Sunday, March 31, 2019

Madeleine Albright

Madeline Albright was the first female U.S. Secretary of State.  Due to the -ova thing, over here she is Madeline Albrightová.  She is well respected in Czechland and not just because she was born in Czechoslovakia and that she speaks Czech.

She was born Marie Jana Korbelová in Prague in 1937.  Her father was a diplomat during the First Republic serving at the embassy in Belgrade.  When Nazi Germany took the Sudentenland, the family went to the UK where her father worked for the Czechoslovak government-in-exile.

In 1941, the family converted from Judaism to Catholicism in order to protect themselves from the Nazis.  Her parents never told her or her siblings about their Jewish ancestry.

After the war, the family returned to Prague before eventually moving to Belgrade when her father was appointed as the country's ambassador to Yugoslavia.  Her father was opposed to communism so when the communists took over in 1948 the family emigrated to the USA.  She became an American citizen in 1957.  Later she earned her PhD with her doctoral dissertation on the role of journalists during the 1968 Prague Spring.

In 1992, following President Clinton's election win, she helped assemble the National Security Council.  From 1993 to 1997 she was the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations.  From 1997 to 2001 she served as Secretary of State.

Madeline Albright and Václav Havel
In the U.S., the order of succession for the President is the Vice-President, then the Speaker of the House, the President pro tempore of the Senate, then it's the Secretary of State.  But because Madeline Albright wasn't born a U.S. citizen she wasn't eligible to be a presidential successor.

During her time at State, she was a champion for expanding NATO to Central and Eastern Europe.  In 2012 she received the U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom and a few weeks ago the Czech government awarded her the Medal of Merit Award for Diplomacy.

Here's a 5-minute video I found out on YouTube about her early career.


Update:  Madeleine Albright passed away in 2022.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

2019 World Happiness Report

The 7th World Happiness Report was released by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network of the United Nations and Czechland was ranked at the 20th happiest out of 156 countries.

The report factors in things like gross domestic product per capita, healthy life expectancy, freedom to make choices, perceived corruption and social support from friends and family.

No surprise that the Scandinavian countries ranked so high.  For the second year in a row, Finland come in 1st, followed by Denmark, Norway, and Iceland.  The Netherlands came in 5th place.  Of the 20 happiest countries in the world, 14 of them are in Europe.

The USA came in 19th.  At 20th, Czechland scored the best of the Visegrád Group with Slovakia at 38th, Poland at 40th, and Hungary at 62nd.

Czechs continue to rank higher each year.  In 2015 they were 31st, in 2016 they were 27th, in 2017 they were 23rd, and last year they were 21st.

The most unhappiest countries are South Sudan, the Central African Republic, Afghanistan, Tanzania, Rwanda, and Yemen.

2019 Top 30 Happiest Countries

Saturday, March 23, 2019

European Capital of Culture

The European Capital of Culture is awarded by the EU to a city for one calendar year.  During the year, the city organises a series of cultural events and winning the title tends to be very good for the city economically when it comes to increased tourism.  There's also a cash prize of €1,5 million.

The award was launched in 1985 when Athens was selected as the first title-holder.  Until 1999, only one city held the title per year.  In 2000, the millennium year, nine cities shared the title including Prague which was expected to join the EU in 2004.

Since 2001, two cities are selected to share the title.  In 2015 Plzeň shared the title with Mons, Belgium.

In 2021, and then every three years, a third city will be selected that is either from a country in the EEA or from a country that is a potential EU member.

The UK was supposed to hold the title in 2023.  However, due to Brexit, the UK wasn't expected to be in the EU by then so only Hungary will hold the title in 2023.  Who knows if the UK will actually leave by then or not?

In 2028, Czechland and France will each host a European Capital of Culture.

Brno wants the title bad and has announced it will hire five new employees as it expands the Department of Culture.

Czech cities expected to submit bids are Ostrava, Zlín, and Liberec.  Other cities may possibly submit bids but the deadline for nominations is at the end of 2022.  Then a 12-person panel will decide the winner.  The panel will be made up of ten people appointed by the EU and two people selected by the Czech Ministry of Culture.  Let's go Brno!!

