In last week’s From the Archives, we heard how German troops marched into Prague on March 15 1939. The next day, Edvard Benes, who had resigned as Czechoslovakia’s president in the wake of the Munich Agreement, and was in exile in London, told Britain’s Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain that from now on, he would be leading the resistance against the German occupation. Five months later, war broke out and at the end of 1939 the BBC began its broadcasts in Czech.
A rumbling engine drowns out the sounds of fellow passengers on the bus –somehow fitting on a visit to Mladá Boleslav, a town synonymous with cars and car engines. A little over a century ago, the first Czech bicycle, the first motorcycle, and eventually the first motorised buggy rolled out of what was then a modest factory in the town owned by mechanic Václav Laurin and former bookseller Václav Klement. Mladá Boleslav has been known for its car production ever since.
Many capital cities are famed for their café culture, and Prague is no exception. At the turn of the twentieth century, writers like Karel Čapek and Franz Kafka would meet with artists, academics and politicians in the Czech capital’s cafes to expound their ideas over a cup of coffee - and maybe the smallest snifter of absinthe. Now a new exhibition called ‘Prague’s Coffeehouses and their World’ takes a look at the golden age of the city’s cafes, and attempts to recreate some of the magic such coffeehouses were said to have had at the turn of the
In this edition of One on One, my guest is Freemason Marc Verdier, the Deputy Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of the Czech Republic. French by origin, Mr Verdier settled in Prague fifteen years ago where he now runs his own company. I asked him about the history and the present state of the Masonic movement in the Czech Republic which has recently seen a most unusual development: the Grand Lodge of the Czech Republic has merged with the Grand Czech Orient.
The Lane Motor Museum in the US city of Nashville made the news here in the Czech Republic recently when it commissioned a copy of a 1940s Tatra aero sledge or aero luge, a remarkable car on skis. It is just the latest addition to what the museum’s operators say is the largest collection of Czechoslovak cars outside Europe. I discussed its vintage vehicles with owner and auto enthusiast Jeff Lane on the phone from Nashville.
Just a few minutes’ walk from Prague Castle, the monumental Černín Palace stands out in Hradčany’s Loreto Square. Built in the 17th and 18th centuries as the residence of the Černín aristocratic family, the Baroque palace now houses the Foreign Ministry of the Czech Republic. But the history of the largest of Prague’s Baroque palaces has seen more than politics – it has witnessed ambition, corruption and even a mystery death.
This week marks exactly 100 years since the death of Josef Hlávka, an architect, builder and the biggest Czech philanthropists of all time. This year, it has been 104 years since Hlávka established a foundation in support of education, science and art. When he died, he bequeathed all his property to the foundation. It was probably the only case in Czech history that someone left his entire fortune to charity. Yet, nowadays, many people don’t even know who Josef Hlávka was.