A town surrounded by deep pine forests, dotted with old timbered German-style villas and occasional Communist-era prefab houses, a town boasting many parks, a river, two churches – and the country’s first Buddhist temple. This is Varnsdorf, a town of 16,000 in the northernmost part of the Czech Republic.
The inhabitants of Studenec, a small Moravian village near Brno, have voted to keep a bronze relief depicting Soviet dictator Josef Stalin on their community’s monument to the victims of the First and Second World Wars. Just over a half of the village’s adult inhabitants turned up to cast their ballots in the local referendum, while a majority of them said they wanted to keep the controversial portrait in its place.
What is more important: protecting nature or protecting municipal property? This question is at the heart of a dispute between the Ministry of Environment and municipalities bordering on the Šumava National Park. Environment Minister Martin Bursík this week confirmed his decision to keep the most valuable parts of the Šumava National Park untouched, declining an appeal filed by 15 local municipalities for him to allow trees to be cut down and other measures. They argue that leaving the forest untouched may cause an epidemic of bark-beetle.
Several years ago the Jewish Museum in Prague launched Lost Neighbours, a project aimed at piecing together the forgotten stories of Czech Jews persecuted by the Nazis in the Holocaust. But most unusually, stories are researched and recorded not by journalists or historians, but by elementary and secondary school students. The aim has been to help young people better understand the tragic events of more than 60 years ago.
A number of towns in the Czech Republic are beginning to fight back against public drunkenness, adopting restrictions on the consumption of alcohol in public places. On Thursday the town of Mladá Boleslav joined a number of municipalities which had already taken steps, passing a new bylaw that will ban drinking in selected areas - from storefronts to school entrances to playgrounds.
A rumbling engine drowns out the sounds of fellow passengers on the bus –somehow fitting on a visit to Mladá Boleslav, a town synonymous with cars and car engines. A little over a century ago, the first Czech bicycle, the first motorcycle, and eventually the first motorised buggy rolled out of what was then a modest factory in the town owned by mechanic Václav Laurin and former bookseller Václav Klement. Mladá Boleslav has been known for its car production ever since.
I’m on a bus winding my way up the hill towards Potůčky, which is a little village on the Czech-German border. It’s in the north west of the Czech Republic, and is apparently a favourite spot for German tourists. So, we’re going to see if that is at all the case, and whether life has changed for inhabitants on both the Czech and the German side of the border three months after the Czech Republic’s entry into the Schengen zone.
For the second time this year, the city of Plzeň in West Bohemia is bracing itself for a march by neo-Nazi skinheads. As many as 400 skinheads will march down a route that takes them past Plzeň’s Great Synagogue, the second largest in Europe. Efforts to ban the march have exhausted all legal avenues; the authorities are now concentrating on keeping groups of skinheads and anti-Nazi protestors apart. And politicians are looking to how future marches can be avoided without curtailing the freedom of speech. Rob Cameron has more.
Forgotten Czech net bag makes a comeback
Iconic Czech brands that survived competition from the West after the fall of communism
Czechs and Germans in 1930s Czechoslovakia: a complex picture
Cold War “king of Šumava” story brought to life in new film by Irish director
Unions: Strike Wednesday will hit most Czech schools