Battle of Austerlitz reenacted with Mark Schneider

In History on December 3, 2011 by Petr Bokuvka Tagged: , ,

The annual re-enactment of the famous Battle of Austerlitz (aka the Battle of Slavkov in Czech) took place near the village of Tvarozna, just outside Brno, today. Every year the event attracts thousands of people, not just from the region. Hundreds of visitors from Poland and Russia arrive as well. I saw at least four Russian news teams and one film crew of four (the former Russian Empire was one of Napoleon’s opponents).

Napoleon was once again played by Mark Schneider, a famous impersonator of the emperor who even has his own IMDb entry and who has played or impersonated Napoleon in Slavkov or in History Channel TV programs. A few years ago he was interviewed by the Daily Press and talked about his experience playing Napoleon in the Czech Republic.

Nine hundred soldiers, ninety horses and twenty canons took part in today’s show.

All photos (c) Petr Bokuvka



CSA strike: dozens stranded and flights cancelled

In Economy, Travel on December 2, 2011 by Petr Bokuvka Tagged: , ,

(c) Petr Bokuvka

Many Czech Airlines pilots have been on strike for two days now. They protest against the company management’s restructuring plans, which include, among other things, the transfer of a part of the CSA fleet to Holidays Czech Airlines, which is a charter airline which was established as a sister company.

Czech Airlines announced on its website that the protest is illegal even though only a court can declare with maximum certainty that a protest is illegal. The announcement says that due to the illegal pressure tactics the airline is unable to operate some of its flight. Earlier on Friday the management found a Bulgarian airline which has offered four aircraft and crew, the server wrote. Some of these aircraft brought home dozens of Czechs who had tickets on inbound flights.

In addition, the protesting pilots claim that the CSA management and Minister of Finance are not telling the whole truth about the company’s financial performance (which has been tragic recently) and that the general downsizing, in terms of its fleet and number of employees, is hurting the company “beyond repair”. According to a letter sent by the airline’s top manager to the employees, pilots will be able to fly for the sister charter airline. However, the company offers much lower salaries, the news server wrote. The chairman of the pilots’ professional association was quoted by AFP as saying that transferring aircraft between these two companies is just like holding your bag in your right hand and switch it to your left hand.

Czech Airlines announced on Friday evening that it had managed to make arrangements for all Saturday flights.


Sitting on Santa’s lap? Not in this country

In Winter on November 30, 2011 by Petr Bokuvka Tagged: ,

How does one convince their son or daughter that Christmas presents are not purchased by adults when the kids see people with wrapped gifts in malls or on the streets everywhere? It is harder and harder to retell the story about  Santa or the more traditional gift-giver, Christkind. The latter is invisible and immaterial and nobody actually “knows” what the figure looks like but the former is, of course, the straight out of an American made-for-TV family comedy about Christmas Santa Claus. While the Czech Republic has adopted Santa as a Christmas figure, his prominence is much smaller. For example, the sitting on Santa’s lap is virtually non-existent. It is only practiced in a handful of shopping malls around the country (my guess would be five to ten, and I could possibly name all of them). Coincidentally, this Christmas tradition was recently banned in the United Kingdom.

The fact that Christkind can still beat Santa in terms of the number of fans and followers is probably the reason why Santa is more of a fairytale character. According to a 2009 research, 87 percent of children believe that Christkind brings the presents. No Czech kid knows the names of his reindeer. Only a few (who have taken English classes taught by a native speaker) can probably name Rudolph. In addition, most Czech kids stick to Christkind due to the fact that Santa appears too human and he is often portrayed as having made, purchased, wrapped and transported the presents. Christkind, on the other hand, is much more virtual, which gives kids more room for imagination…


Best Prague street: mostly Italian and Arab tenants

In Architecture, Prague on November 27, 2011 by Petr Bokuvka Tagged: ,

Parizska (Street) is generally thought to be the most expensive avenue (or street in general) in the Czech Republic.  Its stores include Louis Vouitton, Prada, Swarowski, Hugo Boss etc. According to some sources, it is the 14th most expensive street in the world in terms of the aforementioned indicators. French actress Chantal Poullain, who used to be married to famous Czech actor Bolek Polivka, says that the street does her remind of Paris, especially to the the architecture of the buildings.

It is also interesting to look at the door bell panels and see the names of the tenants. I think it is no surprise that foreign sounding names, especially Italian and Arab, are the most common thing to find. According to this list of apartments currently for sale at Parizska, a two-bedroom apartment costs usually well over $800,000. This one (four bedrooms) costs $1.6 million. Italian and Arab businessmen are common in the Czech Republic, especially in fields of business in which one’s permanent residence address matters a lot. Accoring to the photos from the list of available apartments, these are high-ceiling apartments, a common element of Art Nouveau.

