Sunday, September 30, 2018

Drug Use and Laws

According to a report by the European Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, Czech youth are the biggest pot heads in Europe.  Roughly 37% of 15-16 year olds have smoked marijuana at least once - the highest for the age group in Europe.  For 15-34 year olds, 19,4% have smoked marijuana at least once in the past 12 months - 3rd place behind Italy and France.

The laws here are pretty liberal.  Recreational use of marijuana is illegal but personal possession of small amounts is a non-criminal offence (misdemeanour).  Since personal possession is a misdemeanour anyone charged with this doesn't get his or her name on a criminal record.

Medical marijuana has been legal in Czechland since 1 April 2013.  It's imported from the Netherlands which means the prices are high because it is not covered by health insurance.  Few pharmacies even have a supply on hand.

It is a misdemeanour to posses the following:
Up to 15 grams, or 5 plants, of marijuana
Up to 5 grams of hashish
Up to 40 pieces of magic mushrooms
Up to 5 tablets of LSD
Up to 4 tablets of ecstasy
Up to 2 grams of amphetamine
Up to 2 grams of methamphetamine
Up to 1,5 grams of heroin
Up to 1 gram of cocaine

Selling more than a small amount of marijuana is punishable by up to one year in jail and/or a fine up to 15.000 Kč (€550).  For other drugs it is up to two years in jail plus a fine.  There are stiffer sentences for production or trafficking.

After marijuana the most widespread drug is pervitin (meth).  Apparently it is regularly smuggled from Czechland into Germany and Austria.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Tuzla, Bosnia and Herzegovina

Tuzla is the third largest city in Bosnia and Herzegovina.  It is located in the northeast of the country about a 2,5 hour drive (120 km / 75 miles) from Sarajevo.  It is home to over 142,000 people.

While the area has been inhabited for more than 6000 years, the city itself dates back to the 9th century.  At one point it was part of the Roman Empire and in 1510 it became part of the Ottoman Empire.

The city sat on top of extensive salt deposits and "Tuzla" is the Ottoman Turkish word for salt mine.

In 1878 it was annexed by the Austro-Hungarian Empire.  Following the end of WWI, it became part of Yugoslavia.

Freedom Square, Trg Slobode, is the main town square.  There are some beautiful buildings here along with lots of cafes and restaurants.

In the old town are statues two famous Bosnians.  Meša Selimović, the author, and Ismet Mujezinović the artist.

The Mosque of Atik Behram Bev is known as the colourful mosque.  It is the oldest mosque in Tuzla but was rebuilt in 1888 after a fire.

At Gradski Park is a statue of the 14th century King Tvrtko who promoted tolerance between different religious groups.

The Serbian Orthodox Bishop's Residency is also the Museum of the Eparchy.

The Temple of Ascension of the Virgin Mary is a Serbian Orthodox Church built from 1874-1882.

Tuzla is the only city in Europe with a salt lake as part of its central park.  The Pannonian Sea dried up about 10 million years ago.  In 2003 the Pannonian Lake was opened and a second lake with artificial waterfalls opened in 2008.

Turaliberg's Mosque was restored in 2007.  It is unique that it has a stone minaret and a pyramid-shaped roof.

In 2003 the U.S. Embassy in Sarajevo donated a bust of Martin Luther King.

There are a few cemeteries in town.  This is the Muslim cemetery near the city centre.

Slana Banja is a nice park on a hill overlooking the city. 

During WWII, this area was one of the first to be liberated from the Germans and there are many memorials and graves of Yugoslav partisans.

At the top of the hill is a Serbian Orthodox cemetery with a 19th century chapel.

The Peace Flame House hosts an eternal flame commemorating peace.  The facility is used for cultural events.

Tuzla wasn't heavily targeted during the war but on 25 May 1995 the Army of Republika Srpska launched an artillery attack on the city. 

The Tuzla Massacre left 72 dead and 240 wounded.  There is a memorial in the city centre and the victims are all buried at Slana Banja.

The Mellian Hotel in the centre has an observation floor with great views of the city.

I had never heard of Tuzla before but it turned out to be a nice little city break.  It is one of the new destinations that Wizz Air is now offering from Vienna.  Well worth a quick visit.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

First Czechoslovak Republic

Following the end of WWI, and the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Czechoslovakia declared independence in 1918.  The First Czechoslovak Republic, První československá republika, lasted from 1918 to 1938.

Czechoslovakia was made up of Bohemia, Moravia, Czech Silesia, Slovakia, and Subcarpathian Ruthenia.  It had a population of more than 13,5 million people and the co-official languages were Czech and Slovak.

