Sunday, February 26, 2023

75th Anniversary of Communist Coup

Yesterday was the 75th anniversary of the Communist coup that put the Czechoslovak Communist Party (KSČ) in power for 41 years until the Velvet Revolution

Czechoslovakia had free elections in 1946.  The Communists took the largest share of the vote in Czechland but they were a distant second in Slovakia.

The Communists needed to take control of the country or the Red Army, stationed on the Hungarian border were prepared to invade and help take over.

The takeover led to Stalin-style show trials, such as the one against Milada Horáková.

Here's a video I found out on YouTube about the coup.

©Claude's History Course

Russian troops on the border threatening to invade unless they get what they want.  Sounds familiar.  
Я за Україну. Я за Україною. Слава Україні  Stojím za Ukrajinou!  I stand with Ukraine. 🇺🇦

Saturday, February 25, 2023

2023 Czech Eurovision Entry

Česká televize recently decided on this year's entry for Eurovision.  From 2 November to 8 December 2022, artists could submit their entry for 2023.  There were 170 entries received and the field was narrowed down to five which were announced in January.

The rules were that solo artists had to have Czech citizenship.  For group entires, the maximum number of members was six and at least one of the lead vocalists had to have Czech citizenship.  This citizenship requirement was a Czech thing because there's no Eurovision rule that says a contestant must be a citizen of the country being represented.  For example, Céline Dion won in 1988 competing form Switzerland even though she is Canadian.

This is the first year that the country will compete at Eurovision as Czechia instead of as Czech Republic.  This is also the first time that Czech TV organised a live broadcast to determine who would be selected by audience vote.  The vote was weighted as 70% for international voting and 30% by local Czech voting.  

Here are the five entries that battled it out on TV.

Up first was Maella with her song Flood.  The daughter of a jazz musician, she grew up in Prague but has been living in London for several years where she studied songwriting.

©Česká televize

Up next was Pam Rabbit with her song Ghosting.  She is Czech with Armenian roots and she competed at the 2018 Eurovision contest as a backup singer for Mikolas Josef.

©Česká televize

Up third was Markéta Irglová with her song Happy.  She's from Valašské Meziříčí and has lived in Ireland, the USA, and now in Iceland.  She won an Academy Award in 2008 for Best Original Song, Falling Slowly, for the film Once.

©Česká televize

Vesna performed fourth with their song My Sister's Crown.  Three of the six members of the group are Czech, with a Bulgarian, a Slovak, and a Russian.  Their song is about empowerment and pan-Slavic sisterhood with the lyrics in English, Czech, Ukrainian, and Bulgarian.   

©Česká televize

The final performer was Rodan with his song Introvert Party Club.  In 2021 he was nominated for Discovery of the Year 2021 and the music magazine Headliner included him amongst the 50 hopefuls of Czech music.

©Česká televize

A few weeks ago the results were in and Vesna won by a landslide.  Here are the results:
  1. Vesna - 10.584 points
  2. Pam Rabbit - 4.217 points
  3. Rodan - 1.995 points
  4. Markéta Irglová - 1.009 points
  5. Maella - 599 points
Czechland will compete in the first semi-final on 9 May.  Vesna will perform in the second half of the show.  Good luck Vesna!

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

International Mother Language Day

Today is International Mother Language Day.  It was first announced in 1999 by UNESCO and it has been observed across the globe since 2000. 

The goal is to support multilingualism and the use of mother tongues which allows one to better understand one's own identity.  It also gives one a greater appreciation for cultural diversity.

I've had to adapt to British English since moving here to Euroland.  So in honour of International Mother Language Day, here's a 5,5 minute video I found on YouTube that illustrates the American accents in each of the 50 states.

©Condé Nast Traveler

Friday, February 17, 2023

Consumer Protection Changes

Within the EU, there has been a greater push for consumer protection, especially between member countries whose own consumer protection laws may differ.  

Here's a short, English-language video from the European Commission that talks about five important consumer rights.  However, the video is at least nine years old.

©European Commission

On 6 January 2023, a new amendment to the Consumer Protection Act and the Civil Code came into effect.  The Czech law was updated to be in synch with EU laws.

