Visit to Prague: economics, culture – and a little fun, too

Twenty-five Sixth-Formers laughed, learned and shivered on an Economics Department trip to Prague.

The visit not only took in the Czech capital’s famous historic sights, but also looked at various sectors of the country’s industry. The pupils found out how it has developed from, in some cases, the Middle Ages through to the present day. There were even a few opportunities to combine business with pleasure – including some traditional singing and dancing on the last night!

Economics teacher Sonia Strnad, who organised the visit, said: “Our trip went really well. The boys showed interest in all the activities and visits; they were reliable and demonstrated great teamwork. We were very lucky to be in Prague during the city’s Festival of Lights and we saw one performance in Namesti Miru (Peace Square).”

""One of the party, Lochan Korpal, of Year 12, summed up his reflections on the five days: “The Prague trip was a great experience which brought key economic concepts to life.”

Twenty-one boys from Year 12 and a further four from Year 13, went on the visit, which began with a guided tour of the Museum of Communism. The QE group were given a lecture on communism and its impact on society and the economy.

Next came a three-hour walking tour of Prague, including a visit to the magnificent Prague Castle complex, with its magnificent St Vitus Cathedral. “In spite of the freezing temperatures – which the students underestimated despite my warnings! – they were really engaged and appreciated the beauty of Prague, its history, culture and stunning architecture: we even had a few ‘wows’ during the walk,” said Mrs Strnad.

""“Later we warmed up with a ‘trdelnik’ [a traditional pastry] and hot chocolate, finishing the walk by crossing the famous Charles Bridge.”  An evening cruise on the River Vltava saw the QE party with the boat to themselves, from where they could enjoy views of the city while sampling a Czech buffet dinner.

On the next day, they travelled to the city of Mlada Boleslav, where they visited an icon of Czech industry – the Skoda car plant. Founded in 1895, Skoda was well known before the Second World War for producing advanced cars incorporating radical ideas and new technology. Today it is owned by Volkswagen and the car factory is one of the most modern in the world. Boys were able to see both the factory itself – Skoda is one of the few car manufacturers to welcome visitors – and the museum, which houses an impressive collection of historic vehicles, some dating back to the company’s earliest years.

""“They saw the fully automated production process with ‘Just in Time’ methods, thus developing their knowledge and understanding of specialisation in car manufacturing. We also discussed Skoda’s business model and its success in global markets,” said Mrs Strnad.

Returning to Prague, they visited the beautiful Strahov Library and later climbed the 299 steps of the Petrin Tower and walked around the nearby mirror maze.

Among other highlights was a tour of the historic Pilsner Urquell brewery, the home of Pils lager, where beer has been brewed since the 13th century. The boys learned about the science behind the brewing process and enjoyed exploring the vast cellars.

""On their last day, the group visited the Bohemia Crystal Glassworks: the Czech Republic is renowned for producing some of the world’s finest glassware. “The students could appreciate specialisation in this specific business context and see labour-intensive production methods with working conditions for staff that were very different to those of the brewery and Skoda,” said Mrs Strnad. The boys had a chance to try glass-blowing for themselves, discovering that it is both harder and hotter than it looks!

Year 12 pupil Viraj Gupta valued the visits to the factories: "They showed me the importance of division of labour in the real world and in different industries. These visits reminded me of how economics is intertwined in real life, giving me a greater appreciation of the subject."

""For the final evening, the group were taken to a historic manor house just 15 minutes’ drive from the centre of Prague for a night of local hospitality, with traditional Czech food and folk-singing and dancing. “Boys participated in the masterclass and seemed to have great fun.  Eddie Houghton and Sajan Shah, both of Year 12, were the first to take part, with Kumaran Sri Ragavan, also from Year 12, joining in – he was impressively confident when dancing with the broom!”

“The best moment for me was the last night of the trip, when we ate a traditional Czech dinner,” said Samuel Gnanarai, of Year 12. “The funniest moment by far that night was when teachers and students got up and danced along to the traditional music. I haven't laughed that hard in ages!”