It was the biggest birthday party in years - Charles Bridge was 650 - but could the mayor have got the date wrong? Czech couples rushed to tie the knot on 7.07.07 -hoping for a marriage made in heaven -but was it really a good idea? And, Czech mushroom pickers - humbled by a find in Mexico. Find out more in Magazine with Daniela Lazarova.
For years the town of Dubi near the Czech-German border has been plagued by a nagging problem - prostitutes. You'll see them along the E55 highway cutting through the town, loitering outside night clubs and even close to schools. With a steady influx of clients from Germany, Dubi boasts one of the highest concentrations of prostitutes in Europe and the locals don't like it one bit. They have been pushing the town hall to do something to at least keep the oldest trade in the world out of sight - but given the fact that prostitution is not illegal in the Czech Republic - there's very little that the authorities can do about it. Now they are considering a desperate tactic that is in violation of the privacy law - posting cameras outside whorehouses to film the clients coming in and out and putting it on the web for the world to see. The Dubi authorities are hoping that German and Czech wives will be successful where they themselves failed - in keeping their husbands away from Dubi's prostitutes. "As long as demand is high we have no way of controlling the problem," the mayor of Dubi says. The Office for Protection Of Private Data has warned the mayor that such a move would be in violation of the privacy law and that the town could be fined up to 10 million crowns for doing so. But it may be that the authorities are desperate enough to pay the price in the hope that the town's prostitutes will finally pack their bags and leave for a more lucrative destination.
Many Czech couples preparing to enter into a state of married bliss went out of their way to tie the knot on that most magical of days - 7.7.07 - a day that many people consider to be particularly auspicious. Some couples who were turned away in their home town did not hesitate to arrange their wedding elsewhere filled with certainty that a marriage made on that day would be a marriage made in heaven. Given the fact that every second Czech marriage eventually ends in divorce one cannot really blame them for wanting to get off to a good start. After all, even King Charles IV consulted astrologers about the best time to start work on Charles Bridge so that it would survive for many centuries. Some of the newly-weds even got a bonus - tv crews were out in force for the day documenting the heightened interest in tying the knot. It is lucky that none of the newlyweds would have been watching the prime time news that evening. The astrologers consulted said that the day was not as auspicious as it might seem and that marriages made on that day would meet with serious problems. Moreover - in what I suspect must have been a fit of maliciousness - one Czech tv station interviewed a mayor who said he hadn't had a break all day because of the number of marriage ceremonies he'd had to perform. His name was Pech - which in Czech means bad luck. Well, I guess those couples will simply have to work as hard as anyone else to make their marriage work. Sadly they only have a 50 percent chance.
It was a night of celebrations. Knights in shining armor, magicians and street dancers performed on Charles Bridge from late Sunday to Monday July 9th when at 5,30 am the city's mayor Pavel Bem and Cardinal Miloslav Vlk led a special ceremony blessing the founding stone of Charles Bridge. The 650th birthday of Prague's most famous landmark was a grand event planned for months in advance - but the internet news site aktualne.cz now says they got it all wrong. To be precise aktualne says the mayor got it wrong by 9 whole days and an hour to boost. The news site points out that although Charles IV laid the founding stone of Charles Bridge at 5.30 am on July 9th of 1357 the mayor failed to take into consideration the introduction of summer time - which means that at 5.30 am it was really only 4,30.
Moreover in 1357 Charles IV and his court used a calendar introduced by Julius Ceaser the so called "Julian" calendar - in which a year had 365,25 days - basically every year was 11 minutes longer, causing the vernal equinox to slowly drift backwards in the calendar year. This caused problems in computing the date of Easter for instance. In 1582 the problem was corrected by Pope Gregory VIII who issued a papal bull introducing the Gregorian calendar - the most widely used calendar in the world today. The Gregorian calendar system dealt with the problem by dropping a certain number of days to bring the calendar back into synchronization with the seasons, and then slightly shortening the average number of days in a calendar year, by omitting three Julian leap-days every 400 years. In the lands of the Bohemian crown the Gregorian calendar was adopted in 1584. So to cut a long story short - if Charles IV laid the founding stone of Charles Bridge at 5.30 am of July 9th of 1357 then its 650th birthday would be at 6,30 am on July 18th. And the mayor - who said 5, 30 was "a bit early" for an official ceremony could have had an extra hours sleep. Historians from Charles University have confirmed these calculations - but say it doesn't really matter -as long as the bridge got a proper birthday party!
Mushroom picking is a popular pastime in the Czech Republic and from early spring to late autumn the country's forests are full of people enjoying a day out in the open and filling their baskets. Those who find prize mushrooms often make the prime time news - but this week a find in Mexico has made Czech mushroom pickers stop in their tracks. Mexican biologist Rene Andrade showed the world a find that Czech mushroom pickers will find it difficult to surpass - a giant mushroom weighing 20 kilograms. He found it growing on a coffee plantation is southern Mexico. Congratulations Mr. Andrade - a lot of Czech enthusiasts are very, very envious and some are already planning holidays in Mexico.