Update:  Brno is out of contention.  The short list of the Czech title is down to Broumov and České Budějovice.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

20 Years in NATO

Last week was the 20th anniversary of the Czech Republic joining NATO.

Along with Poland and Hungary, they were the first Eastern Bloc countries to join.  Slovakia completed the Visegrád Group when it joined five years later, when all four joined the European Union.

As part of NATO, Czech soldiers have been deployed in Afghanistan for 16 years.

Next month is the 70th anniversary of the founding of NATO.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs awarded the new Medal of Merit Award for Diplomacy, Medaile za zásluhy za diplomaciii, to 14 people.
The medal was created at the end of 2018.  It is awarded to individuals who significantly contribute to the development of relations between the Czech Republic and other countries.

One of the medals was awarded to former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright who was a leading voice in expanding NATO to Central Europe.

Here's a short video I found out on YouTube about the 20th anniversary.
©UATV English

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

2019 Gran Canaria Trip Summary

So after almost 10 years of living in Euroland I finally went to the Canary Islands.  What the hell had I been thinking?  Gran Canaria was awesome!  I definitely need to come back sometime soon.  I just don't know if I should do Maspalomas again or if maybe next time I check out Tenerife or Fuerteventura or Lanzarote.  Decisions, decisions...I know...first world problems.

I enjoyed getting a break from the Brno cold.  I loved the 29℃ (84℉) weather.

My Spanglish worked fine here but I really didn't need to worry about it, like I do in Spain,  because there are so many British and German tourists here that English and German would have been enough to get by.

The day trip to Las Palmas was fun.  But I really enjoyed the day tour around the island, especially the chance to do a bit of hiking to see Roque Nublo.

I honestly had no idea of just how gay friendly it would be. There's quite a number of gay bars and clubs.  I even got to see my first European drag show.  I hadn't seen a cabaret act since I left the U.S.  

Monday, March 18, 2019

Maspalomas, Gran Canaria, Spain

Maspalomas is on the south of side of Gran Canaria, about 57 km (35 miles) from Las Palmas.  It is home to over 35,000 people.  It is the largest tourist destination in the Canary Islands.

It is especially popular as a winter destination for people wanting to trade in the snow for some beach time.

The Maspalomas Dunes are sand dunes that cover 404 hectares (1000 acres).  The dunes are a protected nature reserve.

It's pretty cool to walk through the desert to get to the beach.

Next to Maspalomas is Playa del Inglés that has a local population of around 7.500 people.

In the 1960s massive hotels were built to accommodate all of the tourists.

Spain is primarily a Catholic country but that hasn't kept the local from embracing gay tourism.  For the last 25 years this has been very popular with gay travellers.  During the second week of May, the area is home to one of the largest gay pride events in Europe.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Discover Gran Canaria Tour, Spain

On Friday we took a "Discover Gran Canaria" tour to see some of the island.  It was a small group tour designed for up to a maximum of six people which was great.  Highly recommended!  
We started off from Maspalomas and made our way by minivan towards San Bartolomé de Tirajana.

We stopped at Mirador Degollada de la Yegua for about 10 minutes for views of Maspalomas and Fataga Valley which is also known as the Valley of the Thousand Palms.

In 2005, UNESCO confirmed the area as the World Biosphere Reserve of Gran Canaria.

Then it was on to Nublo Rural Park, in the centre of the island, to check out Roque Nublo (Rock in the Clouds).  At 67 metres (220 feet) tall it is the third highest point on Gran Canaria.  The rock was formed from a volcanic eruption about 4,5 million years ago.  The 1,5 km hike up the hill took about 30 minutes.

After working up an appetite we headed to Llanos de la Pez which is a popular picnic area amidst tall pine groves.  For lunch we got to taste several home made local specialties.  Super tasty!

Then it was on to Pico de las Nieves which is the island's highest point.

Most of the highest plateau is home to a Spanish military base with a prominent ball-shaped radar.  Surprisingly, tourists are allowed in the area for some great views of the island.

