Photo: Site officiel de Papírová platidla

In Magazine: an old Czechoslovak banknote, long out of circulation, is voted fourth best in the world; careful, frog on the road! Czech roads will soon get new animal signs, a picture of the Czech finance minister, dressed as a woman, has appeared on beer mats and where is the Czech winner of the biggest-ever Eurojackpot?

Photo: CTK
Czech President Miloš Zeman ordered the Hussite flag to fly at Prague Castle on June 5 to mark the 600th anniversary of the burning at stake of the Czech medieval religious reformer and preacher Jan Hus. The flag – a red banner with a gold chalice - was hoisted on June 5 in the presence of the Czech head of state and the patriarch of the Czechoslovak Hussite Church in the third courtyard of Prague Castle. A similar gesture was made by first Czechoslovak president Tomas Garrigue Masaryk. He flew the Hussite flag on the occasion of the recognition of the day of Hus' death as a public holiday. This caused a diplomatic rift with the Vatican which took years to patch up.

Illustrative photo: Barbora Kmentová
A Czech-developed unique technology for recycling used cooking oil into bioplastic will be applied in China, the Czech authors of the project told journalists this week. A pilot Czech-Chinese recycling plant is now under construction in Suzhou, east China, and should be put into operation later this year. The new technology enables used cooking oil to be recycled into degradable bioplastic and used for environment-friendly packaging. Unlike other procedures, it requires no other materials, apart from the used oil. The new technology was developed by the Brno-based Technical University which will retain the know-how. The university is now working on other forms of waste, such as coffee grounds and sawdust.

Foreigners and the younger generation of Czechs will not recognize it, but many people over 30 are still familiar with it – the green one hundred crown Czechoslovak banknote that was in circulation during the communist era. The green banknote, depicting a man and woman – a metallurgist and farm worker -at the forefront and factories belching smoke in the background was first printed in 1961 and was in circulation until 1993. Now –long after its hey-day - it has been voted one of the best six paper banknotes in the world. On a list of six banknotes compiled by Thomas Hockenhull curator of modern money at the British Museum – the old 100 crown banknote placed fourth –after an Ecuador banknote printed in 1944, the British five pound banknote from 1887 and a German five million marks banknote from 1923. What is on banknotes matters –Hockenhull says -they are in effect circulating messages. Of the Czechoslovak banknote he says - money had little or no international exchange value under communism to the imagery was used to bolster the communist ideals. No other Czechoslovak banknote portrays this better than the one with the two labourers –meant to represent hard work and prosperity. It was only after the 1989 revolution that a Czech journalist traced the woman who stood as a model for the farm labourer at the forefront of the picture holding a sheaf of grain. It turned out she was the author’s wife who was 33 at the time and in reality she modelled holding a pillow. “I had to dress as a manual worker, she laughed years later, put on a dowdy shirt and trousers and tie a scarf around my head.” The man beside her remains anonymous. She said her artist husband would doodle at communist party meetings and draw the heads of people in the room. In the end, he chose one of those heads to put on the banknote – so it could have been anyone.

Photo: Olga Štrejbarová
The Czech Republic is sometimes criticized for excessive use of road signs, with what some have claimed to be the highest density of road signs in Europe. Well, drivers will be happy to hear that the authorities are preparing a few more –completely new signs with which to dot Czech roads. Despite the excessively high number of road signs some of them are still confusing –such as the one warning about the presence of cows in the vicinity, which sports a picture of a cow in a red triangle with the word “horse” underneath. The reason is that currently there are just two animal signs available –one is a cow, used for farm animals, and the other is a deer, used to denote wild animals. Now we are to get road signs depicting a frog, a boar, a horse and even a Segway, which is,of,course, in a different category. Although this does improve the information content for drivers, they could soon be paying more attention to the roadside than the road itself! Also, it is not yet entirely clear how one is to respond to the warning “Frogs on the road”.

Photo: archive of TOP 09
The opposition TOP 09 party which has been a vocal opponent of a bill introducing electronic cash registers approved by the government this week, has now taken its fight out into the field – or rather into the country’s pubs and restaurants which will be affected by the change. The party has started selling beer mats (in its e-shop) depicting Finance Minister Andrej Babiš dressed as a housewife and armed with a rolling pin. “Your wife doesn’t know how many beers you had, but Andrej does. Thanks to the electronic cash register,” the inscription on the mat says. The beer mats are 29 crowns apiece and the party is clearly hoping they will become a hit in pubs and restaurants around the country most of which are vehemently opposed to the introduction of electronic cash registers, saying that it will mean more expense and more bureaucracy for them. The Finance Ministry wants to introduce electronic cash registers next year as a means of fighting tax evasion and TOP 09 says it is ready to fight the bill every step of the way in Parliament.

Photo: Barbora Kmentová
The biggest ever Eurojackpot -90 million euro or 2.5 billion crowns- which by all accounts found a winner in the Czech Republic, remains unclaimed. The Eurojackpot lotto ticket was purchased in the Czech Republic's Pardubice region – just a day before the Friday night drawing – but even after a fortnight the winner has not come forward. The lottery company Sazka says that with just a fortnight left it will make an announcement in the local papers and on radio to get people to check their tickets. “We understand that this person may be in shock and is trying to figure out what to do, where to place the money, but they have a lot more time – 60 days – in which to resolve that,” a Sazka official was quoted as saying. Sazka says it is ready to offer the client psychological as well as financial services. The papers have been speculating why the winner has not yet come forward and the news site even asked a psychologist about the person’s feelings. “A win like this would be mind-blowing. They may be hugging the secret to themselves and keeping everyone in suspense, or they may be dead, they may not have survived the shock,” the psychologist concluded. Well, let’s hope he’s wrong on the latter count.