Thursday, June 8, 2017

Brno JCity, by Kateřina Michenková


Whenever you need a place to stay, you turn home.
My home is Brno.

                Cities. Magnificent, astounding, juvenile, appealing, appalling, artistic, enchanting, scary, funny, cozy, grandeur, positive, colorful, tiny, magical, inspiring, elite, extravagant, loved, musical, overwhelming, unwelcoming, historical, unpredictable, impressive, transparent, demonic, splendid, white, global, exotic, tempting, exciting, noisy, irritating, refreshing, cold, sweet, lyrical, lazy, masculine, crowded, captivating, nostalgic, communicative, daring,  architectonic, international, prejudiced, vicarious, vanguard, starry, ambiguous, educated, eventful, sunny, secretive, huge, diverse, awake, hectic, gritty, rustic, blue, inviting, angelic, sparkling, alive, unreadable, safe, unexplored, fashionable, truthful, energetic, flattering, desirable,  dangerous, fairy, xenophobic, evolving, expressive, imaginative, warm, controversial, forested, rich, unlimited, fluorescent, dreamy . Full of surprises.  Full of adventures.  Full of opportunities. Filled with hidden streets and unknown artists.  They have the power to steal your heart and sweep you off your feet. Each city has a soul. It talks to you. It either whispers for you to come back or it does not. It either advises you to go for a walk and eat ice cream at midnight, or it feels slightly mediocre. It is like a person in a way. It has to be the right fit for you in order for you to enjoy it. You have to get to know it in order to be influenced, to form an opinion. Although it may sound cliché, you cannot judge a book by its cover. You have to peep into the small patisseries and walk somewhere else than on the main street. You have to go deeper than the tourist guides will take you, only to uncover the tiniest hint of culture and glamour the city has to offer. So then what are they,  the major things that make a city what it is? What are the things that define it? What makes people from all over the world want to visit Dubai? How come everyone wants to eat a croissant for breakfast with the sight of the Eiffel tower in front of them?  What makes New York spectacular and visionary for so many people?  Moreover, what is so special about Brno, the Moravian capital?

            Firstly, the people. Of course. Think about it. Who else knows a place better than the people living there? What makes a greater impact on a city if not the people living in it? It is just like in sport. Without players, there is no team. Without people, there is no city. When I look around the city, I see a lot of them. I see them listening to music, laughing with friends, hugging, kissing, eating fast food, waiting for the bus, running to catch the tram, shopping, daydreaming in the park, being silly, drinking, working, talking on the phone. They are  fat, small, tall, short, blonde, stylish, and poor. If you asked them where they usually spend their afternoons, their answers would probably be something like this: The stylish one would say the shopping mall, the fat one  McDonalds or KFC, the small one would be in the cinema, the tall person would answer the gym, the poor guy would be sitting on a bench in the town square, the blonde one would say the pub and the short one would be at home with family. Apart from a random encounter on a dirty bus stop, you would probably never see these people together. Why should you, their lives are so different, they pretty much have nothing in common. They live in different worlds, yet at one place. They are all part of the same city, and surprisingly that brings them together. For the reason that they bring equal importance to it. The city needs someone studying at the university just as much as it needs a homeless man at the railway station. It needs people drinking in a bar and teaching in schools because it could not work without them.  The people unconsciously need each other. Sellers need buyers,  students need  teachers, police officers need criminals, bank officers need customers, bartenders need drunkards, doctors need sick people.  They could not exist without each other. Nowadays everyone is complaining about long working hours but what would the people do if they had nothing to do in their jobs? Would they complain then?  Anyhow,  Brno needs them, all of them.  The people are making sure the city is alive, that it has not been forgotten and erased off the map.  During my everyday life in Brno, I drive home from school, and I sit on the bus listening to music. I find myself staring at the people around me. I look at the expressions on their faces and their clothes, wondering how their day was or where do they work. I wonder whether they own a small flower shop or spend their day in the laboratory, trying to find cure for cancer. I try to tell whether they look exhausted or happy. Afterward,  I begin to wonder how can it be possible that I go home the same way every day and I had not seen them before. I wonder if they have just moved in and if so, do they like it here? Judging their clothes, I imagine the house or flat they live in and when they are wearing  a wedding ring, I try to picture them with kids. I am glad they are not able to read my mind when I think this stuff. I wish I knew how other people apperceive me. Do they even notice me?  Sometimes I see a woman wearing a nice sweater and I wonder if I should ask her where she bought it. Other times I see an attractive guy and I wonder if I should come up to him and ask for his number, like they do it in the movies. I have not done it yet but I wish I had enough courage to do so one day. I saw a small girl crying once and as much as I tried, I could not stop looking at her. After a while she looked up and  I smiled at her, hoping it would not do any damage. She smiled back. All of these people are like ants. Each one has a different job in the anthill Brno but they somehow find a balance and coexist. I wonder how other people perceive the city. Do they see it the same way I do?  The citizens living in Brno at the moment have an important job.  Everyone is familiar with the current situation in Europe, with the wars happening in the world and the refugees seeking home and safety. Their paths might lead them here and it is important for us to take the right attitude towards them. I am not saying they are all saint, but if they do have the will to adjust to our culture and act civilized, we ought to let them. However, there is a big difference between someone who is trying to save his family and someone who is looking for a way to escape paying taxes. Those are the ones that want to take advantage of our social system and rob us of money.  There are also those who want to hurt us, because they have been taught this way in their religion. However, we should not put them all on one pile or look the other way when we see someone with a different skin tone than ours in the public transportation. There are families, running for their lives and I believe if that is the case, and our paths with them collide, it is our duty to help or at least give them a chance before we judge. We cannot simply act racist towards different people only for the reason that they are different. We should try to look at it from their point of view, make ourselves vulnerable by putting ourselves in their shoes. We all know the feeling of being new somewhere, or the feeling of everyone staring at you, judging you. Furthermore, there is a lot of foreign students in Brno, and I think they should get equal opportunities to get involved and achieve greatness as the people who are local. Origin does not matter. I believe that people are the living past, present and future of the city, all at once. The idea is that the world is giving to Brno, and Brno is giving to the world.

