A Story About the Astronomical Clock in Old Town Square (Příběh Pražského orloje)

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If you would like to see a real historical object in Prague, surrounded by mysterious stories and a long history, you would find such a structure on the side wall of the Old Town Hall. Can you guess which one? If you guessed the Prague Astronomical Clock, you were absolutely right. This clock was built in 1410, by Mikulas of Kadan, and recently celebrated its 600th anniversary.

Mikulas of Kadan was not the only person behind this historical clock tower. He collaborated with Jan Ondrejuv, who was a mathematician and astrologist. The clock was then rebuilt by the master Hanus, who was permanently blinded so he could not recreate such a masterpiece anywhere else in the world. Master Hanus, however, damaged the clock and cursed it against those, who would try to repair it again. The clock became silent for more than fifty years. Continue reading

Mladen Vranic, a Canadian scientist of Croatian background with Czechoslovak connections (Mladen Vranic, chorvatský vědec v československém kontextu)

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Mladen VranicAuthor: Josef Cermak (CzechFolks.com PLUS)

This remarkable story really began in 1921, when guided by J. J. R. MacLeod, Frederick G. Banting and Charles H. Best isolated from the pancreas the hormone later called insulin and discovered its use in treatment of diabetes. Collip, a visiting Canadian professor, purified insulin so that it could be given to diabetic patients. For this discovery Banting shared with MacLeod the 1923 Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine. Banting died in 1941 in a plane crash while on route to England on a medical war mission. That year Best, who at that time served as associate director of the Connaught Laboratories (where a few years later – and this constitutes the first, very indirect connection suggested in the title of this article – Mikuska Perinova worked as a technician on the development of the Salk polio vaccine) was appointed director of the Banting and Best Department of Medical Research at the University of Toronto. There was depression in various members of the family and his omission in awarding the Nobel Prize may have later contributed to his severe depressions. Continue reading

Czech Love Letters from Nigeria (Milostné dopisy z Nigérie)

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Ilustrace pro CzechFolks.com © Miloslav HeřmánekAuthor: Josef Cermak (CzechFolks.com PLUS)

Frank Tesar celebrates his 95th birtday

Just a couple of years after the end of the second world war (in June 1947) the Kapoun couple in Brno (Czech Republic) received a letter that must have seemed a bit upsetting. It came from Aba in Nigeria, a place not many people in the former Czechoslovakia would be corresponding with at that time.

The letter begins politely and innocently: “First, I would like to ask you to forgive me for writing to you although you don’t know me.” That was the first sentence. Then, in the second sentence, a bomb: “But surely you already know from Svatava (their daughter), that we agreed that she would come to Africa to become my wife.” Then comes a deep thought: “Since I cannot ask you for the hand of your Miss Svatava in person, I take the liberty of asking you by using this unusual way, namely by letter.” (Not even Clark Gable in ‘Gone With The Wind’ would need to be ashamed of the next sentence): “It must certainly be very difficult for you to give your daughter to someone you don’t know” (The next few words grounded me) “and whom your daughter doesn’t personally know either.” Continue reading

From coal miner to largest Czech hotelier (Z horníka největším českým hoteliérem)

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Viliam Sivek“I’ve heard talks about having a bourgeois, or at best, a business origin,” says Viliam Sivek. “The truth is that during the first republic my grandfather was the director of the largest sugar refinery in Bohemia, but unfortunately I only remember that as a kid I only had one pair of pants and one pair of shorts. They were both versatile for everyday wear and festive occasions …”

Most people’s lives just pass through in predefined tracks, however, that was not the case with Viliam Sivek. His family saga is very interesting and would serve as enough material for a fairly extensive novel.

“My mother got married in Slovakia and actively participated in the fighting in the Slovak National Uprising. For example, when fighting by Strečno, she transferred prisoners to the ranks of the French partisans. She did so with 250 prisoners. Continue reading

Curiosities: Luxurious Furniture Made of Czech Pianos (Kuriozity: Luxusní nábytek z českých pian)

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Do not worry; this article is not about destroying delicate instruments to make high class furniture. It explains the recent change in a company’s goal to overcome the current economic crisis. Petrof, a major piano factory in Hradec Kralove switched a portion of its piano production to furniture design and manufacturing. The company has a long history in piano making. It not only survived two world wars, but also 40 years of the communist regime. Today it is dealing with another challenge and it is once again using creative new business models to overcome it. Continue reading

Coca-Cola, AT&T, Staples, Frito Lay and Others Now Ride with Czech AVIA Trucks (Coca-Cola, AT & T, Staples, Frito Lay a další nyní jezdí s AVIA nákladními vozy)

