Forget the Blue Danube, it’s the greeny-brown Vltava which is the watery muse of artists and musicians in this part of the world. The Vltava is the Czech Republic’s longest river, stretching more than 400 km. It is also the main waterway through the Czech capital Prague, and has been most famous in recent years for bursting its banks in 2002. The floods caused billions of crowns’ worth of damage to the capital alone, and put the city’s metro out of action for several months.
After three months of waiting and some sideline debates, the government has agreed to rename Prague’s international airport after the late president Václav Havel. While the Havel family and the tens of thousands who asked for the change are pleased there has finally been some progress, a new problem has arisen with the English translation of the airport’s name. Christian Falvey has this report.
The rumbling railroad track that used to pass through Žižkov in Prague was completely natural to the gritty-but-chic image of the 19th century proletariat quarter. The main western entrance to Žižkov was arched by three foreboding railway bridges, and the noisy, spray-painted cars passed alongside Vítkov hill to the cargo station. Four years ago the trains were still rattling the plaster off that lower end of the neighbourhood, just as they had been since the late Industrial Revolution, and then the route was cancelled for a higher-capacity
Leoš Válka is one of the founders of the DOX Centre for Contemporary Art in Prague’s Holešovice district, which in just a few years has become one of the most important institutions of its kind in Central and Eastern Europe. Válka has a perhaps surprising background for such a significant figure in the Czech art world: for several years he ran a firm in Australia doing maintenance work on high-rise buildings.
Anti-government protests continued in Prague’s Wenceslas Square on Friday evening. Roughly a thousand demonstrators gathered on the square to demand the resignation of the current government coalition and president Václav Klaus. Demonstrators signed a petition and listened to live renditions of covers of songs by Czech protest singer Karel Krýl. The protests, organized by a citizens' initiative, started on Thursday, when thousands of people gathered in Prague and other cities across the country.
Thousands of people have gathered at Wenceslas Square for a demonstration against the government, calling for the resignation of the current coalition. Some participants called on demonstrators to follow them to the headquarters of Czech TV, which they claim has not been paying enough attention to the protest. Among the demonstrators are supporters of the Anonymous hacker group.
The astronomical clock at Prague’s Old Town Square is whole again as of Wednesday, when the last statues were returned after two months of repairs. Restorers frequently remove the 15th century statues to inspect their condition as their south-facing orientation causes more weathering. The Vain Man, the Miser, Death and the Turk were restored in January. The statues returned on Wednesday were the Philosopher, the Angel, the Astronomer and the Chronicler. The repairs involved mainly cracks and fading of the gold and paint.
Bratislava has overtaken Prague as the richest region of the post-Soviet EU countries. According to the latest statistics from Brussels, Bratislava rose four places in 2009 to fifth place on the EU-wide list, while Prague dropped to seventh place. Eurostat shows central London as being by far the most wealthy region of the EU, with per capita GDP of 332% of the EU average. The poorest regions were in the Balkans and in Poland.
According to the results of an expert study published in Thursday’s edition of Lidové noviny Prague’s anti-flood barriers are not properly maintained. The paper cites experts as saying that along given stretches of the river the barriers are in such poor condition they would not be able to keep out the floodwater. The study contains dozens of pictures supporting these claims. Prague invested 3.7 billion crowns in a flood-barrier protection system after the 2002 devastating floods.
The National Museum has opened an exhibition highlighting the personality cult of the first Czechoslovak communist president, Klement Gottwald. The exhibition, named Laboratory of Power, is located in Prague´s Vítkov Memorial which the communist regime turned into a mausoleum for Gottwald after his death in 1953. One of the exhibition’s organizers Marek Junek took me through the underground rooms built for the army of people who took care of the embalmed body for nine long years. He started out by explaining how the memorial underwent a significant
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