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JOY FROM THE HEART OF EUROPE Discover the best and the most beautiful from Czechia and the rest of Central Europe: exquisite design, inspirational stories, unknown interiors and hidden gems well worth your visit.
ISSUE THEME: PLENITUDE In this issue we explore what it means to have an abundance of good things, focussing not on material riches, but on what makes our lives truly bountiful â€“ be it old age, leisure time or cultural traditions. SOFFA PARTNERS Our work would not be possible without the support of our partners. Thank you!
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ROMAN BAROCCO COLLECTION | robertocoin.com
THIS ISSUE IS DEDICATED TO
At a time when we must more than ever address unnecessary waste in all aspects of our lives, from food to fashion and everything in between, how do we imagine the idea of plenty? What is abundance in a world concerned with sustainability? The feeling of fulfilment that most people desire can be attained in a number of ways, and in this issue we explore some of them. In the illustrated essay developed in partnership with the organisation Elpida, we honour old age as one of our most valuable assets, one we sadly often overlook. Traditional Czech cuisine, one of our nationâ€™s richest treasures, is presented with the help of quirky images that are sure to tickle your taste buds as well as your fancy. Another national treasure featured in this issue is the blood-red Bohemian garnet, a gemstone sure to make you look pretty and maybe even healthy. If plenitude means leisure and travel in your book, then you will savour our travel story on the Subcarpathian region of south-eastern Poland and our gallery of Europeâ€™s highest peaks. And we must not forget material wealth, presented through gorgeous images of old passbooks, statues, gold and jewels. Finally, in our interviews with renowned economists from the economic research centre CERGE-EI, you will learn how to be prosperous forever.
Editorial The Mystery of Old Town Court
Garden Time Set in Stone
Essay Old’s Cool
Leisure The Art of Relaxing
Trends Therapy for Your Senses
Designblok 2018 Let’s Celebrate!
Science In the House of Angels
Utterly Czech Droplets of Blood
Creative People Scaling Europe
Food More Than Dumplings
Travel At the Crossroads
Trends Birth of the Abstract
Decor A Penny Saved
Fashion Young Blood
Investment All That Glitter!
Interview A Matter of Helping
THE MYSTERY OF OLD TOWN COURT I’m very excited to introduce to you Soffa’s project Canapé, which we have prepared with our partners for this year’s Designblok. Canapé will be a one-of-a-kind pop-up in which you can experience the best of design through all your senses: absorbing art, sipping coffee, practicing yoga and taking part in discussions on culture. All of this will be on offer in the distinctive space of the Old Town Court, a cluster of buildings in the heart of old Prague dating back to the fifteenth century. Until recently the Old Town Court was a decaying place full of mystery, an inspiration for a fictitious neighbourhood featured in the Fast Arrows [Rychlé šípy] book series known to every Czech and Slovak. For a period of two weeks, between 25 October and 8 November, this previously enigmatic part of Prague will come alive with design. If you should dare, come and discover the place that inspired Fast Arrows. This year’s Canapé builds on last year’s successful installation of an experiential dining room at Designblok 2017. The project is a testimony to the fact that Czech and international brands can create something extraordinary when driven by a desire and a passion for collective endeavour. Maybe it’s the current positive economic outlook that fuels our optimism, or perhaps it’s a generational thing. As you will have gleaned from the cover, this issue is dedicated to the idea of plenitude. In our interview with Professor Jan Švejnar and other leaders from the economic institute CERGE–EI, you will learn that we have never had it this good. It’s important to appreciate our plenitude, however, to accept it humbly and not to rest on our laurels. The word gratitude runs through my mind often. I am grateful for many things: that I and my loved ones are healthy; that I live in a free land; that I am able to publish my own magazine; that my colleagues are my second family; and that when I finish this editorial I will go for a walk in the woods and pick mushrooms. My list is very long, and for me it represents my personal wealth. Adéla Lipár Kudrnová | editor in chief PS: To indulge you with even more design, we have included a Czech Design Map in this issue. Use it to find all the exciting design shops and showrooms in Prague, including places where you can purchase your Soffa magazine.