Look at this photo-visit to one of the apartments owned by a Dutch-Czech businessman, who says that he bought it because he likes huge rooms and the short distance from his office, downtown Prague and his parents’ house.


Czech Television will assign color codes to reporters

In Media on November 25, 2011 by Petr Bokuvka Tagged:

A new system of employee evaluation has recently been introduced by the Czech Television, Czech Republic public service broadcaster. Based upon this internal system, reporters will be divided into color-coded groups based on their skills, achievements, attitude and the overall quality. The best team (black, according to the TYDEN weekly newsmagazine) will be in charge of the evening news broadcast, Udalosti. Other teams will do the less prestigious work, including the daily update of the CT24 channel, which is the Czech Television’s 24/7 news broadcast.

All news teams everywhere are divided into groups, we just have them color-coded, Czech TV’s spokesman Ladislav Sticha told the Mlada fronta DNES daily. The news department’s management wants to work with the most experienced journalists to create the flagship program. Sticha added that there will be no “wall” between any two teams, meaning that any reporter can be promoted based on their achievements.

According to the newly appointed director of Czech Television Petr Dvorak, the flagship program is intended for viewers who only want their portion of news once a day. In addition, this evening news program should be anchored by one person only (for the time being there is one anchorman and one anchorwoman who “take turns”).

According to a humorous rumor quoted by the TYDEN weekly newsmagazine, there will also be an orange team whose members will wear high visibility jackets while cleaning and collecting garbage around the news department building.


Photo Walk: some really ugly parts of Brno

In Architecture on November 20, 2011 by Petr Bokuvka Tagged:

There aren’t many neighborhoods of the city of Brno which one can refer to as truly ugly. There are only three or four exceptions, one of them being the Horni Herspice railway station and the adjacent streets on both sides of the track. Directly to the north and north-east from the station is a huge shunting yard. It is a no-man’s land where you can find small private gardens as well as unauthorised garbage dumping sites and shacks evidently used by homeless people.  There are old dilapidated buildings which are to be demolished quite soon. There are obscure dead-end streets with yards full of cars, which means there must be some active companies doing business there. Either way, this place is spooky, especially on a gray Sunday morning… 

(above): A former factory just next to a huge underpass which was recently built under a nearby railway line.
It has been for sale for months now…

(above): Waiting room of the Horni Herspice (a Brno borough) train station. Dirty, destroyed. Bummer…

(above): A bunch of place names on a wall in an almost unused alley. No idea what they were supposed to mean…

(above): Along the street leading to the train station are many tiny “gardens” with tiny huts. The soil does not seem to be fertile to begin with… And many indices suggest that the inhabitants of these huts like to collect stuff other people have thrown out…

(above): Looks like the situation in the building is so complicated the mailman does not want to go in.

(above): The borough administration does not want squatters and homeless people here. This building should be demolished in April.

(above): This street is one of the main access routes to the main bus terminal. Many international bus lines use it. Not a fine picture to see if you are foreigner arriving in Brno…

(above): There used to be a working class pub in this building. On the left-hand corner there is a huge hole in the wall through which one can see what used to be a men’s room. The urinals are still there…

(above): Another building which will soon make room for a new modern neighborhood. The question is, how long it is going to take considering the global crisis in which many plans have been put on hold…


Polar bear cubs in the Brno zoo eaten by mother

In Nature on November 19, 2011 by Petr Bokuvka Tagged: ,

Two polar bear cubs were born in Brno zoo earlier this week. Unfortunately, none of them survived. In line with her instincts, Cora, the mother, ate both of them, having found out that the cubs would not survive, the Brno Zoo spokeswoman informed. People could watch the cubs online. Zoo experts realised very soon that the first cub never made a sound and was not moving. The second one seemed to be doing fine at first because Cora seemed to be paying more attention to it.

The 13 year-old Cora has had surviving cubs before: pictured to the left is either Bill or Tom who were born in 2007 and immediately became the zoo’s primary attraction. They were later moved to other zoos in Prague and Germany, respectively. In 2010 there was one more unsuccessful attempt with the same result as the most recent one. In response to some people’s reactions (how come the bear ATE its babies), the zoo was quick to explain that this is what polar bears regularly do to avoid other animals and predators finding them.

The zoo had incubators prepared in the event that Cora would reject the surviving cubs, but the management was aware of the risks and the uncertainty of such a decision.

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