It is perhaps the best-known Czech dish: svíčková, a beef roast with creamy vegetable sauce, served with dumplings. It can be found on the menu of virtually every Czech pub. This month in Czech Life, we take a look at this traditional dish, what makes it so special and find out if Czechs are still cooking their country’s classic meals at home.
Some 2500 scouts gathered in the Beskydy Mountains on Saturday at a site where five scouts were executed during World War II. The victims, aged between 19 and 26, were shot by German Nazis in 1945. Each year, scouts add stones to a stone mound at the site of the shooting. It was erected in memory of scouts from all over the world who died for a cause. The mound currently measures 40 square meters, with some stones from such distant locations as America or Peru. The five scouts killed were active in the anti-fascist resistance movement. The incident happened just weeks before the end of the war, when some parts of the country had already been freed from Nazi rule by the Soviet army.
Prague’s National Agriculture Museum in Prague held a special day this week to highlight a culinary phenomenon enjoyed not only by Czechs but also by their neighbours, a day honouring the dumpling. The day, open to schools and members of the public, accompanied an on-going German-Czech exhibition entitled Knedlíkové nebe (Dumpling Heaven) – a three-year project looking at the history of the food as a shared culinary heritage.
In celebration of Earth Day, the Czech Scout Association handed out small tree plants at several metro stops in Prague on Thursday. People can take the trees and plant them at a location of their choice, making their city greener. Participants of the project “Growing Up Among Trees” can also send in photographs of the tree they planted, which will be collected and published on the scout association’s website. Jan Žáček is a scout member and was at Prague’s Náměstí Míru event, where some of the 2000 trees were handed out.
There is nothing like buying fresh produce on an open-air farmers’ market – but what may be common in other European cities has been missing in the Czech capital for years. Now things have finally changed. The very first farmers’ market was held in the district of Dejvice in March and immediately attracted some fifteen thousand people. On Saturday, the stalls opened for the second time.
Many Czechs are saving on holidays in view of the economic crisis. Travel agencies say that exotic far-away destinations are giving way to cheaper holiday locations that can be reached by car, such as sea-side resorts in Croatia, Bulgaria and Italy. People are also booking into cheaper hotels and shortening their holiday time to a week instead of the usual fortnight. While in 2008 travel agencies sold 2.3 million package holidays for 15 billion crowns, last year it was only 1.9 million holidays for 12 billion.
For the first time since the war, a shop with kosher food has opened in the Czech capital. Located in Prague’s Old Town, just metres away from the all the attractions of the Jewish town, the shop now offers groceries for the upcoming holiday of Passover. But the shop owners say much more is yet to come.
A survey conducted by the Food Inspection Authority at the beginning of this year indicates that more than half of Czech consumers don’t bother to read the small print on consumer labels. Fifty-six percent of respondents said they never looked at the small print. The reasons cited were that they did not believe what was written on the packaging, it was hard to read or that they selected goods on the basis of price. The vast majority of respondents said they would prefer to buy fresh products daily, but for the sake of convenience they shopped at hypermarkets once a week and went for bigger packaging in order to save money.
Not that long ago in the Czech Republic, parents with young children - babies or toddlers - were often hard-pressed to find venues catering specifically to their needs, but more and more that situation has changed. Arguably, more services are now available than ever – from restaurants offering children’s corners to centres organising all manner of activities for toddlers.
My guest on One on One is hair-stylist Mark Weston. When I visited his one-seat Salon Trichomania on Prague’s Anglická Street, he told me what brought him from his native country of England and his second home-town of Hamburg, Germany, to the Czech Republic. We talked about the hairstyles Czechs prefer and how that is changing but I began by asking him how he got interested in cutting and coloring hair in the first place.
Archaeologists unearth seven graves dating back to Great Moravian Empire
“Einstein in Bohemia” – Part II: how alienation in ‘half-barbaric’ Prague led him to a new theory of gravity, eventual love of a free Czechoslovakia
“Einstein in Bohemia” – part 1: how a Prague sojourn sparked his theory of general relativity, journey of self-discovery
Valentine’s Day 1945 - When the Americans bombed Prague
Film about tragic fate of great Czech actress highlights communist atrocities in the 1950s