Sunday, August 23, 2015

Krásné Čechy!

Since returning from our trip I find many Americans are lacking accurate information about the modern Czech Republic.  I am frequently asked about the government today, about the economy, and lives of average people.  Many still think of the Czech Republic as the poor step-child of Europe still recovering from the Second World War and the Communist period.  Some even ask if it is still a totalitarian government.  Here goes...

1.  Many tourists come to Prague and visit the standard tourist site - there is much more to see...

Prague - the right bank included castle hill and the early part of the city

Not to sell Prague short - it is one of the most unique cities in Europe - with ancient narrow streets that draw you to explore, and modern department stores... The Arts scene offers the best of traditional art and music and avant garde "pushing the limits" expression.  It has public art, squares, parks, historical sites...   But the Czech Republic has more surprises...

Vltava as it flows through Prague

2.  The lands of the Czech Republic have a varied landscape - There are mountains, vast grain fields, industrial areas, big cities and small towns...  We saw little evidence of environmental pollution, litter... ( although this was a problem in the past when industries burned vast amounts of coal that produced serious acid rain. )  There is a great interest in alternative sources of energy.

Hills and Krkonose Mts - N. Bohemia

Vlatava River (the Moldau) that Smetana wrote about)

Bohemian village

2.  The Czech Republic is a constitutional republic, in which the President is the head of state. They have a two house system; Both houses together make Parliament of the Czech Republic. The Czech Republic has a multi-party system, with 2-3 strong parties.  Elections are held every 4 years.

Parliament - Castle Hill - Prague

3.  The Czech Republic has one of the most developed industrialized economic system of the countries in Central and Eastern Europe. The country has quickly become the most stable and prosperous of the post-Communist states of Europe.

Finance center in Prague

4.  Stores and shops now have products of the same sort that you might find elsewhere in Europe - catering to special Czech preferences

Village grocery store - 'cold cuts' and cheeses

4.  People take time to prepare homemade food and traditional recipes.  The food is amazing...

Open faced sandwiches come in a myriad of types

I fell in love with the myriad of small open faced sandwiches -they can be served at a party or for a meal

Cakes and cookies of many types - some with fruit, nuts, poppy seed, bakers cheese,or chocolate...

3.  Scan this: "Worlds fact sheet" with statistics on life in the Czech Republic.

View north from Kuks historical museum - all buildings of historical significance

4.  There is a great deal of pride in the culture and history of the Czechs - The Slavs of the Czech region are an ancient people with many layers of history and culture influencing who they are today.  They have no sufficient borders to protect CZ from the north, south, east, or west...So history has not always been kind to the Czech people.  While today the country is modern and standard of living is high, there is still an appreciation of older cultural ways and tradition, and a long memory of 'problems' with neighbors...

Castle of the 17th and 18th century

Ruins of castle from the 14th century

5.  No, the people do not wear folkloric clothing from the 1880's - Styles and very similar to clothing all through the west...

Children - N. Bohemia

Adults gathered in Village meeting

School children

6.  No the people do not listen primarily to polka music or "um par" bands... Musically interests range from Western Rock and Easy listening music to a greater appreciation of the classics than generally found in San Francisco. There are many wonderful modern Czech groups with a wide range of styles.

Open air music concert

7.  Yes - the Czech people do enjoy beer -  Czechs top the national ratings with an average of 148.6 liters per person!  The US by comparison drinks 77.1 liters per person.  There is a Zero tolerance for driving after drinking alcohol - any alcohol in the blood - lose your license.

It is perfectly legal to own a gun in the Czech Republic - but there are only 16.3 guns per 100 people ( in the US there are 88.8 guns per 100 people)... I feel safe walking the streets.  You are 8X more likely to be killed by a Czech car accident than by a criminal.

8. Typical of the CZ national social policy, female employees are entitled to 28 weeks paid maternity leave beginning six to eight weeks prior to birth, during which time they can collect assistance.  Fathers may take over the leave, by written agreement, seven weeks after childbirth.  For the duration of the maternity leave, you should receive about 70 percent of your salary. 

Kozel beer

8.  The Czech Republic is about real people, working together, playing and relaxing together...

Relaxing with friends (processing cherries)