Prague’s famous 15th century astronomical clock, known as Orloj in Czech, is one of the oldest and most elaborate clocks ever built and one of the city’s best known attractions. Few tourists leave Prague without seeing it. However the crowd that assembled to hear it chime last Sunday was in for a shock. Due to a technical error the procession of apostles that appears in the windows above the clock failed to make its usual exit – instead it was spinning like a crazy merry-go-round.
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.
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