A contemporary sculpture provides a new look for President Tomas Masaryk as part of the RE:PUBLIKA celebration of a century of Czechoslovakia / the Czech Republic. Photo: Bruno Zalubil

Brno, Jun 5 (BD) – If you ever wanted a crash course in the history of Czechoslovakia / the Czech Republic, then there are several acres of displays, exhibitions, installations and experiences that will get you up to speed just a few No. 1-tram stops from the Brno Main Train Station.

RE:PUBLIKA — a celebration of the 100-year birthday of Czechoslovakia — is like an open-air, multi-venue, interactive museum that will explain many of your questions and open your eyes to many facets of the Czech experience.

The festival is at the Brno Exhibition Grounds until June 17. Admission is free; some specific events require tickets. Gates open every day at 9 a.m.

If you don’t understand Czech, don’t worry. RE:PUBLIKA is not about reading informational displays. It is more visceral, more experience-based. Every turn has a new angle on the country and the air is filled with Czech music.

If nothing else, there is a lot of inexpensive Czech food in the large Gastro Zone.

Brno Exhibition Center. Photo: SkyPix

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RE:PUBLIKA looks back on a century of life in the center of Europe, from the establishment of Czechoslovakia on Oct. 28, 1918; through the boom years of the First Republic; through the Nazi occupation during World War II; through the decades of Communism; to the split between the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic on Jan. 1, 1993; and to membership in the European Union on May 1, 2004.

Works of art and culture are included, so are personal stories, concerts and theatre performances. Dance, sport, design and architecture bring additional points of view. Each day has numerous events, with famous and interesting Czechs.

This weekend is both First Republic Weekend and Folklore Weekend. The following weekend is Finale Grande — See You In 100 Years.

Click here for more information (in English).

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Art, architecture and culture establish the overall atmosphere. There are small installations throughout the grounds and Pavilion H is dedicated to Alphonse Mucha – Two Worlds and Pavilion F is dedicated to Avant Garde art.

Mucha: Dva Svety

“Alphonse Mucha – Two Worlds” is in Pavilion H and it is the most popular part of the festival.

Mucha is known around the world for his stylish posters; however, his Slav Epic paintings are powerful emblems that provide the historical foundation for the most recent 100 years. The huge paintings are impressive and tell the stories that define what it means to be “Czech”. There is not much abstract about them; rather, they are the images that codify history and culture of this part of the world.

The Slav Epic has been displayed many times around the world, but each installation is slightly different and each subsequent viewing has a new contemporary context.

Mucha: Dva Svety will remain on the display through Dec. 31, well past the end of the RE:PUBLIKA festival. Admission is 150kc and the tickets include your assigned entrance time because of the crowds.

Avant Grade

The Avant Garde installation is more contemporary. There are many interesting artworks and, given the excess space in Pavilion F, an inventive use of scaffolding to provide many perspectives on the large-scale art. The mirror maze is a trip for children in strollers. The sculptural outline of Tomas Masaryk provides an otherworldly, almost superhero, interpretation of the first president of the country.

The Exhibition Grounds

A small, but not insignificant, part of the festival is the Brno Exhibition Grounds itself. The complex opened in time to commemorate the 10-year birthday of Czechoslovakia (it was christened by Masaryk himself), meaning that vystaviste is celebrating its 90th birthday as the place to bring the world to Central Europe. See the many historical photos at the main entrance to Pavilion A.

Just exploring the different pavilions is cool. Each building has its own feel. Some are are overly large, but there are many interior-design strategies that create intimate spaces.

Brno Exhibition Center – výstava Masaryk. Photo: Archiv Veletrhů Brno

Century of Books

“100 Years, 100 Books”, which is in the Moravia Pavilion, may not be the first stop for non-readers of Czech, but it is worth it: the well-laid out display of a century of writing has many authors that you will no doubt recognize.

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A highlight of the festival, especially for families, is the Re:lax Zone. Just know that there really is not much relaxation because Pavilion V is filled with sports and activities that pull you off the sidelines.

Take some shots on goal with a handball. Try to keep a puck away from your friend on the dry-ground hockey rink. Scale the climbing wall. Clear the high jump bar. Play some tennis or badminton. Or swish some shots on the basketball court. Czechoslovakia / the Czech Republic has had a long history of success in sports and each “relaxation” area offers historical perspective.

If you have kids there are many experiences for all of the senses, like where you slip off your shoes and feel the different parts of the country: rocks, sand, grass, pinecones, hockey sticks. It’s not often you experience such different sensations with your feet.

Next door to the more traditional sports and activities, there is a large dedicated space for more contemporary entertainment: video games.

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The festival was organized by the City of Brno and supported by the government of the Czech Republic, local governments, local universities and local religious organizations. It has been promoted through Czech embassies and Czech organizations around the world. Partner cities and neighboring counties are also included in the celebration.

Click here for more information (in English). An extremely useful resource is the RE:PUBLIKA Festival Magazine; Click here to download it and a map of the festival.

Check out the best events in Brno this June (What’s Up Brno):

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