The country started off on the right foot as one of the world's 10 most industrialised countries.  It inherited about 80% of all of the former empire's industry, including the porcelain, glass, and sugar refineries.  It also had 40% of all of the distilleries and breweries, the chemical industry in northern Bohemia and the Škoda Works in Plzeň that produced armaments, trains, and automobiles.

Czechoslovakia was a parliamentary republic.  Independence was declared in 1918 and the country's constitution was adopted in 1920.  Tomáš Masaryk was the country's founding father and served as the first president until 1935.  Edvard Beneš then served as president until 1938.

From 1933, Czechoslovakia was Central Europe's only functioning democracy.  The First Republic ended following the 1938 Munich Agreement when Nazi Germany occupied the Sudetenland.
What was left of Czechoslovakia became the Second Czechoslovak Republic.  This lasted from 30 September 1938 to 15 March 1939.  From 1939, Slovakia broke off as a Nazi puppet state and the rest of the western part became the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Possible Train Station Names

Brno plans to move the main train station to a new location.  I'm not sure when it will open but I'm sure that it will take a couple of years at least.

The current station's name is Brno hlavní nádraží (Brno main station).  During the summer people were able to submit ideas for the new station's name.  Here are some of the top finalists...

Brno - Šalingrad
Vídeň - server
Praha - venkov
Brno - Nádraží Johanna Gregora Mendela
Nádraží Špilberk Brno
Brno hlavní nádraží
Brno - nádraží Járy Cimrmana
Brno - Jih (South)
Brno - Nova Centrum (New Centre)

Brno is a main stop on the Berlin-Prague-Vienna-Budapest route so calling the station "Vienna North" or "Prague Countryside" just isn't practical.  But they are cute especially if you appreciate the Czech sense of humour.

The best example of this is Šalingrad.  Brno has a unique local dialect called "hantec".  All across the country the Czech word for 'tram' is tramvaj but in Brno people say šalina.  When buying a tram ticket in Prague I've said šalina, and had the clerk call me Brnák (someone from Brno).  So Šalingrad is funny because it uses the word šalina and sounds like Stalingrad.  

Personally I think the best thing would be to keep calling the station 'Brno Main Station'.  However, something tells me that Šalingrad will give it a run for the money.  Let's see what happens in October during the final vote.

Update:  Well, Šalingrad came in first place.  The top three places went to (1) Brno-Šalingrad, (2) Brno - Hlavní nádraží, and (3) Nádraží Járy Cimrmana.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Turning 100

This 11 November will commemorate 100 years since the end of WWI.  In the United Kingdom, and most Commonwealth countries it is known as Armistice Day.  The USA changed Armistice Day to Veterans Day, in 1954, to honour all U.S. veterans.

In Europe, the end of WWI changed the landscape as long-standing empires fell and newly independent countries emerged.  So this year, several countries will celebrate their centenary.

On 28 October, Czechland will celebrate the 100 years of the founding of Czechoslovakia.  Specifically the First Republic, which was the twenty years between WWI and WWII.  Even though Czechoslovakia hasn't existed for 25 years, the Czechs still celebrate independence from the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

The three Baltic countries of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania are also celebrating 100 years of independence.  Even though they haven't been independent nations the whole time.  Each declared independence at the end of WWI.

However, their independence was brief because they were occupied by the Soviet Union, then the Germans, and eventually were annexed as Soviet republics.  They eventually gained independence in 1991 as the Soviet Union broke apart.

Lithuania already celebrated its 100th, known as #LT100 on 16 February.  Estonia celebrated on 24 February.

Latvia celebrates on 11 November.

Poland had been an independent country but following partitions and 123 years of serfdom the country ceased to exist until 1918.  On 11 November, the Second Polish Republic declared independence from the German, Austrian, and Russian Empires.  This is when Poland, as a country, got back on the map.

On 11 November 1918, Emperor Charles I renounced the throne of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.  The next day, Austria declared itself a republic.  Like many countries, Austria's independence was interrupted during WWII as it had been annexed by the Third Reich.

Like Austria, Hungary became independent but they aren't so happy.  On 1 December 1918, Hungary lost Transylvania to Romania.  So while Hungary isn't celebrating anything, in Romania they are celebrating the "Great Unification".

On 1 December 1918, Iceland became a free and sovereign state after it signed the Act of Union with Denmark which kept the Danish King as head of state.  Iceland actually became an independent country in 1944, but this year they are celebrating 100 years as a sovereign state.

Following WWI, the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes was established which became Yugoslavia.  I'm not aware of anyone celebrating 100 years of Yugoslavia as it only lasted 75 years and has been gone for a generation.

