Friday, 21 November 2014

Brno: Unknown Jewel in the Middle of Europe

It’s been only two months since I’ve arrived to Brno, but somehow it feels that I’ve been staying here for a year. That’s probably because my life has changed so drastically since I’ve started living in this cozy, neat and convenient European city.

First thing that is essential for every city is public transport. And, believe me, it is perfect in Brno. I can’t even compare it to our Ukrainian public transport. I’ve got a bad habit – every time I’m at a tram station and there is no tram to be seen – I check the schedule, and it ALWAYS arrives just on time. Well, maybe once or twice there has been some delay, but due to an accident or something. And every time it arrives on time I keep saying to myself – yes, perfect things are possible and they do exist in this world.

Second thing – the food. I think one can spend a few years in Brno and still won’t be able to visit all restaurants and café’s. Here I should specifically mention the Masaryk University canteens – the cheapest place to eat and it’s tasty and nutritious, too. Big thanks to the chefs and waiters – they’re doing a big and great job, indeed.

Third – the architecture and natural attractions around the city. The city is a heaven if you’re into functionalist architecture – and I’ve been a big fan of it for quite some time now. Also the cathedrals, as well as the architecture of Austro-Hungarian period is great in its own way. Don’t forget to go to Pernstejn and other castles of Moravia, as well as the caves, forests and the dam! Oh, and the Zoo. Here I should mention the great person Marsel Nijman and his “Call of the Woods” project. Big thanks to him for showing us so much of the wild suburbs of Brno. This is really useful, especially for the people who enjoy walking and being outside, rather than being stuck at the dorm.

Separately I should mention the great Masaryk University and the people working there. Big thanks to the Centre for International Cooperation for their effort, understanding and always being there for us. It’s hard to imagine how much more complicated everything would have been without you guys. All in all Brno is a really wonderful town and definitely deserves more recognition.

And now it’s time for some spoon of tar in the barrel of honey, as we say it in the Ukraine. The language barrier. I could never have thought, that me, with my English and 4 Slavic languages would possibly have some problems in the Slavic city situated in the heart of Europe. But yes, I had, and so did my friends. And the first place where the problems began was ironically the FOREIGN Police. Yes, people do not know English there. And even if they do, they won’t use it to talk to you. And they actually believe that you’re supposed to know Czech after living 3 days in the country. I’m pretty sure that I can write a small novel about my and other people’s adventures in the Foreign Police office(s), but I won’t. In the end I even learned to love those people. Well, some of them for sure. Instead I will write a few tips, hopefully, they will be of use to some other poor souls from non-EU country (yes people, it’s a great benefit just to be an EU-citizen) ready to face the Cizinecka Policie. So, let’s go:
1.              Main office is at Hnevkovskeho str, some 300 hundred meters past Lidl in the direction of Avion. It’s not the big white building that you see at once, instead it’s hidden deep in the courtyard, so that it won’t be so easy for you to find it for the first time.
2.              Always get that number from the machine, otherwise you’ll wait for hours with no result.
3.              Don’t try to speak your native Slavic language to them (it will only make things worse), just use English no matter what. And better go there with a tutor, otherwise you’ll get stuck.
4.              Don’t bring the accommodation contract in English (oh, English!), it’s of no use to them. Instead write to and kindly ask to send your contract in Czech to the databox of the Police.
5.              If you want to make an invitation for somebody – go directly to Cejl street – yes, they have a second office there! Get an invitation from them, fill it out (the most difficult part is so-called Rodne Cislo, it took me a week to understand what it is and where to get it – and you can only get it at Hnevkovskeho, where they issue your residence permit), then buy samps (kolky) for 300 crowns, submit it to the officer, wait for 7 days, get back and there is your invitation. It took me two weeks to make one, and if I knew Czech well I could do that in a day. This is still the biggest mystery to me – why do they have two offices in the opposite parts of the city and can’t have everything in one place. You always have to go from one place to another…

Anyways, I think the difficulties are also the part of the game so to say, and they really make us stronger, more independent and help us accept the correct decisions. After all I’m having Czech classes four times a week now and I can’t wait for the day that I’ll be able to speak to the natives in their own tongue, and I’ll also make a visit to the Foreign Police, hehe. (Just for the sake of being objective I should mention that there is sufficient quantity of English-speaking people in Brno, but it would make things so much easier if people at Foreign Police would speak some English…) Actually with time I’ve discovered some who do, but you’re not always lucky to meet them there.

Last, but not least, greetings to Komarov-Sladkeho dormitory and all of the great Erasmus people that I’ve met.

                                                                              Yevhen Oryshchuk, MU PhD student 

Some pictures from Yevhen's stay in Brno: 

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