘velvet divorce’ between the Czech Republic and Slovakia in 1992.

Other features of Brno’s turbulent twentieth century are also unavoidable. Spilberk Hill, underneath the castle, was hollowed out to grow to be an air-raid shelter throughout the war. Later, the identical tunnels were put to make use of as a Cold War fallout shelter.

The corridors and claustrophobic chambers have been become a chilling museum that preserves in aspic a sample of each eras.

On my last day, I enterprise south into the Moravian countryside, through rolling hills blanketed with vineyards and dotted with castles and mansions.

We stop for lunch at Znojmo, near the border with Austria, and taste some delicious dry rieslings on the town’s vinoteka.

This region was a stomping ground for the rich in Austro-Hungarian days, and I’m reminded that Vienna is a mere 90 minutes by road from Brno.

‘We’re closer to Vienna than Prague in every sense,’ Brno folk keep telling me. Actually, Brno appears like yin to Prague’s yang.

I suppose it’s a second-city thing, but Brno doesn’t compare itself with Prague. The Rivalry That Doesn’t Exist somewhat echoes that bar in Brno’s old town.

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