Finland celebrated its 100th last year on 6 December.

In 1922, 26 counties formalised the independence of the  Irish Free State.  While it became Ireland in 1937 and declared itself a republic in 1949, I bet there will still be a 100th party of some kind in 2022.

Cockney Rhyming Slang

I've been working with Brits, pretty much on a daily basis, for almost a decade so I've picked up quite a bit of what they call "real English".  This includes what is known as Cockney rhyming slang.

It was invented in the 1840s by East London market traders to disguise what they were saying from customers.  Criminals used it as a secret language to  keep the police from knowing what was going on.  Over the years, many of these slang expressions have become pretty common across the UK.    

A rhyming expression is substituted for the word that you really want to say.  For example, "dog and bone" rhymes with "phone" so you instead of saying "pick up the phone" you say "pick up the dog and bone".

Many times expressions are shortened and the rhyming part isn't even used.  For example, "butcher's hook" rhymes with "look".  But 'butcher's' is usually dropped so if you want to have a look at something so say "let's have a butcher's".  It can sometimes get a wee bit confusing but using the expressions makes you less of an outsider.

There are lots of them but here are a few of the most common ones I've come across.
Adam and Eve = believe.  Can you Adam and Eve it?
Apples and pears = stairs.  Head up the apples and pears.
Barney Rubble = trouble.  I don't want any Barney Rubble.
Bees and honey = money.  Where's my bees and honey?
Bubble and squeak = Greek.  It's all bubble to me.
China plates = mates.  Going out with my China plates.
Duke of Kent = rent.  I need to give the landlord his Duke of Kent.
Jimmy Riddle = piddle.  After many beers you need to Jimmy Riddle.
Rosie Lee = tea.  Have a cup of Rosie.

In the USA, kids will say "put up your dukes" for a fist fight.  I never knew that this expression came from "Duke of York" which rhymes with 'fork' and is Cockney slang for "fist".

Here's a video about it that I found out on YouTube.

Many of these expressions also work in Ireland.  But I'm pretty sure that the Irish have a few of their own.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

The London Mastaba

On Sunday, we made a quick day trip from Dublin to London to see the Mastaba.  The Mastaba is a temporary art project on display at London's Hype Park from 18 June to 23 September 2018.  It is made of 7,506 barrels stacked horizontally on a floating platform on Lake Serpentine.

Christo, a Bulgarian artist, managed to escape to Vienna, via Prague, in 1957.  He moved to  and eventually married Jeanne-Claude Denat de Gullebon who many thought to be just his manager but it was later revealed that she was his co-artist.  In 1973 Christo became an American citizen.

For almost 50 years they have collaborated on grand but temporary works across the world.  Their projects tend to be large and sometimes controversial.  They include wrapping the Berlin Reichstag and Pont-Neuf bridge in Paris and curtains in New York City's Central Park.  She passed away in 2009.

I believe that this is his first public work on display in the UK.  The Mastaba is entirely funded by Christo through the sale of his work.  Public money is never used and he doesn't accept sponsorship, so that outside influence can't influence his artistic vision.

Hyde Park is 140 hectares (350 acres) located in Central London.  It is the largest of the four Royal Parks.  Henry VIII established the park as a hunting ground in 1536.In 1637 it was opened to the public.

The Mustaba was impressive!  Plus London is always a great place to spend a nice sunny Sunday.  Here's a short video I found out on YouTube about Christo and Jeanne-Claude.


Saturday, September 1, 2018

Jimmy's Hall

Today we went to Dublin's Abbey Theatre to see Jimmy's Hall.  It is the musical adaptation of the 2014 film.  It is the true story of Jimmy Gralton who is the only Irishman to have been deported from his own country because he was deemed a threat to national security.  The rural dancehall, where he encouraged the local community to dream of a better life, was in conflict with the local parish priest and so the conflict begins.

The show was awesome!  Great music and dancing but it's incredible is that it was based on actual events.  It's hard to believe the influence held by the Catholic Church in Ireland in the 1930s (and beyond).

The Abbey Theatre, also known as the National Theatre of Ireland, first opened in 1904.  It's a small venue with seating for just under 500 people.  After a fire, the theatre was rebuilt at its current location in 1966.  In 1925 it received an annual subsidy from the Irish Free State making it the world's first English-speaking, state-subsidised theatre.  There are plans to built a new, larger theatre at the Liffey quays but there's no sign of when construction will begin.

Here's the promotion video for Jimmy's Hall that I found out on YouTube.

©Abbey Theatre