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Posts tagged ‘Central Land of Koruna’

Czech stud farm makes UNESCO’s World Heritage list

July 16, 2019

KLADRUBY NAD LABEM, Czech Republic (AP) — A Czech stud farm founded 440 years ago to breed and train ceremonial horses to serve at the Habsburg emperor’s court has been added to UNESCO’s World Heritage list, acknowledging the significance of a tradition that has survived for centuries.

The National stud farm, located in the town of Kladruby nad Labem 90 kilometers (56 miles) east of Prague, is the first stud farm on the UNESCO’s list.

Here’s a look at it:

A ROYAL HISTORY

The farm officially started in 1579, when Emperor Rudolf II of the House of Habsburg gave an imperial status to an original stud established by his father, Emperor Maximilian II. The famed regular visitors to the site, which also has a small chateau and a church, included Emperor Franz Joseph I and his wife Elisabeth of Bavaria.

The stud farm survived wars and a devastating 18th-century fire until the end of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1918, when the newly established Czechoslovak state took over. That threatened its existence, since anything linked to the former empire was unpopular in Czechoslovakia. Yet somehow the horse breeding tradition weathered both that shift and 40 later years of communist rule.

In 2015, the whole site underwent a major renovation with European Union funds.

MAKING THE UNESCO LIST

The Kladruby site occupies 1,310 hectares (3,240 acres), about the same size since the 16th century. Located on flat, sandy land near the Elbe River, it contains fields and forests along with its classic stables, indoor and outdoor training grounds and a symmetrical network of roads.

UNESCO describes it as “one of Europe’s leading horse-breeding institutions, developed at a time when horses played vital roles in transport, agriculture, military support and aristocratic representation.”

Kladruby director Jiri Machek said UNESCO’s recognition is the confirmation of “the global uniqueness of this place.” “There are three unique aspects about it,” Machek told The Associated Press. “It’s not only about a tangible heritage, it is also the breeding of unique Kladruber horses, which means the landscape still serves its original purpose. And the third, unique thing — which is not mentioned so often — is the intangible heritage, the traditional way of doing things, that is we have been trying to operate the stud in a traditional way.”

ONE OF THE OLDEST HORSE BREEDS IN THE WORLD

Kladruby is the home of the Kladruber horse, a rare breed that is one of the oldest in the world with a population of only 1,200. Kladrubers were bred to serve as ceremonial carriage horses at the Habsburg courts in Vienna and Prague. A warm-blooded breed based on Spanish and Italian horses, a convex head with a Roman nose is among their significant features.

Since the late 18th century, the Kladrubers have come in two colors, grey and black. The grey ones were used for royal ceremonies while the black ones served high-ranked clergy. Today, they still do the same at the Danish court, while others are used by the trumpeters from the Swedish Royal Mounted Guard. Some carry police officers in the Czech Republic and the Netherlands.

The breed’s peaceful nature also makes them a popular riding horse among private owners around the globe, and some compete in international carriage driving events…

Prague Zoo sends 3 pelicans to London’s St. James’s Park

May 30, 2019

PRAGUE (AP) — Three great white pelicans are on their way from Prague Zoo to Britain to join a famed flock that has made London’s St. James’s Park home since the 17th century. Keepers were carefully carrying the birds one by one Thursday morning to transport cages on of a van will take them on the 17-hour drive to the British capital.

It is for the third time the zoo has sent its pelicans to the park. It started with four birds in 1995 when the zoo was one of the few in Europe capable of breeding them. Three others followed in 2013.

Two males, Sun and Moon, and a female, Star, who were born in February, will join the current colony of three in London. The pelicans were first introduced to the park near the Buckingham Palace in 1664 as a gift to king Charles II from a Russian ambassador.

Death toll in Czech mine explosion increases to 13

December 21, 2018

PRAGUE (AP) — The death toll in a methane explosion at a black coal mine in northeastern Czech Republic has increased to 13, a mining company said Friday. OKD mining company spokesman Ivo Celechovsky said that 12 of the dead were Polish nationals while one was Czech, correcting information given earlier that said there were 11 Poles and two Czechs.

A further 10 miners were injured in the explosion Thursday afternoon at the CSM mine near the town of Karvina. Polish President Andrzej Duda declared Sunday a day of national mourning for the victims of the tragedy. Flags in Poland will be lowered to half-staff on public buildings and large sporting and entertainment events will be canceled.

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and his Czech counterpart Andrej Babis have offered their condolences to the families of the victims. The two leaders visited the mine on Friday. “To our knowledge … there is a fire underground, very high temperature, very high risk of subsequent explosions,” Morawiecki said.

