Prague shopping mall evacuated after bomb scare

By Annies Joy

A shopping centre in the heart of Prague was evacuated this afternoon after a bomb alert.

The Nový Smíchov shopping mall was evacuated earlier today and sealed off by police, who issued several brief statements as the drama unfolded.

Local people, shop assistants, and tourists were confused when they were first confronted by police cornering off Plzeňská Street.

Stroupežnicky Street was also closed.

Initially, the public were not allowed to go through the street even though the trams were. They did not, however, stop there for passengers to get off at the mall.

The tram service was later shut off as more fire engines and ambulances arrived at the scene.

Local media reported the city’s integrated rescue system and fire service were quickly on site. “Specially trained dogs searched for explosives,” police said.

Pražský.deník.cz reported that the shopping mall was evacuated due to “some serious technical problems.”

Michaela Duskova, 21, was working at Marionnaud in the Novy Smichov Shopping centre in Prague, while the announcement was made. She later found out that it was a bomb scare.

She told the Leicestershire Press: “While I was working, me and the other workers were asked to leave the shopping centre immediately.”

By about 5pm, they had been waiting for two hours and had been told they could not go home until they got a call from their boss. They thought it would still be two to three hours until they were able to go back.

A few minutes later, the police made a line in each corner of the junction trying to block any public from trying to pass through to the area of the incident and asked people to move further away.

Following this, a voice announcement was repeatedly played in Czech in the nearby underground metro station, Anděl, warning people about the alert. Many workers were returning from work as this warning was played alerting them of the situation above ground.

Here are the voice reports from the scene:

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On the hunt for the Philosopher’s Stone – Alchemy in Prague

By Aleksandra Brzezicka

The Elixir of Immortality. The Philosopher’s Stone. Symbols of the elements. If you’ve ever heard of any of those, you’ve got a basic idea of what Alchemy is. The philosophical tradition of purifying, maturing and perfecting such objects has deep roots in the Prague culture.

The second oldest building in Prague, dating back to 900 AD, has been a beating heart of alchemy since Emperor Rudolf II created an alchemist laboratory there. Connected by underground tunnels with the most important places in the city, it is currently the Museum of Alchemy for those who want to rediscover this spiritual, forgotten art.

Filled with old pots, paintings, skulls and dried herbs hanging from the ceilings, the exact replica of the alchemist laboratory can give you the creeps. Those in emotional need or having extra cash can buy elixirs made from original recipes found in the house or go on the Magical Triangle tour – to the museum itself, Prague Castle and Vysehrad, all apparently full of the special energy.

If you don’t fancy an elixir, coffee at the Cukrárna Alchymista may tempt you. Away from the rowdy centre, neat the Sparta tram stop, you’ll find the hidden spot with a magnificent alchemist-themed fresco on the ceiling and full of flowers in a lovely garden. You don’t have to be an alchemy fanatic to enjoy your eco-coffee, homemade cakes and fancy cocktails – a new one is inspired by The Big Lebowski film.

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Apparently Provaznická street was a home for one of the great alchemists of Prague who left a tarot deck with a handwritten riddle to solve. Awake after coffee, head to the Alchemist Bar to play Choose Your Fate and unravel the mystery. While doing that, try their brand, a bit pricey but beautifully prepared by the true mixology masters, signature cocktails. Prepare to feel underdressed as everything seems to be overwhelmed by the magnificent interior, full of antique furniture and crystal chandeliers.

It is a magical side of Prague, protected from the eyes of the unworthy, which is waiting to be uncovered. There is much more to it for those who are willing to see. The decision is yours if myths are to be trusted though only truly unspiritual individuals won’t feel the charm of the ghosts of the past.

 

 

 

Fifty years since the Prague Spring

By Pamela Lyon

During a festival to commemorate 50 years since the beginning of the Prague Spring and the uprising against Communism, people were seen crying with joy and happiness and freedom.

The political developments up to 1968 showed a new attitude of the people in Prague, finally having hope towards a new-found freedom and the urge to take down the Communist government controlled by the Soviet Union who many had come to loathe.

This year, fifty years on, however, sees a bustling city full of tourists and luxuries and a new film dedicated to Jan Palach, who was declared a hero.

Palach was studying history and political economy at Charles University, Prague, before he became a symbol of heroism and freedom, by protesting and becoming the first self-declared human torch following the crushing of the Prague Spring.

