02 November 2006

Czechs & Slovaks

The nation of Czechoslovakia was created in 1918 overthrowing the Austro-Hungarian domination. Czechoslovakia was occupied and effectively wiped off the map during World War 2, but re-emerged as a sovereign state in its aftermath. The state remained intact until it partitioned into the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic on 1 January 1993. Cynics might suggest that the momentum for the change came from leading Czech and Slovak politicians. Disgracefully, despite widespread support for a referendum, the public were not given a say in this carving up. As I have intimated in the past my girlfriend is Slovak.

A major difference between Czechs and Slovaks is the level of religiosity. The 2001 census in the Czech Republic reported that 59% of the country are atheists or non-organised believers. On the other hand, Slovakia is one of the most religious countries in Europe. Close to 70% of Slovaks are Catholic and there are significant other religious minorities (Greek Orthodox, Lutherans). I know of a Slovak village of 60 inhabitants which has its own church. I know a Czech village of about 1,000 people with its own brothel. Yesterday was All Saints Day and we attended a mass at a chapel in the side of St Thomas’ church(pictured). Nice church, isn’t it? It's 800 years old. Despite yesterday's service being in Czech the majority of attendees were foreign. How do I know? Well, Czechs and Slovaks typically take Communion directly into their mouths whereas others tend to use their hands to accept the bread.

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