January 16 is for the first time being marked in the Czech Republic as a legislatively recognised day honouring Jan Palach. Palach, who was a student at Charles University, set himself alight on Prague’s Wenceslas Square on that date in 1969 in protest at the resignation of the Czechoslovak population less than six months after the Soviet-led invasion that brought to an end the Prague Spring reform communist movement. He died on January 19, 1969 and his funeral turned into a significant demonstration against the occupation.
As Czechs went to the polls at the weekend, some had more choices to make than just choosing the next president. In seven places around the country, people also took part in local referenda, voting mostly on issues concerning public property. In the district of Prague 7 the referendum was meant to decide on how the town hall should go about putting up a new administrative building for the district. With more than 40% participation, an overwhelming majority rejected a plan to build a new administrative building for the district which many consider
A poll among Prague’s inhabitants shows that the vast majority of them are happy with the state of public transport following radical changes effected in September. In a survey conducted by the Ropid agency 93 percent of respondents expressed varying degrees of satisfaction while only 7 percent of respondents were openly critical of the changes. The overhaul of public transport last September included changes to buss and tram lines particularly in the suburbs.
Members of the public and the arts world gathered at Prague’s Vinohrady Theatre at midday on Friday to pay their last respects to the legendary Czech actress Jiřina Jirásková who died on Monday at the age of 81. This was followed by a private memorial service for invited guests which was broadcast live by Czech public television and later in the afternoon Cardinal Dominik Duka celebrated a mass for the late actress at Prague’s Týn Church. Ms. Jirásková spent 60 years on stage at Prague’s Vinohrady Theatre and starred in dozens of Czech films.
Today, in Prague’s bookstores one can find titles in a number of world languages – English, German, Russian, French, and of course Czech. It is much harder these days, although not impossible, to find books published in Hebrew. But five hundred years ago, a little less than a century after the Gutenberg press was invented, the first Hebrew book in Central Europe, and possibly north of the Alps, was printed right here in Prague.
New Year’s celebrations are due to take place on Prague’s Old Town Square where Prague City Hall has prepared a special programme starting at 2pm in the afternoon. People also traditionally gather on Wenceslas Square for midnight fireworks followed by a street party. Some 200 officers will out to maintain law and order in the city centre and traffic restrictions will be in place on Wenceslas Square after 4pm. In line with a special regulation relating to the recent spate of methanol poisonings, street vendors will not be allowed to sell spirits. The metro will run for an hour later than usual closing down at 1am on January 1st. Prague City Hall has scheduled a New Year’s fireworks display for 6pm on Tuesday.
A public tender on the sale of property for redevelopment in Prague 10 (between Moskevská and Krymská) is being met with opposition from a number of local residents and a civic association. Opponents of the sale, including acclaimed Czech artist Krištof Kintera 9 (a member of an initiative known as Start), are worried the sale, which includes an early 20th century Art Nouveau building, will see yet another green area in Vršovice disappear. Critics charge that Prague 10 is behaving as an investor and not looking out for the neighbourhood. The local city hall, which owns the property together with a private owner, is defending its decision on the grounds the land was outlined for possible development in the city’s zoning plans. Interested buyers will have to offer a minimum of 43 million crowns for the property. The city wants to sign a contract by June of next year.
The Prague 7 town council has filed a complaint at the Constitutional Court on Friday over the decision of the Supreme Administrative Court instructing the council to hold a public referendum on the location of the council seat. Results of the referendum should answer four questions about how the location of the new seat of the council should be selected. The Supreme Administrative Court ordered the referendum on the basis of a legal complaint brought by residents who were concerns about the over-priced plans for a new council building. The council claims that holding the referendum would threaten its right to self-government.
Some 240 people are taking part on Wednesday in the 66th edition of the Alfréd Nikodém Memorial, an annual winter swim in the Vltava River in Prague. This year, swimmers from Slovakia, Poland, the UK and Germany also participated in the event which takes place near the National Theatre building in the centre of the capital. The swim is named after Prague winter swimmer Alfréd Nikodém who established the tradition in 1923.
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