Just looking at Brno tells a fascinating story. There’s an imposing gothic cathedral on one hill and a huge castle complex (complete with moat – so cool!) on the other hill. There’s a very pretty historic center adjacent to the cathedral. The rest, filling in and surrounding the others, are the signature block buildings of the communist era. You can see centuries of history in a glance.
I stopped off for a few days in Brno, the Czech Republic’s second largest city. It shouldn’t be too surprising that the gay community is somewhat small here in comparison to its big sister, Prague. But it’s still there and it doesn’t have to hide. There was a gay bar near my hotel that I hadn’t known about before walking by and noticing that the entire front wall was painted as a rainbow. So yeah… not hidden.
Brno is a college town, so the large number of young students makes for a decent subculture of young gays. There’s an organization for gay students called STUD, which is an acronym for its full Czech name. Though I may be wrong, I got the impression they weren’t aware of the English double entendre.
There were a few different gay businesses, including a nice little restaurant decorated like a countryside village. And really, considering how much of a small city feel Brno has, it’s sort of remarkable that there is as much of a gay life as there is.
There’s a very interesting curiosity of gay history in Brno. In the late 1980s, near the end of the communist era, a gay man who knew a lot of the gay people in Brno opened a bar (“private club”) in the garage of his home. The government either didn’t know about it or didn’t care, so it stayed open as communism fell. And it’s still open and still in what used to be his garage in the middle of a residential zone, though it’s obvious that it’s been significantly remodeled and expanded back into the rest of the ground floor. It’s got to be one of the oldest – if not the oldest – continuously operating gay bars in the former communist countries.