Prague is the capital of the Czech Republic, home of the world’s best beer, stunning architecture, and oh, yeah: ancient secrets.
Originally settled by Slavs, the area now known as the Czech Republic was then made up of two kingdoms: Moravia and Bohemia. By the ninth century, it was part of the Holy Roman Empire. Fast forward a few hundred years, and the region came under the rule of the Habsburgs, until that empire fell at the end of WWI.
Between the two world wars, there was a brief, golden era of independence when the Czech identity soared. Truly Czech art, language, music, and writing were all the rage. It was a time of democracy, optimism, and creative output — but then WWII brought the Nazi occupation and, after that, the communist regime until 1989.
What’s bad for everyday life is excellent for storytelling. The tales inspired by Prague include daring rebellion, Slavic folklore, love of democracy, and an affection for a darker, but still humorous, perspective on life.
In this episode, we’ve got two books that transported us directly into communist territory during the Cold War, crime stories that explore the shadowy side of Prague, a fresh look at two Czech heroes of WWII, and more — all of which hit us right in our feelings.
We also chat with travel writer Mark Baker. He’s lived in Prague for more than 20 years and gives us the inside story on the city’s bookshops, spies, and ghosts.
For a complete roundup of all the books we recommend and a full transcript, plus the other cool stuff we talked about and more info about our guest Mark Baker, visit the Episode 01 show notes.
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Top image courtesy of Aleksei Savin.
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