The oldest technical university in Central Europe, the Czech Technical University, is celebrating its 300th anniversary this year. This Prague based institution is connected with such notable personalities as Frantisek Josef Gerstner, who constructed the first horse-driven railway in Austria, Christian Doppler, perhaps best-known for the discovery of the Doppler principle, and also Czech electrical engineer Frantiek Krizik and architect Josef Zitek.
Last week, the first Mene Tekel festival dedicated to the history of totalitarianism in this country was held in Prague to coincide with the anniversary of the communist putsch in 1948. Taking its name from the so-called writing on the wall, which appears in the Bible's Book of Daniel and refers to the counting, considering and punishment of evil deeds, the Mene Tekel festival aims to provide a comprehensive overview of the oppression meted out by the communist regime in this country for more than forty years.
Historians in the department of old prints and manuscripts at the Research Library in Olomouc have made a surprising discovery. While moving a safe containing rare documents to a new building, they found a seven-page nautical atlas that was hand-made in 1563. The richly coloured parchment with gold and silver linings shows the Mediterranean Sea, the Black Sea and the northern part of the Atlantic. Made by the Catalan cartographer Jaume Olives, there are only five others in the world - in Barcelona, New York, Florence, Milan, and Valenciennes in
Karel Janovicky has had a distinguished career as a composer, pianist, writer and broadcaster, and at 77 is still full of energy. When I interviewed him in his study in the family's house in North London, there were few signs that he might be contemplating retirement. His latest composition, a sonata for clarinet and piano, lay open on the upright piano in the corner, as he added a few finishing touches, and the room was full of books, scores and articles.
In today's One on One Jan's guest is Zdenek Lukes, one of the country's most respected architectural historians, employed at the Office of the President's heritage section overseeing Prague Castle. Mr Lukes first began working there in 1990 and in our interview recalls changes that he's seen, the fate of a secret atomic bunker, and a famous visit by the "world's greatest rock n' roll band". Jan began by asking him first what coming to the Castle was like.
The dreaded StB secret police were disbanded on February 15 1990, less than three months after the start of the Velvet Revolution. But only now have the authorities come up with an adequate system of allowing the public access to StB files, in a new project called Open Past (Otevrena Minulost). But the Interior Ministry still has some way to go - of an estimated 17 km of files, only 3.5 percent has been thoroughly processed so far.
Looking at old photos of quaint parts of downtown Prague that were demolished at the turn of the 19th century to make way for fashionable apartment blocks, one easily gets nostalgic. But thanks to modern technologies, one day soon it will be possible to walk through the streets and lanes of the old Jewish quarter of Prague - but of course, only in virtual reality.
There is an old framed photograph in my parents' house, which I have known since childhood. In the foreground, you can see the back of the head of Edvard Benes, the second President of Czechoslovakia. And bowing forward to shake the president's hand is a distinguished-looking man with shiny matinee-idol hair and a neatly-folded kerchief in his pocket. That's Otakar Machotka, my grandfather.
Exactly fifteen years ago, on February 13th 1992, the Czech Technical University in Prague hosted a momentous event. At a meeting with university computer science experts and representatives from the University of Linz, the RIPE network coordination centre, and the US National Science Foundation, Czechoslovakia was officially connected to the internet. Dita Asiedu spoke to Jan Gruntorad, who headed the Technical University's computer network department at the time, about this historic moment:
Recent days have seen a series of allegations of collaboration with the communist-era secret police. Less than 24 hours after the head of the Czech branch of Interpol was fired over his involvement with the StB, claims emerged that Jaromir Nohavica, one of the country's best loved singers, was an informer. Now - in the most serious case to date - former prime minister Josef Tosovsky has been accused of collaborating with the secret police.