Novelist Alex Vella Gera made headlines in his native Malta in 2009 when he found himself in court over a short story deemed obscene by the authorities. The piece had been written several years earlier, during a spell the writer – then in his 20s – spent living in Prague in the second half of the 1990s. Vella Gera has just been back in the Czech capital for the first time since then for a short visit. When he came into our studios, I asked what for him had been the appeal of ‘90s Prague.
Wednesday marked the 85th anniversary of automatic traffic lights in Prague. The lights were first introduced on one of the roads intersecting Wenceslas Square and the innovation was not without controversy; pedestrians complained that it kept them waiting too long. There are now 640 traffic lights in the capital, the number almost doubling since 1989. Intelligent traffic lights which react to traffic flows should be installed across the capital by 2022.
Some 300 people attended a protest against Islam on Prague’s Hradčany Square on Friday evening. The event was organized by the group We Do Not Want Islam in the Czech Republic who have been increasingly vocal in protesting the presence of Muslims in the country. Among those who attended the gathering were a number of politicians, including deputy chair of the Dawn party Marek Černoch, Civic Democrat MP Jana Černochova and Senator Jaroslav Doubrava. The protest passed without incident.
Police investigating the case of a young American who fell from Prague’s Hlavkov Bridge into the Vltava River and suffered serious injuries have asked potential witnesses to come forward. They are in particular looking for the man who left the American’s wallet and IDs but ran off before the police could question him. The incident happened on New Year’s Eve. The young man fell into the river and was apparently able to swim to shore but because the place was deserted he was left lying helpless in the freezing cold for ten hours before passers-by noticed him. Police say the fall may have been preceded by a fight. The American remains in a coma in hospital.
Czechs are marking the 46th anniversary of the death of student Jan Palach who set himself on fire in protest against the growing public apathy to the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia. People have been laying flowers and lighting candles at the Palach memorial stone at the top end of Wenceslas Square where he set himself on fire and a special commemorative event is taking place at the Philosophical Faculty of Charles University on Jan Palach Square. The ensemble of the National Theatre is holding a scenic evening entitled 1969 – The Ice Age.
The first 100 copies of the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo arrived in the Czech Republic on Friday morning and promptly sold out, a representative of a news stand firm offering the publication, told the Czech News Agency. The magazine, whose office in Paris was the target of a terrorist attack last week, has been available only in Prague so far, she added. One copy cost 140 crowns. Apart from the airport and the main railway station, copies were delivered to a central shopping centre, several news stands, and a metro station retailer. An addional supply of the weekly is to be sold in the Czech Republic next week. According to available information, about 300,000 copies of Charlie Hebdo have been sent to about 25 countries. The new issue with another caricature of the Prophet Muhammad was published exactly a week after radicals killed 12 people in the weekly's office in Paris, including its editor-in-chief and leading cartoonists.
A member of the country’s large Vietnamese community, Mimi Lan Nguyen came to the Czech Republic in the early 1990s while still in her early teens. Today she is a successful fashion designer with a flagship boutique on the capital’s Štěpánská St. The shop is actually on the outside of the grand city centre Lucerna Palace, and it was there that Mimi began introducing me to “her Prague”.
The city of Prague has been handed an 11 million crown fine by the country’s anti-monopoly bureau in the case of a recently opened bridge in Troja built as part of the city’s extensive Blanka tunnel complex. The city was penalized for not sticking to an original design plan, which came with a less than half-a-billion crown price tag and not the 1.3 billion the bridge eventually cost. The original design was meant to be revised under the administration of former mayor Pavel Bém but was not. The decision is not binding and City Hall has already said it will appeal. The anti-monopoly office is also investigating other aspects of the Blanka Tunnel project.
Prague Castle, which is said to be the largest ancient castle in the world, covering an area of nearly 70,000 square metres, is set to undergo some significant restoration work this year. The reconstruction, which concerns for instance the Old Royal Palace and Saint Vitus Cathedral, is expected to cost some 290 million crowns. I spoke to František Kadlec of the Prague Castle Administration, who says the restoration of the castle buildings is a never-ending process:
A number of renovation projects are planned for Prague Castle this year. A spokesperson for the Prague Castle Administration told the Czech News Agency that the façades of the complex’s Deer Moat, Riding School and one wing of the Old Royal Palace would be renovated while some work will also be done on St. Vitus’ Cathedral. Those four projects will take up around CZK 140 million of CZK 292 million earmarked for repairs this year at Prague Castle, which is the city’s most visited landmark.
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Screenshot: a hybrid English-friendly Prague art-house cinema where screenings are events