Every year the start of Advent in late November sees the opening of traditional Christmas markets in the Czech capital, among the most popular the market on the city’s historic Old Town Square. Surrounded by famous medieval architecture, red-roofed stands, decorated with sprigs of evergreen, sell everything from hand-painted baubles to traditional nativity scenes. Open for more than a month, the market features daily programmes such as children’s workshops and concerts in the run-up to Christmas. It also offers a variety of refreshments - a draw
Deep beneath the city of Prague is another city altogether, one that most people are completely unaware of, and that they’ll hopefully never see. It is a system of hundreds upon hundreds of concrete bunkers with their own electricity, water and ventilation systems awaiting the day that you might hear the air-raid sirens wailing.
There are serious levels of pollution in Prague, with the quality of air in many parts of the city leaving a great deal to be desired. Now the environmental group Arnika is warning that things could get even worse, if a recent decline in the number of trees in the Czech capital continues. At the launch on Wednesday of a report entitled The State and Development of Greenery in Prague, I spoke to Arnika’s Martin Skalský.
A 27-metre spruce was felled Sunday and taken to Prague to become the Christmas tree in Old Town Square. The tree was chosen from the Krkonoš Mountains as it has been for the last six years. This year however was the first that the tree was taken from a location accessible to onlookers, and several dozen people attended the cutting. The historic square’s Christmas tree is carefully selected each year; this year’s spruce, which stood on the bank of the Elbe River, was scheduled for felling regardless of Christmas due to concerns that a flood could bring it down on a nearby bridge.
Leaders of the Prague transport authority’s trade unions walked out of
talks with city officials on Wednesday, increasing the chances of a strike
in the coming days. Union leaders said Prague City Hall had failed to
answer their demands. However, they called for another meeting with the
authorities on Thursday before a decision on the strike is made. The news
website lidovky.cz reported that the strike is likely to begin on
Wednesday, November 18.
The Prague transport authority’s trade unions demanded, among other things, that the city covers the company’s operational loss of 1.9 billion crowns, or more than 112 million US dollars. However, city officials only agreed on Tuesday to provide the company with 900 million crowns.
Prague mayor Pavel Bém was on Tuesday reelected head of the Prague branch of the Civic Democratic Party, beating his challenger for the post deputy Rudolf Blazek. Mr. Bém’s reelection was far from certain. His influence in the party was thought to be waning after he unsuccessfully challenged Civic Democratic Party leader Mirek Topolánek for the top party post in December of 2008 and failed to defend his position as deputy-chairman on a national level.
Anyone who has ever visited the Czech capital will have visited the 14th century Charles Bridge; but if you think you know the city’s most famous landmark, think again. You may be surprised to learn that part of the structure houses two hidden chambers - large enough for dozens of visitors. The areas, not surprisingly, remain off-limits and even their very existence until now was known only by a very few.
Wednesday marks the 91st anniversary of the foundation of Czechoslovakia. In conjunction with that anniversary, the National Memorial on Prague’s Vítkov hill has just been officially reopened after extensive renovations. It was built in honour of the Czech legionnaires whose bravery in World War I helped pave the way for the creation of the state, and reflects much of modern Czech history.
President Václav Klaus was among several dignitaries who took part in a ceremony on Sunday afternoon marking the reopening after extensive renovations of the National Memorial on Prague’s Vítkov hill. The reconstruction project was carried out by the National Museum, which oversees the memorial, and took two years to complete. The National Memorial will now host a museum of Czechoslovak and Czech history, as well as serving as a venue for cultural events. The imposing building was created in the 1930s in honour of the Czech legionnaires who served in World War I. It was used as a parliament before later becoming a mausoleum for communist party leaders. The National Museum reopens to the public on Thursday, with admission free until the end of November.
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