            Every city has its architecture. It is like a signature. It is something everyone notices when they go to visit a new city. Houses, theaters, universities, cathedrals, monuments. Some cities have the power to turn something as ugly as the incinerator into a colorful building shaped like the Charles Chocolate Factory. Suddenly, it is a nice building to look at. So then, why is  architecture so relevant? By reason of history. It shows how people lived.  Architecture mirrors the history of Brno in the alluring form of arts. The charm of modern and functionalistic architecture shapes the city into its original self. It is elegant yet common,  provocative yet playful, sharp yet unnoticed.  It creates the gate through which architects display the environment we live in.  It symbolizes freedom of expression and creativity. Its purpose is to make you feel something and get inspired. However, two people, an old lady and a teenager, looking at the same building, would not feel the same thrill.  It is identical to a poem written by Shakespeare, each of us understands it differently. The emotion you get from a certain place does not identify with how others sense it. Additionally, people use architecture to describe society and its needs. Brno lets us peek into the art and spirit of previous generations. The most significant architectonic monument in Brno is Vila Tugendhat, which is the only statue to be a part of Unesco World Heritage Site in the Czech republic. It attracts a lot of engineers and tourists from around the globe. It is said to be the most well-preserved example of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s early functionalism. Furthermore,  it is one of the world’s most important manifestations of villa architecture. The people have given Brno special charisma over the years with their artistic  talents. You can openly see the evaluation of the city from the Gothic period, through renaissance and romantic period to modern architecture. The Church of St. Jacob and St. Thomas,  Cathedral of St. Peter and Paul, Špilberk castle, Brno Exhibition Centre, Hotel Avion, Crematorium, Villa Neumark and Eisler villa are only a few examples of remarkable constructions in the city. Essentially, every building in Brno has captured a fraction of fine arts. It does not matter whether it is a church or a school. Each one reflects their very own style and makes different impression on people. Brno is wealthy thanks to its architecture. It is interesting both in museums and universities which makes it well educated and culturally growing. The city offers Museum of toys, Technical Museum, Brno Observatory and Planetarium, Mendel Museum, Moravian Gallery, Fait Gallery and many others. Furthermore, each year Brno organizes an event called  "the Museum Night" during which all the museums are open and free for public. The universities should not go unnoticed either. There are the Mendel and Masaryk university, University of Technology, Academia STING, the JAMU University, University of military leadership and many more. Oh and speaking of important buildings have you heard of the Moravian Manchester, the once known phenomenon?  It is an old nickname that Brno deserved thanks to its textile industry. It has helped with the rise of modern functionalism in the city. There is soon to be an exhibition of the development of the textile company and the urban transformation of Brno.

            What is history good for? It helps us to acknowledge our mistakes and gives us the chance to learn from them. Since the medieval times of Brno in the 13th century, there have been mentions in the historical records of people who have influenced its development. Wealthy people who have bought houses in Brno, people who built new houses or buildings, those that sat in the city council, handicraftsmen, writers, painters, artists, scientists, founders, poets, architects, composers, singers, demonstrators, soldiers,  benefactors, sportsmen, politicians, tradesmen, judges, businessmen, priests, mayors. All these people richened Brno with their literary pieces, attainments, discoveries or perhaps groundbreaking and revolutionary opinions. Fragments of their fate were obtained from archival, historical and archeological  sources. All of the information we have gathered reflects rich and complex history of Brno. Somehow the older the city is the more it has to offer. The more things there are for you to learn about it and the more surprises for you to uncover. The history of Brno is full of incredibly talented and accomplished people whose paths somehow led them to Brno. It talks about Gregor Mendel, about where he lived, when was he born, what experiments he did and how he contributed to the evolution of genetics. Today, there is a university carrying his name. It is a way to show appreciation. Leoš Janáček, the musical composer, has his memorial and the most visited theater in Brno is in his name. Jiří Maheh has his library in the city. There are dozens, perhaps thousands of names I could mention. But the name does not matter as much as the legacy they have left behind.
            I have mentioned architecture, people, and history as the major things I have concluded make Brno into what it is. However, simply said, they are actually all one and the same, hidden in different forms. All of the three things listed above are affected or in a way connected with  people in Brno. Architecture was designed and later on built by people. History is basically a long list of important names and events they were responsible for. People, people, people. Ever since the day Brno was founded, they have shaped it. And they continue to do so until this day. Since this is you reading this, let me tell you a secret: They will do so forever. Kind of wonderful, is it not?

            This story was about how with different people, Brno changes. It was not about Mendel and his experiments on pea plants. Everybody knows what his laws state. However, we do not know what the city is going to look like tomorrow. This story was about it and me.

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