1 . Designed by George Nelson/ Charles Pollock (1957), the Popsicle clock is made from long pieces of walnut wood that make you yearn for an icy pop, €690. www.vitra.com 2 . The asymmetrical Dior Tribales Astre Lunaire earrings are made from aged metal in gold-tone finish and a white resin bead, price at your local retailer. www.dior.com 3 . In scent No. 5 Frénésie Eau de Parfum, a mist of osmanthus combined with other floral notes adds lightness to a rich loam of earthy wood. www.thomaskosmala.com 4 . All good things come in small packages. Small Pleasures, a book by The School of Life, encourages you to appreciate the simple things in life, €20. www.lagomdesign.co.uk 5 . Giddy-up with the Carré pocket case in printed Swift calfskin from the new Hermès collection, €755. www.hermes.com 6 . A hint of fantasy, a sensual curve and a perfect poise – relax in style in the Stardust armchair designed by Rive Gauche, Sé. www.se-collections.com 7 . Do something mindfully for 15 minutes every day with the help of this 15 Minutes Timer, The School of Life, €29. www.lagomdesign.co.uk 8 . Be the talk of town in radiant shoes made from leather and sporty knit, Prada Resort 2019 collection, price at your local retailer. www.prada.com 9 . The striking Eos table with a cantilevered tabletop evokes the sun rising over the horizon, Sé. www.se-collections.com 10 . Create your own tabletop sculptures with the stackable and reconfigurable Rock Candle Holders, €170/set of two. www.tomdixon.net
text: Helena Stiessová photo: Lina Németh
TIME SET IN STONE
IN CENTRAL PRAGUE, WITHIN SIGHT OF THE MASSIVE NUSLE BRIDGE AND IN EARSHOT OF THE TRAINS RUNNING BETWEEN SMÍCHOV AND PRAGUE’S MAIN RAILWAY STATIONS, LIES A HIDDEN GARDEN FILLED WITH ART. ITS LUSH RECESSES ABOUND WITH FAUNS, LIONS AND KNIGHTS OBSERVING THE CHANGE OF THE SEASONS WITH THEIR SILENT GAZE. LITTLE STOOD IN THE WAY OF THE GARDEN BEING COMPLETELY LOST A HALF A CENTURY AGO, IN SPITE OF THE FACT THAT IN ITS HEYDAY IT WAS A PROMINENT SCULPTURE STUDIO CREATING MANY LARGE-SCALE WORKS OF ART FOR PRAGUE AND BEYOND. THE FOUNDER AND ‘FATHER’ OF THE GARDEN WAS THE ART NOUVEAU SCULPTOR KAREL NOVÁK.
Time Set in Stone
Karel Novák purchased the Nusle valley property below Vyšehrad Castle in 1924. In the same year he built on the site a large sculpture studio with adjoining workshops to which he moved his already prosperous company making ornamental and figurative sculptural works. By this time Novák had already completed a number of projects involving stucco and sculptural decoration for new buildings in Prague and other cities. His portfolio included collaboration on Prague’s most important building of the era: the magnificent Municipal House, which opened in 1912. Municipal House bears Novák’s signature in the ornamentation of the famous Smetana Hall and on the building’s facade, where the sculptor installed two massive torchbearers and a remarkable collection of mascarons. After establishing his Nusle studio, Novák began to specialise in creating larger-than-life statues. He was one of the first in Czechia to use the pantograph, a simple instrument for making precise enlargements – or reductions – of drawings and sculptures. Novák had a team of exceptional collaborators including sculptors, relief artists and highly skilled craftsmen who delivered quality renditions of works of art by prominent Czech artists as well as their own creations. It was at Novák’s studio that craftsmen created a papier mâché model of Ladislav Šaloun’s Jan Hus Monument and then walked with it all over Old Town Square to find the most suitable location. The studio also created the majestic statue of the Slavic god Radegast designed by the sculptor Albín Polášek. Many of the studio’s works are no longer to be found – having been melted down for weapons during the Second World War – but some still adorn various corners of Prague. In addition to the imprint left on Municipal House, there is the statue Vltava near Legion Bridge, designed by J. V. Pekárek. Another aspect of the studio’s portfolio was ornamentation work on church buildings, including stucco, relief and figurative decoration as well as restoration and renovation, both in and outside the former Czechoslovakia. The studio managed to do well even during the war years, but the onset of communism signalled its demise. After the communist takeover the garden and its workshops were used for some time by the Bratři v triku [Brothers in T-shirts] animation studio. And then, in the 1960s, art had to submit to the plans for the construction of Nusle Bridge, and the Novák studio statues became the building material for a brighter tomorrow. The latest chapter in the story of the artistic garden began after the Velvet Revolution, when the current owner Vojtěch Haluza bought it from the surviving heirs in an advanced stage of ruin. Nearly three decades of painstaking effort have returned life to Novák’s stone garden, hidden like a treasure under the playful shadows cast by the trees. The garden’s future appears written in the stars that arch over Nusle Bridge at night. May it be a bright future, as bright as the starry skies above. ■
Time Set in Stone
A visit to the garden can be arranged with the owner. Contact details can be found on the gardenâ€™s dedicated website: www.umeleckazahrada.cz .