  • Exercising the right to withdraw from a contract will be more precise.
  • Unless the consumer and the business mutually agree to different terms, the goods must be delivered to the consumer no later than 30 days after concluding the contract.
  • Information that a business must provide to the consumer before concluding the contract is now specified.
  • Consumers are not protected from fake reviews and less-than transparent online transactions.
  • Consumers have the right to withdraw from a contract made online within 30 days.
  • Consumers will be protected from prices being artificially raised prior to discount events as the seller must inform the consumer about the lowest prices the goods were sold for during the last 30 days.  So a company can't raise the price of something 20% only to then immediately offer it on sale at a 20% discount.
  • Sellers online are not allowed to use "pre-ticked" boxes which would require a consumer to make additional or future payments.
  • If a consumer has been the victim of unfair business practices then they have the right to withdraw from the contract within 90 days.
  • Consumers have the right to claim for defective products within two years.
  • Dual quality goods are now forbidden.  If a retailer sells goods in Czechland, as identical to goods in other countries, but with ingredients, parts or features which are significantly different then the seller can be fined.
The amendment to the Czech consumer protection act falls under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Industry and Trade and is policed by the Czech Trade Inspection Authority.  I believe that the failing to comply with the law will result in fines up to 5 million Kč (€200.000; ~$231,000).

A few weeks ago I ordered a new router online from Datart but when it arrived I realised that I ordered the wrong thing.  I immediately ordered the correct item but needed to take the wrong item back to the store.  I thought that I needed to do this within 14 days but now that the law has changed I could have waited an extra two weeks before returning it.  This was my first product return I've had since living in Czechland.  It was simple enough.  I took the router and the receipt to the store.  They inspected the product and issued me a refund.  I assumed that they would have just credited the credit card I used to make the purchase online but they gave me cash.

Sunday, February 12, 2023

Czech Trade Inspection Authority

Česka obchodní inspekce (ČOI) is the Czech Trade Inspection Authority (CTIA) and it falls under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Industry and Trade.  It's basically an enforcement agency. 

The ČOI monitors and inspects both businesses and individuals who supply goods or sells goods and services in Czechland.  It doesn't inspect the qualify of food as that is regulated by the Agriculture and Food Inspection Authority.  However, it does regulate health and safety, storage, transport, and the sale of such products.

It can ban the sale of certain products in the country if they do not comply with Czech regulations.

For minor violations, ČOI inspectors may impose immediate fines of up to 5000 Kč ($230).  For major violations, fines up to 50 million Kč (~$2.3 million) may be imposed.

Ministry of Industry and Trade

Ministerstvo průmyslu a obchodu is the Czech Ministry of Industry and Trade which was established in 1992.  In short, the ministry is in charge of industry, energy and trade policy, business and investment promotion, internal trade and consumer protection. 

That's a pretty big purview.  It also includes the use of European funds, the promotion of small and medium-sized companies, technical standardisation and quality control, industrial research, engineering and technology development, electronic communication and postal services, as well as being responsible for commodity exchange with the exception for issues under the Ministry of Agriculture.

Here's a short video, in English, that I found out on YouTube from the ministry highlighting Czechland.

©Ministerstvo průmyslu a obchodu ČR

Part of the ministry is housed at Petschek Palace, a neoclassicist building in Prague that dates back to 1929.  It was a very modern building for 1929 with air-conditioning, a tube post, and a paternoster lift.  During the war, the Nazis used it as Gestapo headquarters for the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia.  In 1989, the building became a National Cultural Monument.  Here's a short video about the building.  I think I'll have to try to check it out the next time that I go to Prague.

©Ministerstvo průmyslu a obchodu ČR

Saturday, February 11, 2023


Datart is a consumer electronics store with shops across Czechia and Slovakia.  

The company was founded in Prague in 1990 and they opened their first stone in 1992.  In 2019 they opened the 100th store in Czechland.  

This is the place to go for home appliances, computers, cameras, kitchenware, music systems, mobile phones, and accessories.  If there's something that I need though I tend to order online. 

I always had a problem with how to pronounce it.  I first thought it was "Data-Art" but is it actually "Data-rt" or "Dat-art?"

Back in 2017, they were acquired by HP Tronic Group for an undisclosed amount.

