Magazine

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Why do tourists keep getting lost in Prague? A famous chocolate chef visits the Czech capital and the fashion sins that Czechs commit. Find out more in Magazine with Daniela Lazarová.

Do you have the impression that tourists in Prague appear to be just a tiny bit more lost that they do in other European cities? The reason is undoubtedly the Czech-language tourist signs in the streets of Prague. Twenty years after the Velvet Revolution tourists are still trying to figure out that Pražský Hrad is Prague Castle, the Jewish Cemetary is Židovský hřbitov and Prašná brána is Powder Tower. Not that Czechs are nationalists or anything like that. The reason behind this absurd situation is a silly legal hurdle that has prevented City Hall from putting up bilingual signs. The problem is that the signs with place names have the status of road signs and the law says that all road signs must be in Czech. Having them put up in English would require a change of the law, and anything that requires a change of law is a lengthy process in the Czech Republic. City Hall says it is lobbying hard but it may well be that tourists will speak Czech before the Czech capital offers them signs in English.


Just a year after it opened the Chocolate Museum in Prague and the Viva Praha specialty chocolate store had their first VIP visitor - the Belgian chocolate chef Dominique Persoone. Mr. Persoone, who makes chocolate specialties for the worlds leading restaurants and is an exclusive supplier for Viva Praha, visited Prague last week to present the latest specialty in his Chocolate Line – a Belgian chocolate praline filled with the famous Czech Becherovka liquer. At a press conference where he presented the Becher Praline, Mr. Persoone said it had been well received both in Brussels and Prague – only there was a slight difference in the composition. While for the Belgian market he used what he described as a standard amount of alcohol the ones destined for the Czech Republic contain more – to suit Czech tastes. Dominique Personne whose chocolate cookbook “Cacao –the Roots of Chocolate” won a prestigious international award, combines chocolate with the most unexpected ingredients red peppers, olives, onions, chicken or oysters. Maybe in due time he’ll teach Czechs to put in on their roast pork, sauerkraut and dumplings.


And just to prove that we are not as conservative as you may think – here’s a glimpse at some novelties on the Czech beer market – there’s cannabis beer, lemon-grass beer, banana beer, fig beer and even a pumpkin-laced brew. And for those who really want to drink to their health there in now a line of so-called medicinal brews which contain herbs used to cure various ailments before the arrival of classical medicine. It all sounds really impressive, but is it still beer?


Fashion boutiques abound in the city centre but fashion gurus still feel Czechs have a long way to go when it comes to developing a sense of style. The general feeling is that after the off-the-rack identical drab wear of the communist days people are afraid to experiment – afraid to stand out in the crowd by wearing bright colours or something provocative. The internet daily IDNES has made a list of the worst fashion offenses on Czech streets. And top of the list are wearing socks and sandals, wearing black shoes with everything and carrying plastic bags. So what? Many Czechs would counter –which according to the daily is another big fashion sin – the fact that many Czechs don’t seem to care what people think about the way they dress. Czechs need to keep in mind that clothes make the man – and dress in a way that reflects who they are, the daily notes.


Ivo Krajíček, photo: CTK
An artist from the town of Letovice has hand-carved a personal gift for Pope Benedict XVI who is visiting the Czech Republic this weekend – a wooden sculpture of St. Peter and St Paul. The artist carried the sculpture on his back in a two day pilgrimage to Brno. “Buying something in a shop just didn’t seem right,” Ivo Krajíček told reporters “for it to make any sense I knew I had to make something with my own hands, something of spiritual significance and to actually take it there myself.” The artist says that in many ways saints Peter and Paul have accompanied him through life. His father was named Paul and he named his own son Peter. Six years ago he was asked to create a wooden sculpture of the two saints for a chapel in Valchov. He made it and carried it there on foot – on a bright summer day with not a cloud in the sky. When he brought them into the chapel there was a peel of thunder and a few minutes of heavy rain. The artist is convinced it was no coincidence. “It was a sign from St. Peter that he was moving into his new home in the chapel” Krajíček says of the incident. This time round he was accompanied on his journey by three TV crews, a radio reporter and people from the press. No sign of bad weather. But maybe the downpour will come when the Pope arrives back home at the Vatican and St Peter makes himself at home.