In Magazine: two break-away villages celebrate their independence, getting rid of the wurst is no easy task, working pensioners rebel against the government’s austerity measures and a wristwatch that’s not for sale.
Two Moravian villages entered the New Year on a wave of euphoria, celebrating their new-found independence. The citizens of Krhová and Poličná recently voted in a referendum to break away from the town of Valašské Meziříčí and take their fate into their own hands. Their decision was spurred on by a huge controversy with the town council which voted to close down the primary schools in both the satellite villages in order to prevent the closure of schools in the town. The locals claim that the town’s policy is unfair and that they are being made to carry the main burden of cuts in finances. TV cameras were out in force on New Year’s Day as the citizens of Krhová and Poličná, dressed in their best, walked to their respective chapels for a celebratory New Year’s mass in which the priests hailed their new-found freedom and spoke of the responsibilities that came with it. In the coming days the villages will be temporarily run by officials appointed by the interior ministry, while the locals prepare for their first independent elections.
City Hall’s plans to clear Prague’s Wenceslas Square of its many diverse stalls by the start of the year and have them replaced by unified models selling clearly specified goods is running into serious problems. In particular its decision to banish sausage stalls as such has evoked a wave of protests from both locals and tourists. Following a heated debate in the past few months City Hall agreed to tolerate one sausage stall but in the end it backtracked and four stall owners managed to wrangle an exemption from the eviction order. Two sausage stalls will be allowed to stay on –one until mid-2013 the other until the end of the year, as will one newspaper stall and one stall selling fresh flowers. City Hall says this is definitely the last postponement and towards the end of the year it plans to gradually replace all remaining stalls on the square with unified glass models in the form of boats by Cigler Marani Architects. Sausages are not on the agenda, but after a two year futile battle to get rid of them, fans of this popular outdoor snack are not despairing. For the time being the greasy, barbecued wurst is here to stay.
Czech pensioners are playing a cat and mouse game with Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek. In response to a new law according to which working pensioners will no longer enjoy the tax breaks introduced in 2008, close to a third of the country’s 80,000 working pensioners promptly filed to have their pensions discontinued by the end of 2012 in view of having them renewed a day later as a way of by-passing the measure. An outraged minister Kalousek said inspectors would be on these cases and any attempt to avoid paying tax would result in punishment. The minister said people who wanted to outsmart the system would not only have to pay the respective sum but a hefty fine to boot.
The Swiss luxury watch maker Hublot has given Czechs the chance to admire its unique wristwatch containing the Antikythera mechanism, displaying it at its Prague boutique over Christmas. The Antikythera mechanism is a sophisticated instrument that was built in Greece during the last century, BC and was lost for 2000 years off the coast of Antikythera island, until divers rediscovered it in 1901. To scientists’ amazement the complex mechanism contained an incredibly accurate celestial calendar, capable of predicting solar and lunar eclipses for decades in advance. Similar astronomical mechanisms didn't crop up again until the 14th century AD. In 2011 Hublot experts managed to create a miniature copy of the mechanism and squeeze it into a hand-made, one-off wristwatch. The watch is on permanent exhibition at the Musée des Arts et Métiers.
Thousands of Prague citizens are swimming, cycling and pumping iron like mad. This is not just the result of the usual short-lived New Year’s resolutions but the fact that in order to gain new clients more than 70 Prague sporting facilities, including ice rinks are operating free of charge in the first week of January. While people are likely to burn a few extra calories health specialists say any significant change is highly unlikely. According to past surveys 98 percent of New Year’s resolutions don’t survive the month of January.
Six Czech cookbooks have made it to the international round of the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards 2012 due to be announced in February in Paris. Among them are It would be a pity not to cook, A cookbook filled with music, Eat Czech according to the season, Czech National Culinary Treasures and the World on a Pan. According to those in the know the recipes are sumptuous, and even just leafing through the cookbooks is a joy.