On January 16th, 1969, Palach set himself on fire after sending a letter demanding the abolition of censorship and a range of other laws. He died three days later, suffering from fatal burns and is one of the tragic heroes of the Czech battle for freedom.

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The death mask of Jan Palach, a copy of which is the Charles University Museum.

Fifty years on and the country is bright and beautiful but there are still those among the older generations who were not especially hostile towards communism, arguing that people still had jobs, even if that job was just waitressing when the employee had a medical degree.

With a Red Army-dedicated portion of the Olsany cemetery in Prague, and a communist museum, it is clear that era of the country’s history is being preserved. Now that it has put that in the past and becoming the democracy that is Czechia, Prague is a city in a country that is full of a new history that should be seen by everyone.

 

An eerie day out at Terezín Concentration Camp in Prague

By Annies Joy

Quiet. Deserted. Unnatural. Hardly surprising due to the fact that, although unknown to many, Terezín played a key role in the transportation of the Nazis’ Jewish prisoners during World War II.

The former fortress city was used by the Nazis during their wartime occupation of Czechoslovakia as a holding camp where thousands of Jews from across Europe were held before being transported to the notorious deathcamps such as Auschwitz and Bergen-Belzen

There are only a few direct buses in the morning from Prague to Terezín and a few direct buses back in the evening. The 10.30am bus from the city drove through the scenic views that took us away from the busy tourist-filled centre to the quietness of the countryside.

However,  the quietness of Terezín might as well have been silence. Clearly the aftermath of the cruelty that took place in these hollow buildings can still be seen and felt in the atmosphere of the small town.

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The eerily empty town

It is an unnaturally silent and empty town, with only the occasional car driving through it, some drunken locals and a small flock of tourists who know about the place.

However, the place is still brimming with history with many places to go and see. For example, the Jewish Ghetto Museum that outlines lines from some prisoners’ diary, the former concentration camp for Jewish Prisoners, the National Memorial and the Magdeburg Barracks.

A walk into the courtyards of the concentration camp shows the hollow and bare wooden bunk beds, a bench to sit and eat, and a tiny washbasin in each room. It is a very moving experience but unimaginable to think what it might have been like to be a prisoner there.

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The beds where the prisoners used to sleep

The visitors are also able to enjoy a half-an-hour video guide, in a spacious screening room, outlining the history of Terezín and its previous usage. You can also take a walk around the vast Fortress Grounds and even go through a 500m tunnel, which i admit is not for the faint-hearted.

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The administration offices leading to the first courtyard 

Experiencing such a day out that felt so out of one’s comfort zone makes you realise just how real these events were and still are to the people who live there now. An event that’s your history was their reality.

Cycling around Prague; the safety and the struggle

By Jacob Moseley

After recent debates between Prague Council and competing cycling companies about whether bikes should be legal on the city centre streets, I decided to get a better idea on why this is such a hot topic at the moment.


The city council recently overturned a controversial ban previously issued preventing bicycles from being used in certain parts of the heart of Prague due to the dangers for tourists and other pedestrians in the myriad of narrow streets.

Statements by AutoMat (leading cyclist rental company) had called the complete ban on bikes in the city “exaggerated and illegal.”

It was overturned recently after other multiple complaints and the fact that the court didn’t take into consideration contrasting proposals made by the cyclist companies.

I started by downloading the app, Rekola which showed the locations of all the bike hire centres, as well as the riding boundaries. The options were quite spread out and I managed to find one in less than 10 minutes from the city centre.

As I set off I found that this “hop on, hop off” bike rental scheme wasn’t too popular and noticed that most people were simply walking around the city. This congestion caused by mostly pedestrians made it very difficult to manoeuvre along the paths and I experienced multiple times when I thought a collision could have easily occurred.

With a massive amount of tourists flooding the city every day it also becomes hard for them, including me, to know the correct rules and regulations of cycling laws in the city, such as where the non-cycling zones start and end.

Another problem difficult for the council to tackle is the fact that Prague is such a historical city, and many of its pavements and roads are left untouched and unmaintained for years.

This obviously causes points where for people not used to cycling often, it is quite a struggle to stay balanced due to the divots, bumps and uneven ground which also becomes very slippery when rained on.

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There were, however, many parks in the outer city which were perfect for cycling through and extremely enjoyable. The roads in these areas were also quite well maintained with rows of large trees and wide paths alongside the fact it’s much less congested, I’d suggest to visit parks such as Kampa Park.