Magazine

11-09-2004

The man who went to see the Prime Minister with a billy-goat and donkey in tow. A new monastery has been consecrated in the Czech Republic - the first in more than 600 years. And, philatelists travelled from near and far to get the Roman Sebrle stamp at Prague's main post office. Find out more in Magazine with Daniela Lazarova.

Prague's inhabitants and visitors to the Czech capital are now savouring their first taste of burcak - a highly popular fermented young wine that appears on the market several weeks after the start of the grape harvest. One of the first places where you can get a taste of burcak is the Moravian wine archive in Prague but within days you'll find it in every wine bar and on many a street corner. Wine harvesting celebrations take place out in the open in several Prague districts with singing, dancing and theatre performances - the main attraction naturally being burcak - both the white and red variety. The owner of the Moravian wine archive Jiri Stangler claims that this years' burcak is of a superior quality, having turned out to be less sweet and more refreshing than last years.

Stangler is convinced that the fermented young wine has curative powers - but in order to get the full benefit you allegedly need to drink as many litres of burcak as you have blood in your veins. Well - I really wouldn't go that far if I were you - especially if you havn't tried it before. But a few glasses shouldn't do any harm. A lot of men claim that a few glasses of burcak work better than Viagra any day - but then what better way of getting their wives to send them off to the nearest pub?

 

The Prague Information Service last week organized a ghost tour of Prague for children. Small groups of children - one hundred of them in all - were taken around Prague's haunted sights and told the story of each ghost. One of the most popular ghosts is that of the burgrave who was beheaded because he misplaced the official seal of Prague. The seal was never found and to this day the burgrave wonders around central Prague, carrying his poor head under his arm, looking in vain for the lost seal. This might sound like a drastic way of teaching your child not to be scatter brained but according to the Information Service kids love the old legends and each have a favourite ghost whom they feel sorry for. "Far from being scared - the kids actually expect us to produce the ghosts for verification purposes but we only have fine stories to tell," one guide said. "It's a way of introducing the kids to Prague's many legends - and getting in a bit of history as well!"

 

A new monastery has just been consecrated in the Czech Republic - the first in more than 600 years. The Trappist monastery in Novy Dvur, west Bohemia, was built on the site of a former farm belonging to the Premonstratensian Monastery. One Baroque wing was reconstructed ant three new wings were added, as well as a new Church. Several thousand people from the Czech Republic, but also France and Germany attended the consecration, which Bishop Frantisek Radkovsky described as an exceptional event. The Trappist Order was founded in the French monastery La Trappe in the mid 17th century as a more rigid branch of the Catholic Cistercian Order. Trappists spend whole days in silence, only praying and devoting their time to physical labour -usually field work. At present there are 15 monks living in the monastery but it can accommodate up to 40 monks. They will make their living by manufacturing mustard, packing tea, working on the surrounding farmland and processing timber.

 

John Bok with donkey Biba, photo: CTKJohn Bok with donkey Biba, photo: CTK You wouldn't normally go to see the country's prime minister with farm animals in tow but that is exactly what three Czechs who are critical of Mr. Gross did last week. Columnist John Bok who went on a hunger strike to try and persuade the Prime Minister to resign from office and two of his friends arrived outside the government's headquarters last week with three billy goats and a donkey in tow and asked to speak to the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister was busy but the bizarre delegation got a lot of attention from the press - thanks to the donkey and billy goats. Asked by the press why he had brought them along John Bok retorted: Would you be here if I hadn't?

'I am asocial''I am asocial' Of course, there are other, less dramatic ways of letting off steam if the Prime Minister is not your favourite person. Right now -in view of the Novermber Senate and regional elections - the country is plastered with billboards of Mr. Gross sporting a trustworthy, boyish image with the slogans "I am a Social Democrat" and "I really mean it". The temptation to add something to the latter statement has proved irresistible and people have added their own message to billboards in their vicinity - spray painting in messages such as "Vote for the right wing Civic Democrats", "I am out of my mind""I am homeless" or "I am a woman" followed by "I really mean it" next to the Prime Ministers earnest looking face.

 

Mobile libraries -or libraries on wheels -have a long tradition in the Czech Republic. The first appeared in the 1930s travelling through towns and villages which were too small to have a library of their own. In the present day mobile libraries still offer their services to mothers with small children and elderly people who have a problem getting to the nearest library. Right now a modern mobile library can be seen -three days a week - in the streets of Prague's Karlin district where the local library was badly damaged by the floods of 2002 and has not yet been re-opened. This library on wheels is a far cry from the old model which would announce its arrival with a few loud honks and where you would get a limited choice of dog-eared books. The present day mobile library offers a choice of four thousand books and internet services in the comfort of its air conditioned interior along with the services of a librarian. It has barrier free access and its own water closet. And if you'd like to check out its choice of best sellers - you'll find the mobile library on Karlin's main square from Tuesday to Thursday every week.

 

Counter number 17 at Prague's main post office in Jindrisska street looks pretty much like all the others but in the first week of September it was under siege. Philatelists queued up to send their letters from this particular counter in order to get them stamped with the special Sebrle stamp - bearing the athletes name and an olive wreath - a stamp that the post office used in honour of the only Czech gold medal winner at the Olympic Games in Greece. The stamp is expected to become a collectors' item and so hundreds of Czech philatelists sent letters not only to their own home address but to stamp collector friends from around the world. "I travelled two hundred kilometres - just to send this letter home", one of them said.

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