In the last major commemoration of the death of former president Václav Havel, a boat laden with funerary flowers and wreaths launched from Prague on Saturday to begin a three-day trek along the Vltava and Elbe rivers. The boat left a pier near Mr Havel’s family home at Rašinovo Nábřeží in central Prague and will reach Mělník on the same day, continuing on to Ústí nad Labem and finally Děčín. The wreaths and flowers will then be thrown into the river. Václav Havel died in his sleep on the morning of December 18th after a prolonged illness. He was 75 years old.
The daily Mladá fronta Dnes reports that Brussels will give the Czech Republic one month to resolve irregularities in EU-funded education projects before it cancels the funding. An EC audit earlier this week criticised the Czech Education Ministry for using the funding for exorbitant salaries, needlessly expensive computers, favouring certain contractors and making payments that have nothing to do with the funded projects. The audit writes that the ministry lacks any system of checks, and that what checks there are, are not conducted at regular intervals.
In other bad news, preliminary police reports show there has been a large rise in road fatalities during December. Compared with 37 fatalities in November, 53 people lost their lives in traffic-related accidents in December and 200 were injured. Police investigated nearly 7000 accidents during December, most of which were caused by improper driving and speeding. Accidents involving alcohol amounted to 418.
Intrepid German revellers are continuing to buy dangerous fireworks at Vietnamese markets on the Czech border, despite numerous warnings from officials. According to the German daily Frankensteinpost, the fireworks sold at the markets are often uncertified and contain extremely volatile gunpowder. The paper writes that a police examination showed that five of the larger illicit fireworks were enough to blow up the trunk of a Volkswagen Polo. The amount of licit Vietnamese gunpowder needed to blow up the trunk of a VW Polo is yet unknown.
Explosions could be heard across Prague and other Czech cities on Saturday evening, often accompanied by flashes of light and crackling noises. Large numbers of people took cover in dining and drinking establishments, from which many later emerged in poor physical condition, incapable of normal motor and verbal skills. Public singing, widely thought to have been banned in the Czech lands, broke out in a number of locations, firstly in Prague’s Žižkov area in the early afternoon and spreading quickly thereafter to the rest of the country. A certain “Sylvester” is believed to be responsible for the abnormalities.
The Office of Resolutions has reported that more than all of Czech public officials have resolved to refrain from defrauding the citizenry in the coming year. The office, which was established by the government as an anti-corruption measure, announced an astonishing 106% turnout on the promise.
Outside of the abovementioned, media reported that there was virtually no news whatsoever in the Czech Republic on Saturday. On-duty journalists around the country faced the least newsworthy day in recent memory by staring at walls for countless hours on Saturday, with some threatening to burn down parts of their offices just to cover the story. Others prepared templates for drunk-driving and fireworks accident stories to be used later in the evening. Mainstream media outlets have eluded the problem by reporting on the cold weather expected in January. The situation is expected to improve slightly over the course of the year.
Last but not least, Radio Prague wishes you all, near and far, the happiest of new year's eves, and all the best in 2012! :o)
The weather is pleasant, crisp - cloudier in some places while sunnier in others. In some places there is snow, elsewhere none at all. Weather is expected to continue over the coming days.