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EU Open House 2017

Date: 13 May 2017 10:00 AM - 4:00 PM, Venue: Czech Embassy

The Czech Embassy will open its doors for the 11th annual open house on Saturday, May 13, from 10 am to 4 pm.

Welcome to the Embassy of the Czech Republic, representing a country of picturesque landscapes and people of great scientific ingenuity, such as Gregor Johann Mendel (1822-1884). This year, the Czech Embassy celebrates the father of modern-day genetics via its upcoming Mutual Inspirations Festival 2017 – Gregor Mendel.

Check out ten stops presenting the posthumously recognized geneticist and the land he sowed and loved.

Stop 1


The Czech Republic consists of three regions, prominent Bohemia as well as mineral-rich Silesia and charming Moravia, the birth, study and work places of Gregor Mendel.  The humble genius was born into a family of farmers in the tiny village Hynčice in Silesia in 1822. He was the only surviving son, having one older and one younger sister. Recognized as an exceptionally bright student, he was sent to complete high school in Opava, which became a part of a congested industrial area along with the region’s capital of Ostrava. However, recently moving away from its coal-mining past, Ostrava has transformed into an ultramodern cultural center by preserving its massive industrial and technical monuments. Visitors can explore the underground coal mines as well as steelworks at the Vítkovice industrial complex, which is included on the European Cultural Heritage List.  Stop by the welcome table for a stamp and additional information on today’s open house.

Stop 2


Mendel yearned for knowledge. However, after his father was injured in an accident, young Mendel had to provide for himself in order to continue in his schooling. He managed to earn a “scanty livelihood” through tutoring and his youngest sister gave him a part of her dowry. Enrolling at the Philosophical Institute in the historically ecclesiastical Moravian city of Olomouc, Mendel studied philosophy, ethics, math and physics, taught by Priest Friedrich Franz. Sick from utter exhaustion in making ends meet yet driven by overwhelming desire to go on with his studies, Mendel was admitted into the powerful Augustinian order, upon graduation and recommendation of his teacher. The church’s influence is on display to this day in Olomouc, where the Roman Catholic Archdiocese has its seat. Impressive sights are the Saint Wenceslas Cathedral as well as the main square’s UNESCO protected Holy Trinity Column. Enjoy the celestial voices of children from the Czech and Slovak Cultural Center of New York singing traditional Moravian songs.

Stop 3


Taking on the name Gregor, Mendel became a monk in 1843 and entered the St. Thomas monastery in Brno, Moravia. It was a center of intellectual life, where Mendel took special interest in the study of natural and agricultural sciences. Having access to a great library of 30,000 books and top scientific minds as well as food and time, Mendel flourished and was ordained into priesthood in 1847. He studied agricultural studies and apple and wine production. At that time, Brno, the capital of Moravia, was changing into a modern city with its first rail service running to Vienna, only 80 miles away. Still, to this day, tourists can enjoy the city’s landmark Špilberk fortress and its popular romantic medieval Veveří Castle. In fact, the entire scenic Moravian countryside is dotted with quaint villages and majestic castles. Have your little prince or princess step within the walls of our moon bounce castle.

Stop 4


Albeit appreciating the benefits of the monastery, Mendel was unhappy with his assigned clerical duties in caring for the sick as it took away from his time to study natural science and even made him ill. Aware that Mendel was not fit for work as a parish priest, Abbot F.C. Napp appointed Mendel in 1849 to teach mathematics in Znojmo, a historic town, all surrounded by mediaeval city walls. Perched on a rock formation overlooking a river, the town’s 13th century castle guards the wine-cellars below, which store fine reds from the surrounding lush wine region. It is this wine-country beauty of Moravia that draws today’s tourists. Moreover, the warm and sunny slopes adorned with chateau backdrops are the perfect wedding or honeymoon destination. Watch a fashion show of the latest custom made wedding dresses by Green & Blue Studio, a couture bridal and alternations store located in Dupont Circle and owned by Czech designers.

Stop 5

Mutual Inspirations Festival 2017 – Gregor Mendel

The Abbot sent Mendel in 1851 to the University of Vienna for two years to study among the world’s leading scientists his key interest - natural science. In meeting Professor Christian Doppler, credited for the discovery of the Doppler effect, he learned to apply mathematical analysis to natural events. From Professor Franz Unger, Mendel learned about plant hybrids. Equipped with new knowledge, he returned to Brno and resumed teaching. Moreover, Mendel began his groundbreaking work with green peas. He decided to research how traits are passed from generation to generation, a “question whose significance for the developmental history of organic forms must not be underestimated.” Today, Mendel is recognized worldwide as the father of modern-day genetics for his long years of meticulous work, absolute attention to detail and thoroughness of experimentation, and, of course, ultimate pioneering conclusions. Speak to our Public Diplomacy representatives about the upcoming events dedicated to him during the fall Mutual Inspirations Festival 2017 – Gregor Mendel.

