Did You Know That…

  • The founder of Baťa, the global footwear manufacturer and retailer, was Tomáš Baťa, a Czech from the city of Zlín. He was also the first to introduce prices following the ‘.99’ format (like in € 99.99).
  •  “Closely Observed Trains” won the 1968 Oscar for the best foreign-language film. Time Magazine ranked the film among the top hundred films of all time. The most recent Czech film to win an Oscar was Kolja, directed by Jan Svěrák, in 1997. Twenty-year-old Markéta Irglová also won an Oscar in 2008, for the song to the film Once.
  • US and co-production films that were shot in the Czech Republic include Mission Impossible, Joan of Arc, The Bourne Identity, Blade II, The Chronicles of Narnia, The Brothers Grimm, Casino Royale, the Russian film The Barber of Siberia and the Spanish film The Girl of Your Dreams.
  • The first astronaut from a country other than the USSR or the USA was the Czechoslovak Vladimír Remek, now a Member of the European Parliament.
  • The Czech Republic is one of the youngest states in the world. It was established on 1 January 1993, following the split of Czechoslovakia.
  • The world-famous writer Milan Kundera is a Czech who emigrated to France in 1975 and acquired French citizenship in 1981. Franz Kafka is a Prague writer of Jewish origin, and is buried in the New Jewish Cemetery in Strašnice, Prague. Gustav Meyrink, author of Golem, lived for many years in Prague.
  • The first person to categorise blood into four types (A, B, AB, O) was the Czech neurologist Jan Janský, in 1906. In his honour, the Janský Plaque is awarded to frequent volunteer blood donors in the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
  • The word robot comes from Czech. It was first used by the Czech writer Karel Čapek in his play R.U.R. (Rossum's Universal Robots) from 1920. The term was invented by his brother, Josef Čapek, and was based on the word robota (i.e. labour, corvée, a personal service provided by peasants to their masters in the feudal system).
  • There are approximately 2,000 castles and ruins in the Czech Republic. The density of castles is one of the highest in the world.
  • The founder of genetics, Johann Gregor Mendel, was born in Hynčice and spent most of his life in Brno. He was also the abbot of the local Augustine monastery.
  • The first person who wanted to create a union of European rulers (similar to today’s EU) was the Bohemian King George of Poděbrady (1420-1471).
  • The remains of a medieval Jewish ghetto can be found right in the centre of Prague. The 13th-century Old-New Synagogue is one of the oldest Jewish structures in the world, and the Old Jewish Cemetery is the largest and best preserved area of its kind in Europe.
  • The famous 18th-century seducer Giacomo Casanova spent the last 13 years of his life at Duchcov Castle in Bohemia. It was here that he wrote his memoirs.
  • Modern contact lenses were invented by Otto Wichterle, from the town of Prostějov. He is also regarded as the founder of macromolecular chemistry.
  • The name of the US currency, the dollar, is derived from the Czech coin known as the tolar (thaler), minted from 1519 on in Jáchymov, West Bohemia. In 1526, the Habsburgs ascended to the Bohemian throne; they also ruled Spain and succeeded in colonizing America. The sign for the Spanish tolar, used for payment in the American continent, was ‘$’, and still symbolizes the US currency today.
  • The first hydrotherapy establishment was set up in 1822 in Jeseník, in today’s Czech Republic, and the first radioactive spa in the world was opened in Jáchymov in 1906.
  • For centuries, Czech spas Karlovy Vary and Mariánské lázně were frequented by celebrities including Mozart, Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Gogol, Goethe, Kafka, Freud, Edison, Schopenhauer, Marx and Casanova.
  • Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, where today’s celebrities come together in July, stands alongside Berlin, Cannes and Venice as one of the most important festivals in Europe.
  • An encyclopaedia for children, Orbis Pictus (World in Pictures) was written in 1658 by the Czech pedagogue and philosopher Comenius (Jan Amos Komenský).
  • Jaroslav Hašek’s The Good Soldier Švejk, written as a response to the First World War, has been translated into 58 languages.
