Photo: BoB [the mastor], stock.XCHNG

A historic Czech town debates whether or not to build a gallows on its main square, why don't more Czechs sort garbage and will St. Valentine's day take root in the Czech Republic? Find out more in Magazine with Daniela Lazarova.

A recent survey conducted by a leading polling agency suggests that Czechs have very conservative views as regards their role in the family. More than three quarters of respondents said that children's care and upbringing was predominantly a woman's task while the man should be the family breadwinner. While in recent years Czech women have made greater demands on their partners in how much quality time they spend with the family they don't feel that their spouse could deal with all the aspects of child-care on a daily basis. On the other hand 73 percent of Czech men said they were confident they could do as well as their wives in this respect - if the need arose. The presence of both parents at the birth -which is now the accepted practice in many maternity clinics - also raised quite a few eyebrows with a third of respondents questioning the need for it. On the other hand there is a much greater acceptance of single parents than there was ten years ago - a result of the high divorce rate in the Czech Republic.

Photo: CTK
Of course on this particular day it is more suited to speak of romance -than divorce. Most Czechs haven't really taken St. Valentines Day to heart yet and some call it "an imported holiday" but salesmen are doing their utmost to help it take root. There are Valentines web pages offering electronics cards and gift suggestions, some papers have printed special supplements with more of the same and flower shops have posted notices advertising the holiday. Valentines is a new holiday - but do give it a chance - salespeople argue. "Think of all the advantages it has -one leaflet said - you don't have to do any housecleaning or bake two dozen sets of Christmas cookies, you don't have to spend time with boring relatives, you don't have to think about being a year older or suffer the indignity of being whipped by boisterous teenagers in return for a painted egg / this latter referring to the Czech sweethearts' holiday/. All that's involved is buying a gift for someone you love - and seeing the look of surprise on their face." Well, that's almost irresistible isn't it -so lets see if more Czechs are open to that line of thought this year.

Prague's inhabitants and visitors to the Czech capital can look forward to more sculptures in the city centre in the coming spring and summer. The mayor of the Prague 1 district has confirmed that after last years success the town hall is planning another open air exhibition of Grand Sculptures. Thirty three modern sculptures by Czech and foreign artists will appear on Prague's Wenceslas and Jungman squares in May.

An educational ad run by Czech public television stands out from the rest. It shows a family which doesn't sort garbage making all sorts of excuses as to why they can't be bothered. So what's YOUR excuse? Don't be lazy - sort garbage! says the slogan. This campaign is support of recycling was launched by the packaging company Ekokom with support from the Czech government. But is laziness really the main reason why people don't sort garbage? Vojtech Kotecky from the environmental organization Friends of the Earth says that the country's recycling services leave a lot to be desired:

"I think that Ekokom and the government are perfectly right to encourage people to sort more waste however we should say at the same time that probably even more important is to provide them with a better recycling service because at the moment it is so much easier to throw everything into a mixed garbage can that to sort garbage."

In what way is it difficult for people?

"When you look at Czech homes you see a mixed garbage can in front of every door while if you sort garbage you have to walk a dozen or even a hundred metres to another street to find the appropriate containers."

Do you have any idea how many Czechs actually sort garbage? How we stand in comparison with say Poland or Germany?

"I am not aware of data regarding what percentage of the population sorts waste and it is a little hard to judge because some people help recycle just one thing for instance paper while others sort a significant number of different materials. However we do know that the Czech recycling rate is around 17 to 20 percent, while in neighbouring Germany, Austria or, for example, Denmark or Switzerland the figures are 50 to 60 percent - so they are much better."

You are a member of the eco-group Friends of the Earth- so obviously highly environment conscious - but do your friends sort waste?

"I think that it differs. Some of my friends do sort waste some of them do not - simply because of the bad recycling service provided by the authorities."

I have heard people say that they do sort garbage and then they see a truck of mixed garbage arrive and pour all the containers into one mixed garbage truck and that sort of puts them off. Do you think that goes on a lot?

"I think it is something that happens here and there in this country however I do not think it is a widespread problem. Some people do observe that their sorted waste goes into a landfill or incinerator however in most cases it is recycled. These are just isolated incidents but of course it undermines people's confidence in the recycling system and we should work against this kind of thing."

Is there a big difference in how people behave in cities and in the countryside?

"Well definitely there are differences -because of the different structure of housing for example. In the countryside you have gardens so it is much easier to compost biological waste which is the biggest part of household garbage. On the other hand in cities you have much denser housing estates so it is easier for recycling services to pick up sorted waste and to organize the recycling service."

Has your own organization - Friends of the Earth -launched any similar campaigns to encourage people to sort garbage?

"We do these campaigns locally because we feel it is important to communicate directly with people rather than through the media but at the same time we lobby the government to provide a better recycling service than it does now so that it is as easy to recycle waste as it is to throw something out into the mixed garbage bin."

Photo: BoB [the mastor], stock.XCHNG
And finally on a morbid note - the town of Jindrichuv Hradec in south Bohemia has just had the most bizarre open debate about whether or not there should be a gallows on the town's main square. What happened was - the owner of the town's most prestigious hotel Grand - standing on the old baroque square -wanted to attract tourists by setting up an open air restaurant in the middle of the square with what he called period entertainment - which included the mentioned gallows and an executioner's block. Why exactly he thought that people having lunch out in the open air would appreciate this form of entertainment is not clear but the idea did not go down at all well with the town hall authorities. After a stormy debate on whether the gallows should become a permanent feature of the town square - the hotel owner was forced to scrap his plans, but apparently he's not given up completely and is reportedly thinking up other -still better - tourist attractions.