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Czech It Out on May 7!

(This article expired 24.03.2012.)

Coming From the Heart of Europe - EU Open House 2011

Come “Czech” out the Czech Embassy from 10 a.m. – 4p.m. on Saturday, May 7, during the 5th annual European Union (EU) Open House. This year, travel back in time to the 1920s to experience the atmosphere of a newly founded independent, democratic nation through its music, fashion, beer, and vision of its first President. Check out antique, aerodynamic vehicles from that golden era as well as modern ones manufactured by Czech company, TATRA, a.s. Your children will have a chance to watch Czech police dogs in action and draw robots in the children’s corner.

Upon arrival, you will receive a map of the Embassy grounds and, with its guidance, make sure to check out the following stops along the way:

Czech it out at Stop #1!


Founded around 800 A.D., Prague or Praha (in Czech) is the capital city of the Czech Republic. The name Praha comes from the Czech word prah, meaning threshold. Legend has it that the Slavic duchess and prophetess Libuse stood on a cliff over the river Vltava and proclaimed, "I see a great city whose glory will touch the stars." She then instructed her people to build a castle “where a man builds a threshold of his house”and “this castle will be the first and the largest in our country.” Indeed, to this day, the Prague castle is the largest coherent castle complex in the world and Prague remains a popular tourist destination. Welcome to our “threshold” in DC and learn more about Prague and other gems of the Czech Republic through our poster exhibition at the Embassy.

Czech it out at Stop #2!

First Republic

The 1920s saw the building of a new democratic nation in the heart of Europe. With the strong backing of US President Woodrow Wilson, Czechoslovakia had declared its independence in 1918 and Tomas Garrigue Masaryk became its first freely elected president. In this inter World War period, the First Republic from 1918 to 1938 prospered socially and economically, becoming one of the ten most industrialized countries in the world. Enjoy a talk on President Masaryk and his vision next to the statue of the president, a large replica of which stands on Massachusetts Avenue in DC. Next, speak to the American Friends of the Czech Republic, a non-profit organization, which was instrumental in erecting the Masaryk statue and is now leading the effort to restore the President Wilson statue in Prague at the main train station bearing his name.

Czech it out at Stop #3!

Tatra vehicles

Check out several antique and modern vehicles in our Tatra Seminar & Auto Show. TATRA, a.s., a Czech company founded in 1850, ranks among the oldest truck and car companies in the world still in existence. By the time of the First Republic, TATRA introduced the first ever series produced streamlined passenger car, with an air-cooled rear engine and aerodynamic dorsal fin. These TATRAs were known as the 'Czech Secret Weapon' during WWII for the scores of NAZIs who died behind these fast wheels, prompting Hitler to ban his top officers from driving them. During the Cold War, TATRA continued to manufacture trucks, buses and also a luxury car, which was reserved only for national and foreign communist officials (including Fidel Castro). Last year, a 1941 TATRA T87 won the “most collectible car of the year” title in the NY Times. TATRA’s current core product range consists of trucks for combined off-road and on-road transportation and heavy duty off-road trucks.

Czech it out at Stop #4!


The word robot, which comes from the Czech word robota, meaning “serf labor,” was introduced to the world in 1920 by the influential Czech writer Karel Capek in his play Rossum’s Universal Robots. The play begins in a factory that makes artificial people called robots. Although Karel Capek was best known as a science fiction author, he was also involved in politics, interviewing the First Republic’s President for his book “Talks with T. G. Masaryk,” and even wrote children’s stories. In our kids’ corner, have your child draw a robot and learn about the beloved Czech children’s cartoon character, Krtek (Little Mole), which will actually be a passenger – in plush toy form – on the NASA space shuttle Endeavour. By taking Krtek into space, US astronaut Andrew Feustel, who has Czech ties, hopes to inspire younger generations in regards to space exploration.

Czech it out at Stop #5!

1920’s Music

One of the pioneers and legends of the jazz age hails from the Czech Republic. Jaroslav Jezek, a composer, pianist and conductor, became a popular jazz composer during the 1920s, fearlessly crossing the borders between popular and classical music. He organized and conducted an orchestra featuring his original jazz compositions and arrangements, recording some of the most original music in Europe.Still, Jezek is best known for the songs he composed for the famous pre-WWII satirical cabaret, the Liberated Theatre, led by playwrights and comedians Jiri Voskovec and Jan Werich (V+W). As the Theater’s performances were anti-fascist, all three artists fled to the US after the NAZI occupation in 1938. Listen to Jezek’s compositions performed by the Dr. Joan DeVee Dixon, a Composer-in-Residence for the International Dvorak Society in Prague and the Czech Heritage Partnership in Spillville, Iowa.