ve spolupráci / in cooperation Réunion des musées nationaux – Grand Palais, Centre Pompidou Ateneum Art Museum – Finnish National Gallery
Valdštejnská jízdárna Waldstein Riding School 7·9·2018–20·1·2019
Diagonální roviny, 1931, olej, plátno, 90 × 110 cm, Národní galerie Praha Diagonal Planes, 1931, oil, canvas, 90 × 110 cm, National Gallery Prague
Ve spolupráci In cooperation
Generální partner General partner
Pod záštitou Under the auspices
Za podpory Supported by
Generální mediální partner General media partner
partner for the article: Elpida text: Jiří Hrabě illustration: Lucy Jones
WHEN YOU SEARCH FOR THE PHRASE ‘OLD AGE’ ON THE INTERNET, YOU ARE MORE LIKELY TO FIND INFORMATION ABOUT AGEING PLANETS, DOGS AND TYRES BEFORE YOU GET TO AGEING AS IT RELATES TO US HUMANS. YET AGE, OR RATHER ‘OLD AGE’, USED TO BE GREATLY DESIRED IN PAST GENERATIONS. THEN WE LEARNT HOW TO LIVE HEALTHIER AND LONGER LIVES, AND A PROBLEM ENSUED IN OUR PERCEPTION OF AGEING. JOIN JIŘÍ HRABĚ, THE DIRECTOR OF THE NOT-FOR-PROFIT ELPIDA AND EDITOR-IN-CHIEF OF THE VITAL MAGAZINE, IN EXPLORING THE VALUE OF OLD AGE.
We value old things. Classic cars, paintings, bottles of wine, historical artefacts, museum specimens of extinct species, you name it. These treasures ‘grab’ us – we desire them, are curious about them, willingly stand in long queues to see them. They are exceptional and rare, and we believe that their uniqueness will rub off on us if we see them or simply approach from a distance. But we don’t approach old people in this way. Not often do we appreciate their individuality, etched in every human story like a footprint in the sand. Maybe it’s because there are more and more seniors everywhere. Europe is ageing, and in the Czech Republic alone some 60,000 people retire each year. A looming apocalypse? On the contrary – a limitless opportunity. In 2016 Lynda Gratton and Andrew Scott published the book The 100-Year Life: Living and Working in an Age of Longevity. In the book the authors explore how our ageing population will effect various generations. They write, for example, how in 1880 in the United States there were more octogenarians engaged in some kind of work than those who were not. The same will happen, they argue, when in a few years’ time it will become common for people to live to the age of one hundred. If you are sixty today don’t worry, you won’t be affected. But today’s forty-somethings will be. And that is why the way we approach ageing should be very much at the forefront of our thinking, so that we may influence the future world of our old age. There is no shortage of inspiration to draw from. East Asia has a rich experience of dealing with the demographic situation currently facing Europe. In Japan, the fastest ageing country in the world, issues relating to an ageing population emerged already two decades ago. And so in Toyama, a city of some 400,000 inhabitants located on the island of Honshu, city leaders came up with a solution for making public space more accessible for senior residents, and ultimately for everyone. The city had been growing and expanding, with more and more cars on the streets. Many seniors lived in the outer suburbs and were dependent on family members with a car, as insufficient public transport services made it difficult for them to travel to the city centre. And so many stayed at home. City leaders of the day embraced the idea of accessibility and decided to rebuild the city from scratch. They came to understand that older yet active residents were valuable for the city and a key for making Toyama
a liveable place for all. First they zeroed in on public transport: they renovated the railway system, introduced low-floor carriages, built a new network of accessible stations and improved old ones. Seniors welcomed the change with open arms – the city was no longer an unreachable mirage but a real destination they could access easily and quickly. Indeed, in public opinion polls seniors specifically stated that the improved transport system had significantly improved the quality of their lives. It gave them new opportunities for getting out, not only for shopping, but for engaging in activities outside their homes. Public transport was just the first step. Next came the creation