The Polish leader visited two injured miners at the University Hospital in the nearby city of Ostrava. One of them was in critical condition with burns over 50 percent of his body, hospital spokeswoman Nada Chattova said.

Another miner was release after being treated in Karvina. “I wish to express words of deepest sympathy to all the close victims of the mining disaster in Karvina,” Morawiecki said. “This is a huge tragedy for all Poles and Czechs. On this difficult day, we strongly show our solidarity and sense of national community.”

The explosion occurred about 800 meters (2,600 feet) underground. OKD executive director Boleslav Kowalczyk said efforts to recover the bodies were continuing on Friday despite a fire in the mine. Authorities have been investigating the accident.

Bohuslav Machek, spokesman for the Czech mining authority said the level of methane in the mine was at least 4.5 times the allowed level at the time of the explosion. Easily ignitable methane is naturally present at black coal mines, posing a threat for miners.

A previous version of this story was corrected to show that the mine is called CSM, not CSA.

Vanessa Gera in Warsaw contributed to this report.

Man-made Czech waterways help save carp, a Christmas treat

November 17, 2018

KRCIN, Czech Republic (AP) — Czechs will have to pay more for their traditional Christmas delicacy this year after a serious drought devastated the carp population this year. The drought overheated and dried out ponds, sucking oxygen from them and drastically reducing numbers of the fish in most parts of the Czech Republic.

But the situation was different in the southern Bohemia region near the border with Austria, which is considered a carp haven. The region also suffered from the drought, but a network of about 500 carp ponds interconnected with man-made canals ensured adequate living conditions for the fish.

As fishermen start the practice of catching carp for Christmas markets, here’s a look at the annual tradition and the effects the drought has had on it.

RISING PRICES

Carp being sold this year at Christmas markets will be more expensive, by up to 10 koruna ($0.44) per kilogram.

“A lack of water in the ponds was a key factor this autumn for the (increased) price,” said Josef Malecha, chief executive of Trebon Fisheries, a major fresh water fish producer in the country and the European Union.

The company estimates its fish production this year will be similar to previous years, about 3,200 metric tons (3,527 tons). Carp account for more than 90 percent of the catch. The rest include pike, catfish, pike perch, amur (grass carp) and tench. They are exported to many European countries.

The drought affected the ability of the fish to gain weight, Malecha said. “So, we had to fix it by using more food (grain),” he said. “And the food was more expensive because the farmers suffered from the drought as well.”

FISH FRENZY The Czech Republic is a country of meat lovers that mostly overlook fish for the rest of the year, but nobody can imagine Christmas without carp. Live carp are sold in street markets just before the holiday and turned into fish soup and fried in bread crumbs to serve on Christmas Eve.

Some lucky ones are given to children to play with in their bathtubs and are later released back into rivers or ponds. While carp is derided in some parts of the world like Australia and the U.S. where the fish poses threats to native fish species and ecosystems.

But Czechs adore the carp, which is said to bring good fortune — but only if you keep some of their scales in your wallet.

FLINTY FISHERMEN

It was freezing after dawn on a recent day when dozens of fishermen in dark green waterproofs wade into the frigid waters, using a centuries-old technique of slowly scooping fish up from the Krcin pond with nets before sorting them manually and placing them in containers.

About 70 metric tons (77 tons) of fish were expected to be extracted from the pond, which is named after Jakub Krcin, a key fish pond builder who was instrumental in completing the southern region’s waterway network during the second half of the 16th century.

“What has changed is that we are using some machines,” Malecha said. “So the manual labor has decreased. But it is still hard work for the men who have to work no matter what the weather is in the open air. But often some people envy the fisherman. It’s a job you can only do if you love it.”

Czech Republic to stay out of UN pact on migration

November 14, 2018

PRAGUE (AP) — The Czech government has decided the country will stay out of a United Nations pact promoting an international approach to safe and orderly migration. Wednesday’s decision comes after Prime Minister Andrej Babis vehemently opposed the document, saying it poses a threat for his country’s security and sovereignty.

Babis has argued the U.N. pact that is the subject of an adoption meeting set for Dec. 11-12 in Marrakech, Morocco, is dangerous even though it’s nonbinding because “it, in fact, defines migration as a basic human right.”

Babis noted that the United States, Austria and Hungary also reject it. The Czech Republic previously refused a European Union plan to assign member states a required number of asylum-seekers to accept.

Prague’s fabled astronomical clock returns in former beauty

September 26, 2018

PRAGUE (AP) — Prague’s fabled astronomical clock is returning to the Czech capital’s picturesque Old Town Square after a complex repair operation restored the medieval landmark to its former glory. The 608-year-old clock, a must-see for many tourists with its hourly moving display of the 12 apostles and other figures, was removed in January for its first major repair since World War II.

