Langweil's paper model

Romania or Romany? There's a tiny chance your GPS system could lead you astray. Czech drivers will soon get the first ever highway chapel in the Czech Republic - but will anyone want to use it? And, Antonin Langweil's famous paper model of 19th century Prague will be made accessible in 3D format on the web! Find out more in Magazine with Daniela Lazarova.

A satellite navigation system - an auto GPS - is a wonderful thing to have. But one shouldn't trust it entirely, because there's just a tiny chance it may send you in the wrong direction. Three Romanian truck drivers could testify to that. They loaded up their goods in Hamburg, put Romania on their GPSs and set off, battling against the heavy snow. Much to their surprise the GPS led them - not to Romania - but to the Roma settlement in the town of Vsetin, where, on top of that, they got stuck in a snowdrift. The local fire brigade and police officers helped them out and gave them more reliable directions on how to get to the Czech-Slovak border.

The so-called panelaky - paneled concrete blocks of flats built in the communist era - are home to thousands of Czechs. In the past decade or so their inhabitants have pooled funds in order to get them renovated. However in some cases the end result may come as a bit of a surprise. The inhabitants of a panelak in the north Bohemian town of Most were shocked to find that some of their new post boxes had been fastened more than two and a half meters above ground. The firm - which must have very tall employees indeed - has promised to correct the mistake, but until it gets around to it both the postman and some of the inhabitants have to climb up on stools to get the mail!

A missing dog from the town of Zelezny Brod was discovered twenty-five kilometers away from home - riding on a tram. When the owner turned up at the police station to pick up his pet and apologize for the trouble caused, the officers said not to worry. A local terrier was known to hop on the tram almost daily for a ride to the town centre where he would scavenge around the butcher's shop to check out the day's goods. Clearly some dogs have caught on to the advantages of city transport and they are as clever at avoiding ticket inspectors as human passengers.

The west Bohemian town of Plzen is famous for its Pilsner beer - but what you may not know is that it boasts a synagogue which is the second biggest in Europe and the third biggest in the world. Its founding stone was put down in 1888 and work on it was finished in 1893, but it was accompanied by plenty of controversy. Originally the synagogue was to have had two sixty-five meter tall towers but the authorities forbade that because it would have meant that the synagogue would have towered over the church of St. Batholemew - the highest Catholic church in the land. Local councilors also criticized the architectural plans because they thought that the resemblance to a Christian church was too strong. In the end the architect had to change his plans entirely and make the towers 20 meters shorter than originally planned. Nevertheless the result was still very impressive and the Plzen synagogue remains an important landmark to this day.

The heavy snowfall which central Europe experienced last week created chaos not only on Czech roads. Doctors and nurses in hospitals across the country were kept on their toes 24 hours a day putting broken arms and legs in plaster. And when there's too much work -mistakes happen. Eleven year old Veronica Matousova was taken to hospital with a fractured tibula on her right leg. Her mum was there with her but when the doctor had seen her and she was taken to the lab to get it put in plaster -she went out to park her car closer to the nearest exit. It was only when she got her daughter home that she noticed Veronica had her left leg in plaster! The hospital corrected the mistake - and in order to prevent such a thing happening again doctors have been ordered to mark the respective arm or leg with a felt pen!

Drivers along the D5 highway from Prague to the west Bohemian town of Plzen will soon be able to make use of the first ever highway chapel in the Czech Republic. It is being financed by a group of private patrons and should also serve as a memorial to all those who lost their lives in road accidents. Although pulling over for a few minutes' rest and refreshments is perfectly natural - the idea of using a highway chapel to say a prayer came as a bit of a surprise to the majority of drivers polled. On the other hand - given the state of Czech roads - a prayer might not be a bad idea.

Would you care to see what the city of Prague looked like at the beginning of the 19th century - walk though the narrow cobbled streets, explore the squares, parks and all its hidden corners? Well in just a few more months you will be able to do so. Antonin Langweil's famous paper model of 19th century Prague which is permanently exhibited at the Prague Museum should soon be available in 3D format on the web. The model in question was made by lithographer Antonin Langweil over a period of ten years - between 1826 and 1837 - in the course of which he devoted all of his spare time and most of his family's resources to the project.

Langweil's paper model
He worked alone, painstakingly recording every detail of the building or street he was working on - walking around the capital early in the morning and late in the evening in his spare time to make sketches that he would use later. The details he included are mind-boggling - such as a broken window or a ladder left leaning against a wall. The houses are numbered, there are lanterns, front gardens and sheds - everything painted in its authentic colour - more than 2,000 buildings - including the Prague Castle compound - on a space of two by two metres. Today the model is regarded as a treasure - but the man who made it died in sickness and poverty and the model was eventually sold - sometime after his death - for a price that barely covered the cost of making it. He would doubtless be proud to know that his unbelievable patience and attention to detail paid off and will now give people around the world the incredible experience of touring 19th century Prague. The model is now in the hands of 3D computer specialists and will be back on show in April. It should be accessible on the web in 3D format sometime in the fall. It's a treat to look out for!