At Mirador Caldera de los Marteles there's a lookout and a view of a volcanic crater.  It is about 80 metres (262 feet) deep and 550 metres (1805 feet) wide.

Opposite the crater is another view of the island.
Although I don't remember the name of this city.

Then it was on to Agüimes which is on the eastern part of Gran Canaria; about 26 km south of Las Palmas.
Agüimes is home to just over 30,000 people.  It was founded in 1487 and is one of the oldest cities on the island.

The Iglesia de San Sebastián is just off the main square.  Construction began in 1796 but it wasn't completed until 1940.

The local history centre is a free museum showing the development of the city.

The Punta de Arinaga Lighthouse is a working lighthouse.  The current tower is the third to be built here.

Our final stop of the day was at the Reserva Natural Especial de Las Dunas de Maspalomas.  The sand dunes occupy a 404 hectare (1000 acre) area and have been a protected nature reserve since 1987.

This was a great tour!  We got to see mountains, a pine forest, the ocean, and desert all in one day.  Who knew you could do this in Spain?  California is the only other place in the world where I know where this is possible.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Spain

Las Palmas de Gran Canaria is located on the northeastern part of Gran Canaria.  At about 150 km (93 miles) off the coast of Morocco, the city is actually closer to Africa than it is to Europe.  Along with Santa Cruz on Tenerife, Las Palmas is the co-capital of the Canary Islands.

With +383,000 people, it is the largest city in the Canary Islands and the 10th largest metro area in Spain.  Almost half of everyone on Gran Canaria, and about 18% of everyone on the Canary Islands live in Las Palmas.

Las Palmas was founded in 1478.  It was the de facto capital of the Canary Islands until the 17th century when it was made official.

In 1492, Christopher Columbus spent time here at the beginning of his first trip to the Americas.

The city centre is on the tentative list of UNESCO World Heritage sites.

The Pérez Galdós Theatre is one of the most modern theatres in Spain.  It reopened in 2007 following extensive renovation.

The Guiniguada Theatre closed in 2000.  It reopened in 2011 following renovations.

The Vegueta Market opened in 1863.  It's the place to go for fresh seafood, meat, fruit and cheese.

The Santa Ana Cathedral was built in the 1500s.  Until 1819 it was the only Roman Catholic cathedral on the Canary Islands.

From the top of the cathedral you can get a view of the entire city.

The 19th century building across from the cathedral is the town hall.

El Museo Canario was established in 1879.  The museum is dedicated to the island's pre-colonial history.

In the centre of the 16th century Plaza del Espíritu Santo is a fountain that was designed by Manuel Ponce de León in 1869.

The Ermita del Espíritu Santo chapel dates back to 1615.

The Santo Domingo de Guzmán church was established in 1841.  It is connected to a Dominican convent founded back in 1522.

There is an interesting museum about Juan Negrín López.  He was a local who led the Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE) and served as the last Loyalist premier of Spain from 1937 to 1939.  He died in exile in 1956.

St. Augustine Church was built in 1786 and is one of the city's oldest churches.

José de Viera y Clavijo was a Spanish historian and professor who was best known for his History of the Canary Islands.  He was born on Tenerife but hied in Las Palmas in 1813.

The Church of Santa Maria del Pino was consecrated in 1917.

The Gabinete Literario focuses on the literary, cultural and scientific development of the city and the Canary Islands.

San Telmo Park is in the north part of the city near the city's first harbour.

The park's art-deco cafe dates back to 1923.

The Government of the Canary Islands holds executive power and is shared with Santa Cruz.

The Gate by Máximo Rial Dimas was unveiled in 2001.  It honours St. Antonia Maria Claret, the Apostle of the Canaries.

Playa del las Alcaravaneras is a sandy beach in the middle of the port by the marina.  The beach is around 800 metres (½ mile) long.  It just seems odd to me to swim in one of Europe's biggest ports but it's a popular spot.

The Royal Gran Canaria Yacht Club is a private club that was established in 1908.  The club has produced 18 olympic sailors and six gold medals.

The Elder Museum of Science and Technology opened in 1999.