of spaces within the city where seniors could gather and join in cultural events. A whole range of these have already been created and 70 more are planned. Free entry is par for the course and grandchildren frequently join their grandparents. According to research, intergenerational relationships are key for emotional and physical wellbeing of seniors, as is physical activity. And so in Toyama they have also built senior-friendly fitness centres, swimming pools and saunas. Buses take seniors from all across Toyama to one of these fitness destinations – all supported by the city. Another important component was the creation of more relaxation and resting zones within the available public space. And City Hall went even a bit further. By providing subsidised housing opportunities, city leaders encouraged seniors to return to the city. Today many retirees live in the centre of Toyama and they have given up their driving licenses in exchange for a financial reward. They rely on public transport and spend their free time in the city or in one of its many community centres. For its visionary approach towards an ageing demographic, Toyama was named a FutureCity in 2011 and today is promoted by the UN as a shining example of inclusivity. Czechia is lagging far behind. When in March of this year I presented at a local conference on connected cities, I asked the audience of some two hundred town and city leaders whether they were prepared for the ageing of their residents. ‘Do you have a plan that’s more than just a piece of paper?’ I asked. One person raised a hand. Yet developing a plan for such
a change and putting the plan into practice can take a number of decades. In the meantime we all age. In 2050 there will be nearly three million seniors in the Czech Republic. Three decades remain until we meet this demographic milestone, three decades that should not be wasted. At the not-for-profit Elpida we support seniors in becoming conspicuous, respected and self-confident members of contemporary society. We tackle taboo topics, teach seniors to work with new technologies, organise the intergenerational festival Old’s Cool, publish the most widely read local magazine for seniors, and provide work for avid knitters with Ponožky od babičky [Grandmother’s Socks] made from donated wool. An ageing population is really a great opportunity – for the state, cities, the private sector and society as a whole. If we grab it, we will create a naturally functioning mechanism that will be helpful to everyone. And only then will we be wealthy. Believe it or not The more information we have, the more difficult it is to make sense of it all. How to manage life in a media-saturated world? What to believe? Seniors are vulnerable to misinformation and pressures exerted by the media – they are often targets of media manipulation and fall victim to pessimism brought on by negative news and conspiracy theories. Elpida has been working extensively to combat this issue. In autumn we will launch a year-round programme of media literacy for seniors, to be kicked off by a Czech-Slovak tour of discussions about media and trust in the twenty-first century. The tour will be a part of the Old’s Cool festival and involve a number of key personalities from Czech and Slovak media. Elpida Elpida means hope in Greek. It is also the name of an organisation that helps seniors in Czechia become confident members of contemporary society. In the spirit of the motto ‘Old’s Cool’, Elpida is changing people’s perception of old age and helping seniors live happy and fulfilling lives. The organisation runs an education and cultural centre and a crisis helpline, publishes the Vital magazine, organises the Old’s Cool intergenerational festival, and promotes the Ponožky od babičky [Grandmother’s Socks] label. ■
partner for the article: USSPA text and styling: Patrik Florián photo: Adéla Havelková model: Andrea Eva Benýšková / Elite Model Management make-up: Jana Dědková
THE ART OF RELAXING IN OUR MODERN ERA, TIME FOR ONESELF IS A HIGHLY PRIZED AND DIFFICULT TO ATTAIN COMMODITY. OFTEN, THE MOST PRODUCTIVE THING TO DO IS NOTHING. BE INSPIRED BY RELAXATION RITUALS THAT WILL BRING HARMONY INTO YOUR LIFE AND REJUVENATE YOUR NEGLECTED BODY AND OVERWORKED MIND.
