We have been visiting Prague with our Road Scholars group for several days. These trips feature excellent local experts who tell the group an overview of the history and culture of the area. Since Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic are neighbours, I expected similarities. They each trace their histories to the introduction of Christianity to their country along with the feudal system of land ownership and governance about 1000 years ago. In this system both the church and the royal rulers own all the land. In 1918, the land that had been ruled by the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the Church were broken into countries with their own individual languages/cultural grouping. Hungary lost a lot of land and looked at the pre-1914 period as their golden days. The Poles and Czechs had their own counties again until WW2. Hungary allied itself with the Nazis. In 1938, Neville (peace in our time) Chamberlain gave Czechoslovakia to Hitler, Poland was invaded in 1939 and WW2 began. We heard about being under Nazi occupation from 3 points of view. Hungary was an ally of Hiltler and their buildings came through the war relatively unscathed if I don't count the all the people sent to death factories. Czechoslovakia was annexed by Nazis. Poland was heavily bombed. After the war the Soviets set up a Communist system wherein the state owns everything under a repressive regime. Since the early 1990s, each county is free to be a democracy, have a free market economy and is part of EU.
Due to the influence of the ruling Austro-Hungarian empire, that ruled all 3 countries, the bigger and more decorated the building, the better. Where are the stories of kindness in all this? Over and over, in dangerous and miserable conditions, some brave people risked ther lives for their neighbours. I have heard stories of pluck and good luck. The buildings are pretty, but many of the people are beautiful and brave.