PictureA lovely daffodil vendor at Zelný Trh | Photo by Andressa Niña V. Flores
By: Andressa Niña V. Flores

At 18, I knew very well that I was ready enough to break free from the comforts of my home, travel to the other side of the world, and for some time, live alone while doing something worth my while – and that is exactly what I did last summer.

With nothing more than pure excitement and a spirit for adventure, I flew out of Manila on the 22nd of March to undertake a cultural education exchange program in the Czech Republic.

Having travelled a number of times in the past with my family, I thought I’ve had enough training to face whatever comes my way during my trip and sojourn. But I was wrong.  

Nothing could have prepared me for the horrors of delayed and cancelled flights, language barrier, getting lost, and the most difficult of all: feeling at home in a foreign land.


For the duration of my exchange, I did not just stay, but lived in a beautiful place called Brno – the Czech Republic’s second largest city, about 184 kilometres to the south of the country’s capital, Prague.

A laid-back district lying in the Moravian region, where life is defined by friendly gatherings at the pub and the cheerful clinking of glasses filled with hearty amounts of beer or wine, Brno is definitely one of the best places in the Czech Republic to experience what it is like to live amongst the locals. 
The Czech drinking culture is one thing you wouldn't like to miss.
Preparing for and attending English conversation classes in three of Brno’s top universities, namely Masaryk UniversityMendel University, and Brno University of Technology or VUT, took most of my time, but my duties to the program I was under did not stop me from enjoying such a wonderful city. 

On my first week, a very casual city tour organised by the facilitators of the organisation that hosted my exchange introduced me and my co-participants to some of the popular attractions in Brno, like the Hrad Špilberk, a 13th-Century castle sitting on a hilltop; Zelný Trh, which is literally translated as “vegetable market” in English; and the Divadlo Reduta, the oldest theatre in the whole of Central Europe.

Some other attractions I was able to see while in Brno are the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul, where I attended the Easter mass; Hrad Veveří, which took me and my friends a two and a half-hour hike to reach it; and the Mahenovo Divadlo, one of the first buildings in the world to be lit by electric light – among others.

Although interesting and eye-catching, these sights only gave me a surface-level view of Brno. It was up to me to discover its true beauty, and I found it in the most unexpected yet simplest of ways.
The spires of the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul as seen from Hrad Špilberk.
Tram rides from my dormitory to the city centre or universities gave me a glimpse into the lives of typical Czechs making their way to school or work. Buying fresh produce at Zelný Trh and doing my shopping runs at local shops improved and allowed me to make use of my limited Czech vocabulary. 

Greeting storekeepers back with a cheery “dobrý den” (good day) or thanking people with “děkuji” painted smiles on their lips, as well as mine. Cheap thrills like sitting on the edge of a cliff while watching the sunset and early evening walks with friends around Brněnska Přehrada gave me time to unwind and breathe in fresh air, which comes very rarely when I’m in Manila. And, staying up late at night in pubs for a drink of the famous Czech beer or Brno’s prized Moravian wine, while having endless conversations with the most interesting people, showed me the perfect picture of the Czech spirit.

Indeed, it’s difficult to imagine how little things like these could bring so much joy and excitement to someone, especially to a traveller, who always wants and expects to see more. But, I’ve always believed that seeing the value and beauty of things beyond their popularity and price tags will help one appreciate the smaller details and turn them into big and unforgettable experiences to be treasured forever.

I lived in Brno for a month and a half. And even in such a short period, I watched the snow melt and the trees green, made friends with amazing people, saw myself grow into a more independent young woman, and above all, I have found a place I could call  home away from home.

***Photos courtesy of Andressa Niña V. Flores

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