The Art of Relaxing
THIS PAGE: swimming costume, www.plove.cz | earrings, www.zorya.eu
Designed by USSPAâ€™s lead designer Petr Slanina together with Filip Streit from Divan Design, the Privat line of personal spas combines clean lines, ergonomics and many practical features. The LyraiN model won the Red Dot 2016 and Good Design awards.
LEFT: swimming costume, www.plove.cz The energy saving mode on smart spas and swimming pools runs automatically. Thanks to the SmartApp application you can adjust your home spa even from the other side of the world.
John Steinbeck once wrote that the art of relaxing is part of the art of working. Or, as another wise person said, you can’t do a good job if your job is all you do. If you feel you could do more in the area of self-care, try reading motivational literature, hiring a relaxation coach or installing a meditation app on your smartphone. None of these will do you any good, however, until you prioritise your physical and emotional wellbeing above unanswered emails or that coveted work promotion. If you are caught in a never-ending vortex of activity, slow down, begin with baby steps and take advantage of every opportunity. Make waiting time – whether for a meeting, for a bus or in a traffic jam – a time for yourself: read, listen to a podcast, contemplate, meditate. Make time for lunch and turn off all notifications, conversing instead with friends or colleagues. Combine things that are pleasant with those that are useful: invite friends for a proper breakfast, a sport activity, or a visit to a farmer’s market. And if you still find it difficult to make time for yourself, then plan ahead – buy a plane ticket for a long weekend away, get tickets to the cinema, or book yourself for a massage. And keep the appointment, just as you would an important work meeting. A key word to incorporate into your relaxation vocabulary is ‘wellness’, the state of good health in both mind and body. One of the contributors to wellness is hydrotherapy, the benefits of which were known to the ancient Romans. Regular baths can relax, promote immunity, regenerate, release endorphins and guard against everyday stress. An expert in the manufacturing of spas and spa accessories is the Czech family company USSPA. During its 23-year history, the company has introduced a whole range of innovations and technologies for which it has earned more than a few prestigious awards. All products are made according to Czech design in the company’s factory in Dolní Dobrouč, where not one piece of material goes to waste. How is that possible? Directed by the designer Vojtěch Podlesný, waste is transformed into designer toys under the label ReLife. Interested in trying out hot water therapy on your own skin? Pack your swimming costume and head to one of the company’s showrooms. And when should you find the time? Remember that the ideal time to relax is precisely when you have no time! ■
The thermal ‘swim spa’ pools provide sufficient space to stretch your body and to relax in warm water year-round. The swim spas are equipped with counter-current, hydrotherapy jets, handles for exercise, a stopwatch and an anti-slip surface.
THIS PAGE: bathing cap, design Anna MareĹĄkovĂĄ, www.annamareskova.com
The patented automatic thermal cover ACSÂŽ covers a five-meter pool in two minutes with the simple push of a button. The smart solution contributes to low energy consumption during year-round use.
THIS PAGE: towel, float, bat and ball, all www.palmadealma.com | sandals, www.plove.cz
INHALE, EXHALE THERAPY FOR YOUR SENSES DISCOVERING NEW RELAXATION RITUALS CALLS FOR A FEW ESSENTIALS. INDULGE YOUR BODY, SPIRIT AND TASTE BUDS WITH A TREAT FROM OUR SELECTION OF RELAXATION AIDS.