With the clock set to resume operations on Friday at 6 p.m. (1600 GMT), here’s a look at its history and restoration:

HISTORY

The clock, believed installed in the City Hall’s tower in 1410, is unique because it still has its original mechanism.

A major addition came in the 18th century, when the apostles were introduced. Clock master Petr Skala said they were believed to be installed in 1723, during the reign of Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI.

The latest version of the round calendar board — which includes all 365 days of the year, the zodiac signs, the symbols of the 12 months and Prague’s coat of arms — was created by Czech artist Josef Manes in 1866.

REPAIR

As a center of the uprising against the Nazi occupying forces in the last days of WWII, Prague’s City Hall was a site of fierce battles. Parts of it were irreparably destroyed, and the clock tower was badly damaged during a devastating fire on May 8, 1945.

Skala said the latest restoration efforts aim to comprehensively fix a series of poorly done repairs, mostly from the 20th century.

As the clock has undergone numerous changes since 1410, Skala said the point was not to give it its original, 15th-century look. He said his main task was to make sure the clock’s mechanism was as reliable as possible in the future.

As part of the process, his wife Melanie cleaned every single part of it, removing old paints and rust, washing them all in citric acid five times. Metal chains installed after the war were replaced by drums with hemp ropes in the clock’s drive, its former feature.

“Chances are it will be functioning for another 600 years,” Skala said.

Among the more visible changes are a new version of the clock’s 19th-century calendar board, and a new lick of paint for the elaborate astrolabe and the figures. Two tin windows were removed, replaced with new ones made of stained glass in place since the early 20th century.

L.Hainz, a company that has taken part in various repairs of the clock since the 1860s. was involved in the works, ensuring continuity.

LEGENDS

The clock has given rise to some legends and superstitions — including a belief that the entire nation will suffer when it stops running. Another legend might be reason for concern for Skala: anyone who changes the clock or tampers with it will go mad, or die.

Some believed that the clock foretold the record flooding that hit Prague and large parts of the Czech Republic in 2002, when it briefly stopped working shortly before midnight on New Year’s Eve 2001. Officials, however, said it was due to a minor malfunction.

Czechs boo prime minister 50 years after Soviet-led invasion

August 22, 2018

PRAGUE (AP) — A ceremony to honor the victims of the 1968 Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia on Tuesday turned into a protest against Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis. Hundreds jeered and booed Babis’ arrival for a ceremony in front of the Czech public radio building in downtown Prague, a site of a fierce street battle between unarmed civilians and invading troops in the first hours of occupation where 17 people died.

“Shame, shame…,” the crowd chanted while blowing horns and whistles during his speech. Babis didn’t immediately react to the protest. In his speech, he said Babis, a populist billionaire, is a controversial figure because of a power-sharing deal with the maverick Communist Party and fraud charges he is facing. His position is also complicated by allegations he collaborated with the former communist-era secret police.

Troops from the Warsaw Pact, a military alliance formed in 1955 between the Soviet Union and seven Eastern European nations, invaded Czechoslovakia on Aug. 20, 1968 to crush liberal reforms enacted in the brief era known as the Prague Spring. The country was subsequently taken over by a hard-line Communist regime fully loyal to Moscow.

In 1968 alone, 137 people were killed by Warsaw Pact soldiers, and a total of more than 400 died during the occupation of Czechoslovakia that ended only after the 1989 anti-communist Velvet Revolution.

In Brussels, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said that Europe isn’t divided by an Iron Curtain any more. “But let us use this day of solemn commemoration to collectively remember that freedom and the respect for human rights can never be taken for granted and need to be fought for every single day,” he said.

In another move related to the anniversary, which will likely anger Russia, Prague authorities unveiled a new explanatory text about the role of Soviet World War II commander Ivan Stepanovic Konev to his monument in Prague.

Marshall Konev led Red Army forces that liberated large parts of Czechoslovakia from Nazi occupation in 1945. His monument was unveiled in the Prague 6 district in 1980. On Tuesday, Prague 6 mayor Ondrej Kolar said the authorities wanted to give people “full information that would not conceal what happened.”

The new text describes Konev’s leading role in crushing the 1956 anti-Soviet uprising in Hungary, his contribution to the construction of the Berlin Wall and the preparation of the 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia.

Russia and four other former Soviet republics had officially protested that. A small group of communists condemned at the site what they called “the rewriting of history.” Others demanded the monument was completely removed given what Konev had done.

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