Here's a commercial for Datart that I found out on YouTube.  It's at least a couple of years old.


Thursday, February 9, 2023

The Ottoman Empire

In a few weeks we're headed to Kuşadasi, Turkey.  Or rather, I should get used to saying Türkiye.  Either way I am so ready for a week away.

I know that modern Türkiye came about after the end of WWI and the fall of the Ottoman Empire.  What I didn't know was just how vast the Ottoman Empire was.

The Ottoman Empire was actually one of the world's most powerful states during the 15th and 16th centuries.  It was an Islamic superpower founded by Osman I around 1299 and it lasted more than 600 years, only coming to an end back in 1922.  

Covering about 2 million square miles with 15 million people, it was huge!  At its height, the Ottoman Empire stretched all the way to the gates of Vienna.  Today, it would be made up of Türkiye, Greece, Cyprus, Bulgaria, Egypt, Hungary, North Macedonia, MontenegroBosnia and Herzegovina, AlbaniaSerbia, KosovoRomaniaMoldova Jordan, Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, Qatar, plus parts of Saudi Arabia, Libya, Algeria, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Ukraine, and Russia.  

Here's a short YouTube video about the rise of the Ottoman Empire.


The Ottoman Empire is known for its achievements in art, architecture, science, and medicine.  

But nothing lasts forever.  Here's another short video but this one is about the decline of the empire.


The darkest legacy of the Ottoman Empire is the Armenian genocide where up to approximately 1,5 million Armenian Christians living in the empire were killed from spring 1915 through autumn 1916 .  It is often called the first genocide of the 20th century and I still remember visiting the Armenian Genocide memorial in Yerevan.

Türkiye still denies that genocide occurred.  However, the Catholic Church, the United Nations, the European Parliament, and the Council of Europe have all recognised it as genocide.

In 2017, the Czech Parliament approved a resolution condemning the Armenian genocide and in 2020 the Czech Senate unanimously adopted a resolution recognising the Armenian genocide.

In 2019, the U.S. Congress affirmed the Armenian genocide and the Senate unanimously recognised the genocide.  Of course then-President Trump did not support the resolution but in 2021 President Biden officially recognised the Armenian genocide.

The Ottoman Empire made the fatal decision to side with the Central Powers in WWI.  Here's a short four-minute video about why they chose to fight alongside Germany.

©History Matters

Following the end of the war, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk became the first president of the Republic of Turkey.  Here's a bit about how the empire was carved up.

©History Matters

Considering that the Ottoman Empire contained parts of the Middle East, North Africa, the Caucasus and the Balkans, it's not a big surprise that there have been multiple conflicts between countries there since the breakup of the empire.  This map shows the borders of the Ottoman Empire in 1801in green.  The red lines show wars that have been fought between countries.  

Fortunately, I'm not expecting any drama whilst on holiday in Kuşadasi.  Fingers crossed.

Wednesday, February 8, 2023

Seven Wonders of the World

There have been a few versions of the "seven wonders of the world."  The oldest list, known as the "classic" seven wonders were located around the Mediterranean and the Middle East.  Of the classic wonders, only one, the Great Pyramid of Giza, still exists.
1.  Great Pyramid of Giza in El Giza, Egypt.
2.  Colossus of Rhodes, was located in Rhodes, Greece.
3.  Hanging Gardens of Babylon, in Babylon, Iraq.
4.  Lighthouse of Alexandria, in Alexandria, Egypt.
5.  Mausoleum at Halicarnassus in present-day Turkey.
6.  Statue of Zeus in Olympia, Greece.
7.   Temple of Artemis in Ephesus, Turkey.   

Next month, we're off to Kuşadasi for a week and will visit Ephesus.  I'll get to see what's left of the Temple of Artemis and will be the only item on the classic list I'll have seen.

The Seven Wonders of the Middle Ages include:
1.  Catacombs of Kom el Shoqafa in Alexandria, Egypt.
2.  Colosseum in Rome, Italy.   
3.  Great Wall of China, in China.
4.  Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, Turkey.
5.  Leaning Tower of Pisa in Pisa, Italy.
6.  Porcelain Tower of Nanjing, in Nanjing, China.
7.  Stonehenge in Wiltshire, England, UK.