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The recent delivery of new electric trucks allows four Fortune 500 US companies and two utility companies to drive with zero emissions on a technology that embodies a breakthrough in world transportation. These vehicles are even more special considering the connection to the Czech Republic, since they are built with AVIA cabs and chassis. The trucks were handed over at an official ceremony at the Capitol Hill in Washington DC, on July 28th, 2009 hosted at the Capitol Reflecting Pool on the National Mall by Missouri Senator Kit Bond. Carol M. Browner, Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change was also present. These new all-electric trucks represent not only independence from foreign oil for the US companies, but they also bring new possibilities for the Czech-based company and its products. Continue reading

A Czech Song Mocks Putin (Česká píseň se vysmívá Putinovi)

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The Russian song, set to a popular 1970s Czech tune Jozin z Bazin (Joey of the Marsh) by a Czech singer Ivan Mladek, is becoming trendier on YouTube in recent days. Today, over three million people have seen the video. The Russian lyrics say, “Putin, Putin goes to Pikalyovo. Putin, Putin will make it cool for us… Putin, Putin is quick to do justice. Putin, Putin is our Prime Minister… Jozin z Bazin is the people’s choice … oligarchs, miners and even cops know that Jozin z Bazin will be our new president.” The spoof song was made to make fun of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, a former KGB spy, who was ineligible to run for a third consecutive term as President in 2008 and became Prime Minister. Continue reading

Curiosities: Dumpling Experts (Kuriozity: Knedlíkoví odborníci)

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Czech/Slovak dumplings are very popular at home and even abroad. Dumplings or “Knedliky” can be served with sauerkraut and pork, or on the other extreme, with fruit and sugar. They can be prepared from bread, flour, potatoes or other products. They can have different shapes as well: balls, slices, crumbles and can be filled or used separately as sides, which depends on a way they are prepared: boiling, steaming, frying, baking etc. Fruit-filled dumplings are very popular at home at eating contests, as you may see with hot dogs at other places around the world. One such contest just took place in Miroslav, a town in the Znojmo District, where contestants competed in eating apricot-filled dumplings. The winner did not break the record, but was able to beat the winner of last year’s competition. Would you like to make your own dumpling or even compete in the same competition? There are as many variations of fruit dumplings since their fans, or dumpling experts, learn to make them from ingredients available abroad and we have a couple of them for you to try. Continue reading

More Czech Products for Free! (Více českých produktů zdarma!)

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Let’s start the weekend with some fun. As we promised, we have a great prize for CzechFolks.com readers. Everybody living in the USA can participate. You will not only win a wonderful item related to the Czech Republic or Slovakia, but you will also be able to pick a T-shirt of your taste and size.

The sweepstakes are sponsored by ABC Imports – a company that imports great goods mostly from the Czech Republic. What can you find there? Here is a brief list of items that you can find on their website www.abc-imports.com: Continue reading

Curiosities: Kofola – An Informative Refreshment (Kuriozity: Kofola – Informativní Osvěžení)

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This article is just one of other future curiosities that we will periodically bring to you. Hopefully, they will refresh your mind but also teach you a little bit more about the Czech and Slovak country, culture and more. The story below caught our attention for its brilliant concept.

Beginning the 7th of July, 2009, drivers around the town Brno (the second largest city in the Czech Republic) have an opportunity to receive Continue reading

Sir Name Days – What are they? (Co jsou příjmeniny?)

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The fact that the Czech Republic and Slovakia have Name Days is known to many people, as well as to our readers that view our articles about these special days. How many of you actually know that there is such a thing as a Sir Name Day? A Czech entrepreneur Jan Švejda and his colleague invented a new calendar that is composed of the 365 most common Czech sir names or names of famous Czech people. The names were carefully assigned to days that were somehow similar to these names; usually based on significant days in world history or holidays. Some of the name and day selections were logical, others were funny, while a few of them were chosen with a sarcastic sense of humor. The calendar, named Prijmenar, has become very popular and it can be purchased online as well.

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You Can’t Hide from Czech Courts Anymore (Před českými soudy se již neschováte)

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Beginning the 1st of July, 2009, the Czech courts will gain more power and control over Czech citizens than ever before. On this day a new amendment of the Judicial Code will become valid. It will prevent avoidance of judicial mail. It will, however, assume that all correspondence sent by courts will be received by their recipients, even though they won’t be required to sign for it. What does this mean for all of you living abroad? Even if you don’t sign for a registered letter directed to you, ten days after the registered envelope delivery you will be assumed to have received it. The change is meant to thwart the typical behavior of people that received such letters in the past. Usually, if they found out the letter was from a court, they would refuse to sign for it and the post office would have to mail it back to the sender 10 days after contacting the sender or his/her family. Now, such correspondence will be deposited in the recipients’ mailboxes without the need for signatures.

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