  • Taťána Kuchařová was crowned Miss World in 2006. Many famous models come from the Czech Republic, such as Eva Herzigová, Petra Němcová and Tereza Maxová.
  • Prominent figures, such as the businessman Oskar Schindler (whose life is portrayed in the book and film Schindler’s List), the philosopher Edmund Husserl, the psychiatrist Sigmund Freud, the composer Gustav Mahler, the writer Rainer Maria Rilke and the first world chess champion Wilhelm Steinitz were born in what is now the Czech Republic.
  • The Czech writer Jaroslav Seifert won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1984; in 1959 Jaroslav Heyrovský won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry for discovering and developing polarography.
  • The self-regulating arc lamp was invented by the Czech electrical engineer František Křižík. He also built the first electric tramlines in Prague and constructed a light fountain (Křižík’s Illuminated Fountain), which was a marvel of technology in its time.
  • Jakub Kryštof Rad invented sugar cubes, while another Czech, Josef Ressel, invented the ship propeller.
  • The Czech actor Jiří Voskovec (George Voskovec) appeared in 72 films, of which only the first five were Czech and the rest were American. His credits include 12 Angry Men with Henry Fonda and Barbarosa with Willie Nelson and Gary Busey.
  • Albert Einstein spent a year and a quarter in Prague as a professor at the Institute of Theoretical Physics.
  • US astronaut Neil Armstrong listened to Antonín Dvořák’s New World Symphony while he walked on the Moon’s surface in 1969. Dvořák was inspired to compose this piece of music by his stay in the United States. The Largo part of the symphony is in a box travelling through outer space.
  • One of Mozart’s best-known operas, Don Giovanni, was premiered in the Estates Theatre in Prague in 1787 and is still performed there.
  • A powerful Church reform movement began in Bohemia a century before Martin Luther. Its spiritual leader, Jan Hus (also referred to in English as John Huss), was burnt at the stake for his teachings in Constance in 1415. Luther regarded Hus as his predecessor.
  •  The first map of the states of Virginia and Maryland was drawn up in 1670 by Augustin Heřman from Mšeno in Bohemia. Heřman came to North America in 1630 and made his name as a tobacco trader, diplomat, surveyor, and the founder of the Bohemia Manor plantation.
  • One of the most famous golems is the golem allegedly created in 1580 in Prague by Rabbi Judah Loew ben Bezalel. Legend has it that the golem lies in the attic of the Old-New Synagogue in Prague.
  • Alfons Mucha, Emil Filla, Toyen and František Kupka are all world-famous Czech painters.
  • Cubism, represented around the world primarily by way of painting and sculpture, also appears in architecture in the Czech Republic. Czech Cubist architecture, which emerged before World War I, is unique. As is Rondo-Cubism.
  • The Swedish botanist Carl von Linné named camellias after the Brno botanist and Jesuit missionary Joseph George Kamel, who discovered this beautifully flowering plant.
  • One of the best-known astronomical clocks can be found in the Old Town Square in Prague. It was built in 1410.
  • The first woman ever to become the United States Secretary of State (in 1997) was Madeleine Albright, born in Prague.
  • Ray Kroc, the founder of McDonald’s, had Czech ancestors.
  • The oldest working paper mill in Central Europe can be found in Velké Losiny, Moravia.
  • Czechs drink the most beer per capita in the world. There are more than 70 breweries in the Czech Republic.
  •  The Gothic bridge in Písek, dating back to the late 13th century, is the oldest preserved bridge in Bohemia; after the bridge in Regensburg, Germany, it is the oldest preserved bridge north of the Alps.
  • Production of the Czech multi-coloured lentil-shaped chocolates, Lentilky, began inHolešov in 1907. This makes them older than Smarties and M&M’s, which saw the light of day only in 1937.
  • The bottom-fermenting method used in beer production, invented by the brewers of Plzeň (Pilsen) in 1842, is now applied across the world, which is why hundreds of beers bear the label pils, pilsner or pilsener.

Last update: 16.8.2011 16:02

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