Monthly Archives: July 2012

Czechs can be heros: Sts Cyril and Methodius Church and the Heydrich assassination

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Yes, those are real bulletholes. The memorial to the Czechs who held their last stand against the Nazis in Cyril and Methodius Church after their involvement in the Heydrich assassination

The Czechs love an anti-hero.

There’s Svejk of course, the bumbling soldier with a talent for finding ingenious ways not to make it to the front while appearing to try his incompetent best to get to the action. Then there’s Jara Cimrman, the celebrated Czech genius responsible for the invention of yogurt, the CD (which stands for Cimrman’s disc), dynamite and roller skates. Impressive, considering he never existed. And until more recently there was Vaclav Havel, one of the most strikingly self-effacing politicians ever to appear on the world stage despite his achievements.

Don’t be fooled though: the Czech nation has produced heroes too. If you need proof, pay a visit to the crypt of Sts Cyril and Methodius Church, where the Czechs (and Slovaks) who played a part in the Heydrich assassination had their last stand.

The story, for those of you who don’t know it already, is this. In 1942, a group of British trained Czech and Slovak soldiers attempted to assassinate Reinhard Heydrich, the Nazi responsible for ruling over the Czech lands. Jozef Gabčík and Jan Kubiš played the main roles in the attack which they initially thought had failed. Although he was not killed instantly , Heydrich did eventually die eight days later.

Retribution for the assassination was brutal. The villages of Lidice and Lezaky were wiped out in retaliation; the inhabitants were either killed or deported to concentration camps. Over 1000 others were executed during the period of martial law which followed Heydrich’s death.*

The parachutists were hidden in the basement of Sts Cyril and Methodius Church on Resslova Street until their whereabouts was betrayed.

Today you can visit the crypt of the church where the men held their dramatic last stand. Despite surrounding the building with hundreds of soldiers, the Nazis failed to take them alive. That last sentence may sound corny but what Gabčík, Kubiš and his comrades did is extraordinary. Perhaps that’s why so many contemporary visitors have left messages of condolence there along with flowers and even a guitar plectrum.

The crypt of the church where the partisans had their last stand

If you’re strolling along the street from Karlovo Namesti to see Frank Gehry’s Fred and Ginger, make sure you stop to look around this remarkable place.

While we’re on the topic of the Heydrich assassination, British comedian Alexei Sayle’s recent autobiography includes a very funny account of his family being shown the location at Kobylisy where the attack took place when they are escorted around Prague by their Communist hosts who thought this was a landmark of far more interest to their British guests than say Petrin or Prague Castle.

The book’s called Stalin Ate My Homework. I receive no commission for making this recommendation.


*These figures are quoted from Wikipedia so they must be true.


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Podolí: Girl in Czechland’s Guide to Prague’s Outdoor Swimming Complex

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I’m back from my Greek Odyssey. I have a suntan of sorts: we English folk don’t really go brown, just a slightly darker shade of pale. Czechman and I like to joke about it: before I was Mozzarella white, now I’m more of a smažený sýr.

Anyway, although I did have a lovely holiday since I’ve returned to Czechland I’ve been in a grumpy mood. Yes, yes, I’m well aware that life can’t be one long vacation but that doesn’t stop me wishing I was back on an Ionian island.

What to do to recapture a little holiday magic? Head to Prague’s biggest outdoor swimming pool, Podolí.

I first discovered its existence thanks to a Prague guidebook I picked up in London years before moving here. I remember it was published by coolhunter’s bible Wallpaper* magazine.

The fact that it’s taken me three years to make it there is perhaps an indication of just how hip I am.

There are three pools: two outdoor, one indoor. Once you’ve overcome the trauma of nude showering (there are menacing signs in capital letters ordering you to rinse yourself without your swimming costume on before taking a swim) there are other obstacles to overcome. Like avoiding the packs of teenagers who’ve clearly just come here to pose – sorry, hang out – rather than do any exercise. After all, who can manage to breaststroke while wearing a straw triby at a jaunty angle?

Having said that, the grandmas don’t bother to take off their glasses. I suppose that’s forgiveable as it’s more about practicality than style. Beware though: despite being able to see where they’re going, the grannies still move slower than a giant sea turtle who happens to be going very slowly because he left his specs at home.

It’s not just the teenagers perched on the edge of the pool who couldn’t give a monkey’s about swimming. Almost every bit of the scorched grass is covered with sunbathers, some of them topless. I knew there was a reason Czechman liked coming here so much.

There are refreshments on sale. A thought occurs: perhaps if my local swimming baths had provided draught beer poolside my Dad could have been persuaded to take me there more often.

Or indeed ever.

If you feel that fizzy alcohol, physical exertion and sunshine don’t mix then you can always buy an ice-cream instead. And the pools are not only an Olympic sized 50 metres (well, two of them are anyway) they’re also pretty deep. As any lifeguard on duty is most likely mesmerised by all the boobs it’s probably best to minimise your chances of drowning by staying off the beers and only swimming near the edge so you can easily take a rest if you start to flag.

After I get tired of dodging bespectacled grannies and frolicking adolescents, I retreat to the spectator’s stand for a bird’s eye view of the madness. From this distance it looks as though the swimmers are trying to spell out a message in a kind of synchronized semaphore but can’t quite manage it. What a clever observation, I think to myself.

Perhaps I could use it along with a few more of my usual witty observations as the material for my next blog post?

P.S To get to Podoli you need to take a tram to Kublov, which is thankfully a mere five minute walk away from the swimming complex itself. The 3 and 17 both go there. The price you pay depends on the amount of time you plan to spend in the pool: if you exceed the time on your ticket you’ll have to cough up extra to get out. There’s some kind of all day ticket at this time of year if you go through the summer entrance but I didn’t manage to find it. Next time, eh?


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