Stop 6


Mendel conducted his experiments in plant hybridization for ten years between 1854 to 1864 in the monastery’s 5 acre garden, testing as many as 28,000 plants, the majority of which were pea plants (Pisum sativum). He spent the first two years preparing by carefully selecting Pisum lines with constant characteristics and concentrated on seven pairs of traits that inherited independently of other traits: smooth vs. wrinkled, yellow vs. green, etc. In the spring, he would use tweezers to pollinate his plants and painstakingly tied tiny sacks around the flower of each plant to prevent cross-pollination. In the fall, he would study the peas, discovering a mathematical pattern. After 8 years, he established the rules of heredity, referred to as Mendelian inheritance. Today, his rules have been put into practice such as at the famed, vast vineyards of Mikulov to produce the best products. Stop to take in the wonder of Mikulov and other Moravian towns via the exhibition in the Embassy’s main hall.

Stop 7


Mendel presented his conclusions twice before the Natural History Society of Brno in 1865. A year later, his paper titled "Experiments on Plant Hybridization" was published in a scientific journal. In it, Mendel demonstrated that traits, in the form of recessive and dominant genes, are passed from parents to offspring and established the Law of Segregation and the Law of Independent Assortment. Although received favorably, no one grasped the significance of his findings. Perhaps because the paper was too mathematical for plant experts or seen as being on plant hybridization than inheritance for others, it went unnoticed for the next 35 years. Today, it is considered seminal work. Students study the laws worldwide as well as at the Mendel University in Brno and at its Horticulture Department located in in the village of Lednice, which is also adorned by the most breathtaking castle in Moravia.  Chat with representatives from the Mendel University and have your kids explore plant biology firsthand with the help of Czech IT company, Lifeliqe.

Stop 8


The fairytale Lednice castle is actually part of an immense garden landscape which encompasses the neighboring stunning Valtice chateaux. The Lednice-Valtice Complex covers 109 square miles and is identified as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Known as the Garden of Europe, the spectacular park created over centuries offers romantic corners, ponds, rare plant species, and majestic architecture in the Baroque and Gothic Revival style. The vineyards around Valtice are the center of Mikulovská wine production and the Wine Salon of the Czech Republic resides in the Valtice Chateau. Taste an assortment of wines from Moravia by Vinařství Zapletal and Czech Wine Imports as well as Czech culinary specialties made from not only peas but also honey in honor of Mendel, as the brilliant scientist also had a keen interest in bees. Referring to them as his “dearest little animals,” Mendel crossbred bees in the 1870s in order to improve honey yields. Mendel’s bee house in the monastery’s garden is the first bee research center in Central Europe.

Stop 9


Mendel was voted the Abbot of St. Thomas' Abbey in Brno in 1868 upon the death of his predecessor and mentor Abbot Napp. Mendel was humbled to assume the position, thinking he would have more time for his experiments. He also desired the extra income to finance the education of his younger sister’s three sons. Attempting to stay away from the stress of politics, Mendel concentrated on another scientific interest - meteorology. Applying statistical analysis ahead of other meteorologists, Mendel monitored ozone levels as he was interested in its potential for damaging crops. He also had the chance to observe a tornado, describing it as a “hellish symphony.”  Speaking of symphonies, the last large city in Moravia called Zlín is home to the Philharmonic Orchestra of Bohuslav Martinů, a great Czech classical composer who was influenced by Czech folk music and taught in America, even at Princeton University, for over a decade. Listen and dance to the Polka Brothers, a band which also takes its influences from traditional Czech sounds.

Stop 10

Embassy's Gardens

When Gregor Mendel died from kidney disease in 1884, no one recognized him for his contributions to biology. Charles Darwin, publishing in the same period On the Origin of Species, was unaware of his work. The community lost a beloved teacher; his funeral, at which world renowned classical composer Leoš Janáček played the organ, was attended by many. Still, Mendel died undeterred, “I am convinced that it will not be long before the whole world acknowledges the results of my work.” Sure enough, three botanists working independently on similar experiments rediscovered his research and landmark principles in 1900. Today, the beloved garden Mendel toiled still grows at the monastery and Mendel is posthumously famed as the founder of genetics. Known on every continent, even Antarctica is home to the Mendel Polar Station, the Czech Republic’s research base. To end your tour today, go to the Embassy's gardens to watch a demonstration by Czech born shepherds of the Rockville City Police K-9 Unit and then tour the Czech Ambassador’s private residence upon the hill.

For more information about the EU Open House, please click here.

For a schedule of the performances and presentations at the Czech Embassy, please see:

10:00 am  Dog Show

10:30 am  Kids’ Science Workshop

10:30 am  Wine Presentation

10:45 am  Presentation on Czech Universities
11 am - 2 pm  Band: Polka Brothers
11:30 am  Dog Show
11:45 am  Presentation on Nanotechnology
12:00 pm  Kids‘ Science Workshop
12:30 pm  Wine Presentation
12:45 pm  Presentation on Czech Universities
1:00 pm  Dog Show
1:30 pm  Kids’ Science Workshop
1:45 pm  Presentation on Nanotechnology
2:00 pm  Bridal Show
2:30 pm  Kids’ Folk Show
2:45 pm  Presentation on Czech Universities
3:00 pm  Bridal Show
3:00 pm  Kids’ Science Workshop
3:30 pm  Dog Show
3:30 pm  Wine Presentation
3:45 pm  Presentation on Nanotechnology