Asian ladybirds are invading the Czech lands by the thousands. Czechs are gradually re-discovering recumbent bikes, and an old legend is scientifically confirmed - eggs did go into the making of Charles Bridge. Find out more in Magazine with Daniela Lazarova.
One of the old legends about Charles Bridge has been confirmed. It is said that a number of secret ingredients including raw eggs were added to the mortar to make the bridge firm and long-lasting. Now a scientific analysis of the authentic mortar used by 14th century builders has confirmed the presence of protein. Reconstruction work on Prague’s most famous bridge has revealed that the original construction - built by the court architect of Emperor Charles IV Petr Parléř- was so strong it successfully withstood the test of time – lasting for centuries, while a 1970s reconstruction proved to be so poorly done that the mortar not yet fifty years old – is in a far worse state. The bridge is being given new insulation, better ventilation and will be fitted with gas lighting. Although the reconstruction will take years, the bridge remains open to the public.
A drunken man suffered serious injuries after falling asleep in a waste container and being toppled into a garbage van, the CTK news agency reported this week. The 25-year-old man from Znojmo was taken to hospital with chest and stomach injuries caused by being pressed inside the van. Police are now investigating whether the garbage disposal employees opened the container to check its contents, as required by labour safety regulations. In any case the man, who is recovering, says he’ll never go near one of these containers ever again. If the garbage collectors had not heard him cry out he would have been squeezed to death by the compacting machine.
Photo: Fritz-Geller-Grimm, CC BY 3.0 Unported
Ladybirds have always been well-liked in this country, with their cheerful red and black coloring they are popular storybook characters and little girls are told that if they let a ladybird crawl onto their finger and then watch it fly away the ladybird will point out the direction where they will find their future husband – in other words whether they will get married to someone from the West, East, North or South. Now these popular little fortune-tellers are under threat from a far more aggressive species of Ladybird –the Asian ladybird or Harlequin which feeds on other ladybirds, larvae and butterfly eggs. This predatory, aggressive species was brought to Belgium and the Netherlands as a form of natural pest control a few years ago and is now spreading across Europe. They have already appeared in large numbers in many parts of the Czech Republic and are now swarming around blocks of flats looking for a place to spend the winter months. In Asia they crawl into rock crevices and the nooks and crannies in Czech panel houses are the obvious choice. Hundreds of them are reported to be crawling into people’s flats through open windows and some people complain there are so many they literally have to sweep them up off the floor. Entomologists say they have no natural enemy and could wipe out the European ladybird in a very short time. Moreover, it is definitely the end of ladybird fortunetelling in the Czech lands because it has come to light that their bite can be allergenic and their presence in a child’s room could even lead to asthma problems.
Czechs are gradually re-discovering recumbent bikes. As opposed to a standard bike recumbent bikes have a laid-back riding position, with the rider reclining in a padded seat instead of sitting on a saddle, with the pedals positioned higher up at the front of the bike. There are now an estimated three hundred of them in the Czech Republic and people who own one say they would never switch back to a regular bike. The recumbent bike is said to be more comfortable than standard bikes and despite the lazybones image it projects this bike is actually much faster than you’d expect. Because the riders legs are in a horizontal position the aerodynamics are better and recumbents can go at least 30% faster than standard bikes. And they go back much further than you might think. These bikes first appeared at the beginning of the 20th century and photographs from the 20s and 30 show that they were very popular during the years of the so-called First Republic. Paradoxically it was their speed which knocked them out of the competition. In the early 1930s an unknown cyclist beat the worlds leading cyclists in an hour-long race on a closed track – because he was riding a recumbent bike. In 1934 the International Cycling Federation banned recumbents from competing against conventional bikes, on the grounds that they had an unfair advantage. Paradoxically, this led to their demise, with producers focusing on bikes that could be shown on the racetrack. Now one Aleš Zemánek has started producing them again and he says that every year sales go up by twenty percent. Not everyone’s a fan – but the recumbent is fast gaining new admirers. Moreover, nowadays there’s a lot more to choose from – there are racing recumbents for an adrenalin-packed ride, touring recumbents for long treks and even off-road, city and tandem recumbents for couples who can’t bear to be apart.
Stromovka Park is a popular leisure haunt for Prague inhabitants – you see people walking their dogs, kids inline skating, couples in love strolling around and families enjoying a day out. Now a visit to Stromovka is fraught with danger – the ground beneath your feet could collapse without warning. When the first cave-in happened in May of this year the builders, who are digging a tunnel under the park which should connect Prague’s Břevnov district and Troja, blamed the rain and composition of the soil. People grumbled that greater care had not been taken, but they accepted the fact that occasionally things like that happen. However when the ground caved in for a second time last week leaving a crater 20 metres in diameter, there was an uproar. Prague mayor Pavel Bém and the environmental group Arnika have both filed charges against an unknown perpetrator. Meanwhile Martin Mejstrík, senator for Prague 1, has filed charges against the mayor whom he holds co-responsible for exposing the public to danger. The part of Stromovka where work is underway belowground has finally been cordoned off, but people still cross the park very cautiously indeed.