Magazine

20-11-2004

Bursting to share your views? Head for Palacky Square - the site of Prague's newly inaugurated Speakers' Corner. Hockey star Jaromir Jagr may be in far away Siberia but he can still enjoy Czech beer and dumplings at a local Czech restaurant. And, the Czech Army is being accused of discrimination after turning away a transsexual. Find out more in Magazine with Daniela Lazarova.

Czech hockey star Jaromir Jagr may be in far away Omsk, Siberia but if he gets a craving for Czech beer and dumplings he won't have to travel far. There's actually a Czech restaurant in Omsk called "At the good soldier Schweik" - and its owner is hoping that Jagr will pop in one day - if only for a pint of Czech beer. Jaroslav Psota will have a warm welcome for Jagr if he decides to visit and has named a dish after the Czech hockey star. We now serve "beefsteak 68", he boasts, and it comes for the price of about 400 Czech crowns. The reason why he named his restaurant At the Good Soldier Schweik is because the author of the book Jaroslav Hasek lived and worked in Omsk for some time.

 

The Czech Republic may soon have a team of gourmet food inspectors eating undercover at Czech restaurants. The Minister for Regional Development Jiri Paroubek wants to produce an annual catalogue of the finest restaurants which would be awarded a one to five star status, something along the lines of the prestigious Michelin catalogue in France. Fifteen years after the fall of communism, there are plenty of restaurants which would merit a place on the elite list - and many Czech gourmets are already arguing about how many stars this or that restaurant deserves. And there's one other reason why people would welcome the idea of undercover inspectors - they are hoping that secret inspections might help to improve the attitude of some less than enthusiastic Czech waiters and waitresses- a problem that not all Czech restaurants have been able to deal with successfully to date.

 

A pub in the town of Olomouc has made headlines with an innovative approach to serving beer. Its owner has introduced self-service beer on tap for every table. Customers can draw their own pints, making sure they get a good measure and re-filling their glass the minute its empty. A digital beer metre keeps track of the amount of beer tapped. The owner is more than happy with the arrangement -the amount of beer sold has risen and the novelty of self-service beer on tap draws visitors from near and far. As for pub goers they are delighted - no more waiting for the waiter - and they are already holding contests in who is best at tapping a pint, because as every beer drinker will tell you tapping a pint of beer is actually a form of art.

 

The Czech Army is being accused of discrimination - after it refused to employ a transsexual - a transsexual who had moreover served in the army as a conscript for two years and received various orders of merit. Jaroslava Brokesova - formerly Jiri Brokes became a woman just over a year ago and six months later she applied for a job in the armed forces -as a driver. After six months of gruelling psychological and physical tests she was rejected on the grounds that she was a transsexual. The law on the grounds of which this decision was made states that the army should not employ people with a sexual identity problem- and the present defence minister Karel Kuhnl himself raised his hand in favour of it back in 1999. Today he is of a different opinion. Its obvious discrimination - and even if it's all "by the book" it is wrong, the minister said when newsmen asked him to comment on the army's decision. The minister promised that he would look into the matter personally. The case is being closely watched by the media and various human rights organizations -and its outcome will doubtless set an important precedent.

 

November 17th, 1989November 17th, 1989 A survey among Czech secondary school students this week revealed that they have scant knowledge about the events that changed the course of history fifteen ago. For today's teenagers the 1989 Velvet Revolution is as distant as if it had taken place a century ago. Asked what November 17th meant for them the vast majority said they only knew that it was a state holiday. One ventured a guess that people had assembled on Wenceslas Square to demand restitution rights. Another said people had protested against a caretaker government. Asked what she thought of the communists one girl said "they wanted everyone to share everything but they messed it up". "The Velvet Revolution was my parents fight for freedom. It is important to them, but it doesn't mean that much to us," another teenager explained.

November 1989November 1989 How is it possible that today's 15 year olds know so little about the events that transformed their parents lives? Clearly it is not a topic that is discussed at home - and school teachers admit that they devote very little time to it in history class. "It is because it is right at the end of the list, we spend so much time covering past centuries and world history, for instance ancient Egypt or the two world wars that there is usually only half an hour left in which to cover the period from Gorbachov's ascent to power in the former Soviet Union to the fall of the Iron Curtain" one teacher explained.

A bizarre explanation - and one that has Czech historians and political analysts worried. If this whole generation has no knowledge of the communist years then they will be much more vulnerable to extremist propaganda, they say. Whether the results of this survey will shock schools into changing their curricula, remains to be seen.

 

Denis MacShane inaugurated Speaker's Corner on Palacky Square, photo: CTKDenis MacShane inaugurated Speaker's Corner on Palacky Square, photo: CTK The 15th anniversary of the fall of communism has given Czechs something brand new - their own Speaker's Corner in Prague. It was inaugurated on Wednesday by Britain's Minister for Europe Denis MacShane. The visiting British official stood on a stepladder on Palacky Square -in imitation of the boxes that speakers in London's Hyde Park use - and told a crowd of about 500 people to make the most of free speech. It remains to be seen how popular the little square on the riverbank will become in this respect - Czechs have this old habit of giving everyone a piece of their mind in the pub.

 

The Velka Kunraticka cross country race attracts dozens of competitors every year. And it is not always the winner who gets the most publicity. This year it was Jan Babak - a heart transplant patient who underwent surgery just six months ago. I was in a coma for four days - a couple of hours more and I would have been running somewhere up there, Jan looks up at the sky. His doctor - one of the country's leading heart specialists Jan Pirk jogged by his side, just to keep an eye on him. "It was touch and go" - he says of Babak's critical condition six months ago- "and would you believe it I had a problem keeping up with him today!"

20-11-2004

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