CzechTourism is - as the name suggests - the Czech Republic's tourist board. As well as its headquarters here in Prague, it has many offices around the world, everywhere from Tokyo to Buenos Aires. Last week I paid a visit to the London branch of CzechTourism, where I met its director, Jan Mlcak. I began by asking him about the office's activities.
I was trapped in this nightmare...Perhaps I'd seen too many Fellini movies. I was in a dining room...was I? - squeezing behind the seats of people eating...feasting. I'd adopted that sideways, crab-like creep that makes one believe one is paper-thin, but still I was passing uncomfortably close by these revellers...these strangers. Who were all these people? None of them seem to recognize me, or even acknowledge my existence. I felt I was intruding. No, it wasn't Fellini. Instead, more like something from that interminable film 'Last Year in
What first comes to mind when someone mentions the Czech Republic? Most people think of good beer, some think of the former president Vaclav Havel ; others of Jaromir Jagr or Pavel Nedved. However despite the fact that the Czech Republic has been a fully fledged member of the EU since 2004, few people in Europe and beyond know much about it. The Czech Foreign Ministry has launched a campaign to change that and aims to present the Czech Republic as a modern, dynamic state in the heart of Europe.
It was to be the party of the year given by the prestigious fashion company Louis Vuitton on Prague's most famous landmark - Charles Bridge. However the idea that Charles Bridge, considered a national treasure, should be closed to the public for two days because of a private party has elicited so much criticism that city councilors have had to step in and lay down strict new rules pertaining to the two day lease.
Hundreds of Greek and foreign tourists, including many Czechs, were evacuated from two hotels in northern Greece because of a forest fire, which broke out on Monday. About 90 Czech children spent the night on a beach as the flames were progressing towards their hotel. According to the Czech Foreign Ministry, all Czech nationals in the area are safe. A decision is imminent on whether to bring them back home and busses are on standby for that purpose.
Late into Monday hundreds of Czechs tourists - including many children - were among those at risk at a resort on Greece's Chalkidiki peninsula where a forest fire broke out following days of intense heat and an extensive dry spell. Strong winds fanning the flames soon saw the fire spread along a nine kilometre area leading to some panic and hasty evacuations.
From the start of this week two advertisements for Prague have been appearing several times a day on the international TV station CNN, drawing attention to the Czech capital's many charms. The campaign is sponsored by Czech Airlines and is set to run until October; it's Prague's first campaign of this type. At the ads' launch, I spoke to the city's mayor, Pavel Bem, and asked him what kind of tourists he wants to attract to Prague.
The height of the summer tourist season in the Czech capital comes with a sharp increase of tourists in the streets, as well as an increase in crime. Signs in trams and the subway system—written in both Czech and English—warn people to keep a close eye on their belongings. Pickpockets are everywhere. Still, in search of a better deal, some people enter the trap of con artists operating in the tourist zones.
The leading British insurance company Norwich Union has carried out a survey of theft and personal safety in various holiday destinations around the globe. It doesn't make very positive reading for the Czech authorities: according to Norwich Union, you're more likely to have your pocket picked in the Czech Republic than anywhere else in the world. Dawn McMullan is the company's travel project manager:
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