For this week's Spotlight we're in one of the most beautiful regions of the Czech Republic, the Krkonoše or Giant Mountains, straddling the Czech-Polish border, a hundred kilometres north-east of Prague. These are the Czech Republic's highest mountains, rising well over a thousand metres, and at this time of year, they are decked with a thick blanket of snow. The Giant Mountains is a wonderfully poetic and evocative name... and indeed Krkonoše does have its very own legendary giant, known as "Krakonoš" in Czech and "Ruebezahl" in German.
Additional local elections are held in 16 communities across the Czech Republic on Saturday. Some 225 candidates are running for 106 posts on municipal councils in places where no elections took place in October, either because there were no candidates or ballots were handed in late. The Czech news agency reported turnout was high at the polls, with over 60 percent in several communities. Polling stations will remain open until 10 PM on Saturday; the results will be announced on Sunday.
The charming and historic West Bohemian town of Bečov nad Teplou has just hosted its third international symposium showcasing the blacksmith’s craft. The two-day event gave the public the chance to get up close and feel the heat of the braziers as a series of top smiths showed that this is very much a craft making a comeback.
The quality of life in Hradec Králové is higher than in any other city in the Czech Republic, suggests a new survey. Prague came second in the study looking at 50 towns and cities, followed by Pardubice. Eleven factors were considered, including the rate of unemployment, property rental prices and life expectancy. Most in northern Bohemia came last in the survey.
The village of Ratměřice, near Benešov in Central Bohemia, has been named “Village of the Year for 2010” beating out 361 competitors from 13 regions in the Czech Republic. The winner was announced on Saturday as part of an international folklore dance and music festival. The runners-up were villages from the Domažlice and Opava regions. It is the 16th year that the award has been given. It includes two million crowns in prize money to be used for local development. Ratměřice’s mayor Mayor Viktor Liška told journalists the village of 260 inhabitants organized numerous cultural events, inviting guests to visit palace gardens as well as a village museum.
Brno city hall has passed an ordinance more closely outlining rules for taxi services in the Moravian capital. The move was taken to end disputes with local cab companies; the city has around 500 taxi drivers. Until now, taxicabs were granted only two official stands in Brno – at the main train station and a local square. But under new rules the city will designate another 15 or so areas. These will be available by all taxi companies with operating licences. The head of transport at city hall made clear the intention was to improve overall services. Some measures will be toughened, with fines given to drivers who refuse customers wanting to travel only short distances or to drivers who purposely take longer routes to reach given destinations.
Voters from two peripheral municipalities in Brno - Přířenice and Dolní Heršpice – are deciding in a referendum whether to remain part of the Moravian capital or form a separate municipality. Voting began at 9 am on Sunday. The referendum is the initiative of a civic association protesting plans by the city to develop local property near existing homes in an area known as Slunná louka. Activists and locals have criticised the city’s development plan that would allow for robust real estate and industrial development. If more than 50 percent of inhabitants vote for the areas to separate, it will be the first official shrinking of the city’s perimeter in its history. Přířenice and Dolní Heršpice have been part of Brno since 1919.
The Czech city of Plzeň – best known for its world-famous lager – has reason to celebrate: on Wednesday shortly after 4 pm, members of an international jury announced that it – and not rival Ostrava in the east of the country - had won the bid to become 2015’s European Capital of Culture. It will share the honour with the Belgian city of Mons.
The European Union's selection panel has picked the western Czech city of Plzen as Europe's capital of culture for 2015, its head, Sir Robert Scott, told reporters in Prague on Wednesday. If approved formally by the EU later this year, the city with a population of 167,000, world-famous for the production of the Pilsner Urquell lager, will share the title with Belgium's Mons under the EU's rotation system. The European Union, which the Czech Republic joined in 2004, designates a city as capital of culture for a year to give it a chance to showcase its cultural life and history. On hearing the news, many of the city’s inhabitants went out onto the streets for a spontaneous celebration.
Damages from this weekend’s flash floods are estimated at heading for CZK 4 billion (around USD 215 million). To determine how to quickly and efficiently send financial aid to the affected regions, Prime Minister Petr Nečas called an extraordinary government session on Monday morning. On the agenda were both the acute needs of flood-stricken municipalities and a long-term strategy to help the state prepare financially for future floods.