So far I've managed to see four of seven from this list.  I missed out on going to Nanjing during my Shanghai trip due to rain.

In 1994, the American Society of Civil Engineers paid tribute to the what they thought were the greatest civil engineering achievements of the 20th century by releasing their list of Seven Wonders to the Modern World.
1.  Channel Tunnel, between the UK and France.
2.  CN Tower in Toronto, Canada.
3.  Empire State Building in New York City, USA.
4.  Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, California, USA.
5.  Itaipú Dam between Brazil and Paraguay.
6.  Delta and Zuiderzee Works in the Netherlands.
7.  Panama Canal in Panama.

From this list I've been to the Empire State Building and the Golden Gate Bridge.  Toronto's been on my list of places to visit for years but who knows when I'll get a chance to visit Canada.

In 2001, a New Seven Wonders of the World was released.  The Great Pyramid of Giza didn't make the list but was added later as an honorary mention.
1.  Great Wall of China.
2.  Petra in Jordan.
3.  Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
4.  Machu Picchu in Peru.
5.  Chichén Itzá in Mexico.
6.  Colosseum in Italy.
7.  Taj Mahal in India.  

From this list I've been to the Great Wall, Petra, Christ the Redeemer, and the Colosseum.  Back in 2007, Steven and I were getting our MBAs from Georgia State University.  We did a two-week study abroad programme in Argentina and Brazil.  One of my favourite memories is of us in a helicopter flying around Jesus's head in Rio.

Ephesus for sure will be the next place from all of these lists that I'll see.  Beyond that, who knows?  The Taj Mahal and the Great Pyramid are both on my bucket list.  Stonehenge would probably be the easiest to visit.

Monday, February 6, 2023

Strážnice, Czech Republic

Kája and I spent the weekend in Strážnice which is about a two hour train ride from Brno.  

Strážnice is home to 5.400 people and is 65 km (40 miles) from Brno, close to the Slovak border.  While Neolithic pottery has been found here, the it was first written mention of the town was in 1302.  It was one of the most populated towns in Moravia at the start of the 17th century.

The old city gate bastions date back to the 16th century.  They were used to protect the town from Turkish invasions.

Behind these gates is a chapel that was consecrated in 1917.  The story goes that it was built as thanks to the men who returned in good health from WWI.

The stone cross near the gate dates back to 1769.  The baroque monument is one of the oldest in the town and marks one of the places that city executions used take place.

The nearby city cemetery dates back to 1895.

Inside the cemetery is a tombstone dedicated to the Red Army that liberated the city in April 1945.

February isn't the time of year to see storks but here's a stork nest for when the season comes.  I'm told that nearby is one of the last places in Central Europe where a forest colony of White Storks can still be seen.

The shrine at Radějovská street dates back to the first half of the 19th century.

The town hall is a protected cultural monument that dates back to the 17th century.

The Strážnice Castle, is less castle and more chateau, is from the mid-19th century.  The castle is home to the National Institute of Folk Culture and a library with over 13.000 books.

The castle is in the middle of a large park where there's an amphitheatre.  

The Parish Church of St. Martin was a Gothic church in the 15th century but it burnt down several times.  In the 1720s it was renovated in the Baroque style.  

The Strážnice Museum of the Villages of South-East Moravia is an. open-air folk museum that opened in 1981.  

The Church of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary was built in 1747.

The synagogue was built in 1804 and renovated in 1879.  It was damaged in 1941 and it was then used as a warehouse.  In 1991 it was returned to the Jewish community.  Today, it is part of the Strážnice Museum.

Next to the synagogue is the Jewish cemetery which was founded in the mid-17th century.  It is 5000m² (1.2 acres) with around 1500 gravestones.

The town is located on the Baťa Canal and it's possible to take boat rides during the summer.

In front of the city museum is a statue of the philosopher and educator Jan Amos Komenský.  He studied here in 1604-1605.

Of course no Czech town is complete without a statue of Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk, the first president of Czechoslovakia.  Apparently he had studied here.  

Strážnice is also the home of really good potato chips (crisps).  

I hear that the factory is the town's biggest employer.

Here's a short video I found on YouTube showing the factory and how the crisps are made.

©Strážnické brambůrky Hobža