Czech Republic Hungary Magazine Poland Slovakia

How exploration shaped cultural development in Central Europe

Exploration has profoundly impacted how cultures have developed worldwide, with Central Europe being no exception. This includes how food tastes have changed, from colonists bringing over interesting spices from overseas to wars over scarce resources. By the end of this short post, you will learn about how exploration has shaped the cultural milieu in Central Europe.

The past is crucial to understanding the present

If you want to understand how people think the way they do today, it’s vital to understand how history has shaped these perceptions. There’s no better way of doing this than looking at how humans have sought to understand the world via fastidious mapping.

From the below video by travel insurance, you can see that cartography has been an essential aspect of understanding the planet since Eratosthenes’ map back in the 3rd century BC. Although this map was highly detailed for its time, it only shows the extent of their known world; understandably their knowledge in those times could not have traveled far beyond their borders. 

How does this relate to Central Europe?

Hungary is a particularly good example of how exploration has shaped cultural development in this region. Central Europe was a highly sought-after location in the middle ages. Regarding exploration and Central Europe, it is worth mentioning the Ottoman empire’s foray into this region. Sultan Suleyman I was as influential and renowned as any of the existing monarchs of Europe, including Francis I and Charles V. From his desire to explore and expand his empire, he conquered Hungary in 1526 and even advanced up to the walls of Vienna in 1529. 

After being ruled for almost 150 years, Hungary began to see Turkish influences creep into its national identity. A good example of this is the introduction of paprika into Hungarian cuisine. The spice that is now so synonymous with Hungarian food, was introduced as the result of exploration due to the ambitions of an Ottoman Sultan. 

From one Empire to many Countries

The Austro-Hungarian Empire was one of the great powers of Europe between 1867 and 1918, until its dissolution after the Great War. In many ways, you can see how this empire and its subsequent demise shaped the fabric of modern Central Europe, which also include the Czech Republic and Slovakia. After World War I, the Treaty of Saint-Germain-en-Lay created the first Czechoslovak Republic in October 1918, which later split in the two countries that we know today.

Roman fashion In Poland

During the Middle Ages, when the ancient Byzantine Empire still reigned in the East, the Polish national costume (the kontusz ensemble) began to develop its key distinguishing traits. The Byzantine court in Constantinople became a symbol of cultural influence for Christians and Muslims alike, with its beauty inherited from the Roman Empire and reinforced by interactions with Persian Sasanians and Abbasid Muslims. 

The garment was largely worn by the Polish aristocracy. It began to emerge in the sixteenth century when chivalry was progressively phased out and replaced by an estate of mostly agricultural proprietors. These noblemen connected with Sarmatian tradition and attempted to establish their Sarmatian ancestry. This garment was altered during the early modern era, but it preserved its core Eastern shape.

Cultures forged by War

War is also part and parcel of the human condition and, unfortunately, Central Europe has had more than its fair share of it. It’s interesting to see how war has shaped the culture of this region. Germany, for example, was a confederation of states before it was ever unified, and Prussia was one of these states that subsequently shaped the country and the entirety of Europe.

Prussia achieved this partly by surviving on relatively inferior land compared to their neighbors, and through this tough survival became a martial state (many other complex reasons also contributed to this). They expanded throughout Central Europe to such an extent that it would eventually culminate in the invasion of Poland in 1939 and lead to what is now considered two of the worst wars in history.

Staffed with a growing team of passionate journalists and local contributors, our Kraków office is fully dedicated to covering all-things Polish, from reporting on the latest news to promoting fascinating local initiatives across Poland.