Prague Mayor Bohuslav Svoboda on Saturday lit a 28-metre-tall Christmas tree in Prague’s Old Town Square, and opened a Christmas market in the square. The spruce, which is around 90-years-old, came from a forest near Rokycany, in western Bohemia. Organizers said tightened security measures were applied at the event which each year attracts thousands of people.
The new CEO of the largest Czech public health insurance company, VZP, Civic Democrat Zdeněk Kabátek, assumes his post on Saturday. Mr Kabátek, who most recently worked at the Health Ministry, was chosen by the company’s board earlier this week. He replaces Pavel Horák who stepped down over budget issues. The change is part of a broader overhaul of the company’s management initiated by the Health Ministry. The new CEO said his first goal was to stabilize the company’s finances.
Painter Vladimír Houdek has won the 2012 Jindřich Chalupecký Award for artists under the age of 35. The only painter among the six finalists of the award, 28-year-old Houdek a graduate of Prague’s Academy of Fine Arts, explores in his works the ambiguous and problematic heritage of modernism, the jury said. The winner also received funds to hold an exhibition at the National Gallery in Prague and a six-week fellowship in New York. The other finalists of the Jindřich Chalupecký award this year included Adéla Babanová, Richard Loskot, Jiří Thýn and the duo David Böhm and Jiří Franta.
Christian Democrats are discussing strategies to gain higher voter support at a one-day programme conference in Jihlava on Saturday. Party chair Pavel Bělobrádek said the group should pursue the concept of social market economy, and present itself as an alternative to the policies of the current government. The conference is also expected to alter the name of the party which now in full reads the Christian-Democrat Union – the Czechoslovak People’s Party. The group failed to win seats in the lower house in the 2010 general elections but most polls suggest it has a good chance of crossing the 5-percent threshold to enter the house.
Fifty historic palaces, towers, churches and other monuments in Prague are open to the public free of charge this weekend as the city marks the 20th anniversary of its inclusion of UNESCO’s list of world heritage. People can visit, among other sites, the Bethlehem Chapel, the Pinkas Synagogue and the Old Town tower at Charles Bridge, the National and the Estates Theatres, the Emauzy Convent. Some of the sites however require visitors to make a reservation.
Some 10,000 people witnessed the re-enactment of the Battle of Austerlitz near Slavkov, in southern Moravia on Saturday, 207 years after Napoleon’s army beat the Russian and Austrian troops there. 900 people from 11 countries with 60 horses and 15 cannons reenacted parts of the battle on Saturday; this year, they focused on the closing phases and the retreat of the Austrian and Russian armies from the battlefield.
Czech President Václav Klaus and Prime Minister Petr Nečas have rejected an invitation to attend the awarding ceremony of the Nobel Peace Prize to the European Union that will take place in Oslo on December 10. A spokesman for the eurosceptic Czech president provided no reasons behind Mr Klaus’ decision, the government’s spokesman said Prime Minister Nečas was too busy to attend the ceremony. For his part, Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg said he had not been invited. The opposition Social Democrats have criticized Mr Nečas’ decision which they said put the Czech government into isolation. The Czech Republic will be one of six EU member states whose top officials will not attend the ceremony, according to media reports.
Czech speedskater Martina Sáblíková on Saturday claimed her first World Cup title of the season when she won a 5,000-metre event in Kazakhstan. The Olympic champion beat Germany’s Claudia Pechstein in second place, and Olga Graf of Russia, who finished third. The win in the season’s third event put Sáblíková to the lead of the World Cup’s standings in her category.
Visitors of the many outdoor Christmas markets around the Czech Republic will not be able to enjoy the traditional rum-based hot drinks like punč and grog this holiday season. The authorities have announced that they will strictly enforce a law prohibiting non-licensed vendors from selling drinks with alcohol content higher than 15 percent. In the past, the police turned a blind eye to such practices at the festive Christmas markets, but following this year’s methanol-crisis which claimed 37 lives, they have decided to take a harder line. The sale of hot drinks will be restricted to mulled wine or tea.
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