Thursday, 4 November 2010

Comparisons

Above is a notice advertising the museum in Jindrichuv Hradec. Come and see “the biggest mechanical creche in the world.”*

One of the things that has struck us as we wander around the Czech Republic is this obsession with comparisons. “Cesky Krumlov is the second largest castle complex in the Czech Republic”, “Jindrichuv Hradec Castle is the second largest castle in South Bohemia” (after Krumlov of course), Vyssi Brod Abbey has the “third largest library in the Czech Republic” and so on. Once you start looking, you'll see such comparisons all over the place. It's not something we see very much in England. Why is that?

A friend once said to me that it was probably to do with the Czechs needing to assert themselves and their legacy in the face of wider apathy, which may be true to some extent, whereas we have a confidence born of several centuries of being a major world player. But I suspect it is more to do with our English sensibilities. After all the Czechs are just promoting what they have to offer. The Hungarian emigre and humourist George Mikes wrote that “All advertisements... are utterly and hopelessly unEnglish. They are too outspoken, too definite, too boastful.” My wincing at Czech claims is therefore my problem, not theirs.

* BTW By creche they mean a carved nativity scene. Not only do you get the stable, but a huge automated tableau of life in the surrounding countryside and towns, which takes up three sides of a room. Some guy spent a lifetime making this - you can imagine what his wife had to say on the subject!

2 comments:

Philip Wilkinson said...

"Mechanical creche": it's a marvellous phrase, conjuring up in my (British) mind's eye a sort of automated childminder. Agribusiness for baby farmers. Whereas of course really it's a crib. Kind of.

- English man in Moscow - said...

Hi Like your blog. I used to live in Bratislava Slovakia and loved it. We now live in Moscow and I hate it. You can follow me here

http://www.englishdadinmoscow.com/

Do you like CZ and was it hard to buy a hose there?

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