Czech it out at Stop #6!

1920’s Fashion

In 1918, the First Republic was founded with women having political, social and cultural equality to men. Women participated in forums, such as the American Ladies’ Club, which aimed to educate and discuss the role of the modern, intellectually and socially active woman. Also a member, the First President’s wife, Charlotte, led by example and President Masaryk even took his American wife’s surname Garrigue as his middle name. This liberation was also reflected in the fashion of the day. In 1893, Czech-American Marie Tucek patented her "breast supporter" with the US Patent Office, inventing the modern day bra. Gaining vast popularity everywhere, women shed the constricting corset, feeling liberated in this golden era of the First Republic. See 1920s inspired fashion, showcased by Embassy staff and available at Czech designer store Green & Blue located at 1350 Connecticut Ave NW in Washington DC.  

Czech it out at Stop #7!

Antonin Dvorak

In the 1920s, one rising famous African-American musician was Duke Ellington, whose teacher studied under the Czech world renowned composer Antonin Dvorak at the National Conservatory in New York at the turn of the 20th century. As his thinking was progressive of the time, Dvorak believed that African and Native American melodies were the foundation of an American musical style. Being inspired by these sounds, he wrote his most famous symphony, From the New World, which, in turn, inspired US astronaut Neil Armstrong during man’s fist steps on the moon. Featured on the piano will be Dr. Dixon, Composer-in-Residence for the International Dvorak Society in Prague and the Czech Heritage Partnership in Spillville, Iowa. Moreover, to celebrate this transatlantic mutual inspiration in music and more, the Czech Embassy will commemorate the composer this fall during the Mutual Inspirations Festival 2011 -Antonin Dvorak.

Czech it out at Stop #8!

Pilsner Urquell

The prohibition period of the 1920s-30s attributed to the rise of mafia oriented crime in the United States. One great Czech born American, Antonin Cermak, as the Mayor of Chicago, promised to stand up to gangster Al Capone and clean up the city.  Unfortunately, Mayor Cermak was soon after fatally shot while shaking hands with President-elect Franklin Roosevelt in 1933.On the way to the hospital, the wounded Mayor humbly told Roosevelt, "I'm glad it was me instead of you." Since the prohibition period ended in 1933 as well, we welcome you to enjoy a cold, satisfying draft Pilsner Urquell, brewed since 1842 in the great city of Pilsen in the Czech Republic. Often imitated, the name Pilsner Urquell (“the Pilsner from the original source”) simply emphasizes that this great tasting, golden lager style was originally brewed in Pilsen.

Czech it out at Stop #9!

Czech Dogs

Czechs love to keep dogs as pets, hunting companions, or police hands. Czechs even bred a special hunting breed, the Cesky Fousek, since the 1300s exclusively for the king’s court. These wirehaired pointer dogs, famous for their beard and moustache, have the instinct to stop and point to demonstrate the exact location of the prey, allowing the hunter to move his weapon into range. Today, Czechs are well known for their sharp, police trained German Shepherds. In a display of true local US-Czech crime fighting partnership, the Rockville City Police Department’s K-9 Units, consisting of German Shepherds originally from the Czech Republic, will demonstrate crime combating techniques and exercises. Moreover, the Czech Embassy will award the units, Cpl. Kyle Dickerson and his dog “Rocko“ and Cpl. Heath Marshall and his dog “Boomer,“ for their courageous service to the community.

Czech it out at Stop #10!

Ambassador’s Residence

Introduced in the middle ages, Regina Europea was the popular map-like depiction of the European continent as a queen with the lands of Bohemia (in today’s Czech Republic) and Prague at her heart. Replicated on the front of the pamphlet you will receive will be an example by Czech professor Daniel Adam from Veleslavin. This placement of Bohemia at the “heart of Europe” has always left Czechs mapping out and exploring the human heart, mind, and world itself, such as by Czech born Augustine Herman. He drew the first, remarkably accurate map of the Chesapeake Bay. See the map that Herman presented to Lord Baltimore in 1670 at the Ambassador’s residence and listen to a talk about famous Czech humanists, such as Comenius, who formulated the general theory of education and outlined a system of schools that is the exact counterpart of the existing American system today.

During the EU Open House, all the Embassies of the European Union in Washington, DC, open their doors to thousands of United States (US) visitors to provide a taste of Europe through exhibitions, entertainment, drink, and food.  Last year, there were a total of more than 96,000 visits recorded with more than 3,000 people at the Czech Embassy alone. For more information about this all day event, please click HERE.