In Magazine: a Russian Matryoska doll joins the saints on Charles Bridge, ornithologists are celebrating the first golden eagle hatched in the Beskydy Mountains after a century-long break, a driver smashes into a police station and Liberec Zoo hosts its annual wood sculpting festival.
At the end of the summer holidays Liberec Zoo traditionally hosts a wood sculpting festival on a given theme. Sculptors working out in the open are a big attraction for visits and the statues produced grace the zoo’s premises or are donated to the city to decorate its public spaces. Last year the theme was wooden benches in the shape of animals and the year before sculptors sought inspiration from the Maoi statues on Easter island. This year they are sculpting human bodies with animal heads to represent human virtues and vices. As the popularity of this festival grows more and more people want to join in. This year they expect around thirty sculptors which may make it a bit difficult to find a place for all the statues when they are done. The zoo wants to keep as many as possible in view of the theme. Its best known statue is a four-meter tall Rain Fairy, which was made at the very first wood-sculpting festival in 2005.
Handiwork is also the order of the day at the annual straw harvesting celebrations underway in Červená Řečice. The celebrations are open to the public and many visitors take an active part in the contest of making straw effigies. One is only allowed to use a bail of straw, wire or string, and some visitors who have competed on previous occasions and practice at home are exceptionally good. People generally pick animals or birds but some works are highly topical, such as a piece from 2002 depicting an inhabitant of Prague’s Karlín district surfing on a flood wave.
Drivers often get away with murder, but some traffic violations are hard to overlook. A woman in Brno mistakenly hit the accelerator in place of the brake sending the car crashing through the glass reception to the local police station. The room was empty except for the surprised receptionist and no one was hurt in the accident. Half a dozen officers quickly arrived at the scene and a breathalyzer test showed that the woman was neither drunk nor on drugs. She was simply an inexperienced driver.
The town of Liberec last week hosted its annual barrel organ festival in the streets of the city. The event attracted over thirty players from the Czech Republic, Germany, France and Switzerland. There were performances in the city’s streets, outside the city hall and even in the local church which was a novelty this year. Although barrel organs or hurdy-gurdies were popular in at the end of the 19th century the festival annually attracts more and more players. This year the event was complemented by an exhibition of political caricatures lent by a museum in Toulouse. The caricatures depict French politicians playing barrel organs – a political insult in that day and age.
Tourists crossing Prague’s Charles Bridge may be surprised to see a large Russian Matryoshka doll rising out of the water and, somewhat uncharacteristically, bearing a cross. The doll was placed there by an art group called Uliční-ci (Street Urchins) which is protesting against the lack of taste in the selection of souvenirs sold in the city centre, among them things have nothing to do with Czech history or culture such as the Russian Matryoshka dolls or the typical Russian fur hats. The group has taken the issue to an extreme by presenting the Russian doll as one of the long line of Czech saints and patrons along Charles Bridge.
Ornithologists in the Beskydy Mountains are celebrating the success of a project to return the golden eagle to Czech territory after an absence of more than 100 years. The project was launched in 2006 with a total of thirteen birds released into the wild. Some were lost, others died of natural causes. It was several years before a couple of golden eagles started nesting and last week ornithologists finally had reason to cheer: the first golden eagle hatched in the Beskydy Mountains spread its wings and left its nest for its first successful flight in the valley below. Much work lies ahead but the head of the project Petr Orel says there is now reason to hope that with adequate protection golden eagles will return to the Beskydy mountains after a 100-year-long break.