Prague's best known Menhir evokes both fascination and fear. An albino baby is born at Lesna Zoo and - what ails Prague's famous Astronomical Clock? Find out more in Magazine with Daniela Lazarova.
Menhirs are large, upright standing stones that are believed to have been erected in ancient times to serve religious or other purposes. They may have been been used in sacrificial rites, as territorial markers or early calendars. Menhirs are widely distributed across Europe, Africa and Asia and the mystery surrounding them evokes a mixture of fascination and fear. Vera Skrivankova has one just outside her garden - an upright slim boulder that is welded into her garden fence and takes up most of the narrow cobbled pavement. People often come to admire it - and tourist buses stop there to point it out. Vera says that many people believe it radiates a special kind of energy. "My daughter really believes in it, she says, "after every night shift she'll go to the stone to re-charge." Many faith healers allegedly do the same and some people come to the stone to meditate but some are so afraid of its powers that they cross the street in order not to have to come close to it. This - the best-known of Prague menhirs - is called Zkamenely sluha - the servant who turned to stone - and the first mention of it appears in Prague archives in 1914 when people started building houses in the area. Originally it stood in the middle of a meadow - possible as part of a group of similar stones. Another was uncovered buried in Vera's garden last year. If more of them appear in time it may be easier to decipher what purpose they served.
Police in the Decin region, in the northern part of the country have launched a controversial summer operation aimed at protecting tourists from thieves and pickpockets. They are putting up stickers along the most frequented tourist trails in the region warning people in English and German to be careful of their belongings, to lock their cars and not leave their things unattended. Their intention is good but the locals are up in arms about it. "What are tourists going to think - it makes us look like a den of thieves," one of them complained to the media recently. They are also afraid that the security campaign will drive tourists away and they will lose out on tourist revenues. However the police are adamant about seeing this through - and what they are hoping is that the stickers will drive thieves away from the region. "People on holiday are extremely carefree and they rarely bother to lock up anything - cars or caravans - making them easy targets. It is our duty to protect them - and besides if they get robbed here -they wouldn't come back anyway" an office countered. Either way, the controversial stickers are staying and only time will show who they will drive away -if anyone.
The zoo in Lesna has announced yet another success in its kangaroo breeding programme - the birth of a white albino baby to a white mother. Although this may sound perfectly natural albino mothers do not always give birth to albino babies. In this case a brown male is likely to have carried the gene. We have achieved a maximum combination - the zoo spokeswoman said - a brown baby born to a white mother, a white baby born to a brown one, a white to a white and a brown to a brown. The zoo now has two albino babies in its kangaroo pen and they are attracting a vast number of visitors. Not all the babies are going to stay at the Lesna zoo however. Within the framework of a European breeding project some of them will find new homes in other European zoos.
The famous Prague Astronomical Clock - the so-called Orloj - that attracts millions of visitors every year was unexpectedly out of action for ten days earlier this month. The clock which was made in 1410 has served for centuries without any significant break but in recent years there have been recurring problems. Only two clock mechanics know how to fix it and one of them was re-called from his holiday home to take care of the emergency. Usually it takes just hours to fix but this time it took much longer indicating that the old tower clock might need a major repair job. "It doesn't respond well to the climate changes and there's more pollution with every passing year" - said Ludvik Hainz, whose family have been taking care of the Astronomical Clock since the 1860s. Mr. Hainz says that he may soon have to take the whole clock apart - clean the mechanisms - and put it back together again. The fact that it stopped was not only a huge disappointment for tourists. An old Czech legend says that when the clock stops the Czech nation will have big problems. But according to Jakub Malina, who has written a book about the Astronomical Clock - legends of this kind were intentionally created in order to protect the clock itself. For instance an older legend says that when the clock stops then the town mayor or another important official of the town hall will die. "That was clearly meant to encourage town hall officials to take good care of the clock" - Malina says. Whether or not his theory is right I am sure that the present mayor of Prague Pavel Bem was glad to get back from the Himalayas safe and sound well before the Orloj stopped.
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