1 · In Praise of Shadows, book, Jun’ichirō Tanizaki, from $6.96 | 2 · Seem soap Vertige N°1, www.seemsoap.fr, €30 | 3 · Sauna mat Koivu, www.terve.cz, €50 | 4 · Rosemary white chocolate Nesmrtelnost, www.rozbijimse.com, from €5,70 | 5 · Age-repair sleep masque, www.grownalchemist.com, €65 | 6 · Scented candle Diptyque Verveine, www.ingredients-store.cz, €51 | 7 · Soap, www.tamanohada.co.jp, $45 text and selection: Patrik Florián
Your life, your choices.
partners for the article: H.R.G. Printing, Papyrus, Designblok text: Adéla Lipár Kudrnová illustrations: Rony Plesl, Janja Prokić, Michal Bačák
DESIGNBLOK, PRAGUE’S SHOWCASE OF INTERNATIONAL AND CZECH DESIGN, WILL BE HELD THIS YEAR ON 25–29 OCTOBER. AND BECAUSE 28 OCTOBER MARKS ONE HUNDRED YEARS SINCE THE FOUNDING OF CZECHOSLOVAKIA, DESIGNBLOK AND SOFFA ARE GETTING READY TO CELEBRATE! IN THIS SPIRIT WE APPROACHED THREE BIG NAMES IN CZECH DESIGN – JEWELLERY MAKER JANJA PROKIĆ, DESIGNER RONY PLESL AND ILLUSTRATOR MICHAL BAČÁK – AND ASKED THEM TO CREATE SPECIAL ‘CZECHOSLOVAK’ MOTIFS FOR THE OCCASION. THANKS TO THE PAPER MANUFACTURER PAPYRUS AND H.R.G. PRINTING, YOU WILL BE ABLE TO PRINT THESE MOTIFS AT SOFFA’S DESIGNBLOK EXHIBITION SPACE. WHAT’S MORE, YOU’LL GET TO PRINT THEM ON 100-YEAR-OLD PRINTING MACHINES!
NázevCelebrate! Let’s článku
ONE OF THE MOST RENOWNED GLASS DESIGNERS IN CZECHIA, RONY PLESL IS THE ART DIRECTOR AT RÜCKL GLASSWORKS AND THE HEAD OF GLASS STUDIO AT THE ACADEMY OF ARTS, ARCHITECTURE AND DESIGN (UMPRUM). At Designblok Rony will introduce his latest collection of objects called Fire walk with me. ‘Design must be pleasing, but art should make an impact at the visceral level,’ states Rony. ‘This idea has stuck with me over the past few years and was the theme of a recent lecture. The objects I am introducing at this year’s Designblok are groundbreaking for me in many ways. Although some can be used as decorative bowls, their use and aesthetic are completely secondary to my own images, which I perceive while reading or watching films. The molten sculpture technique with which these objects were made is quite distinctive, and together with the Bolety label I am showing it publicly for the very first time. The complexity of the molten glass forms, their purity and their dimensions make the objects truly unique. I consider the entire installation as one grand sketch for other similar objects and projects in the future. I enjoy them for their exuberance, freedom and technological possibilities.’
When you look back at the hundred-year history of our nation, what designer, work of art, structure or object of applied art has inspired you the most? Definitely Josip Plečnik. Although he was not Czech, his work in architecture contributed greatly to the Czech nation and its dignity. His work is timeless, including in its individual details. Pure genius.
BOHEMIAN SKY Cutting lead crystal is a craft technique we have gifted to the world. In the Baroque era our lead crystal was more renowned than Venetian glass, and to this day we are considered a glass cutting superpower, with the craftsmanship of Czech cutters unsurpassed. I have given the name Bohemian Sky to the collection of crystal glass I have designed for RĂźckl glassworks: Bohemian Sky full of sparkling stars, so very typical of Czech crystal. Bohemian Sky dotted with famous names from the worlds of music, film and visual art. Bohemian Sky blanketing our beautiful Czech land.
OUR LINDEN TREE The linden tree is our national symbol. Sometimes a know-it-all beetle by the name Brouk Pytlík* finds its way onto a leaf – could it be representing our national character? *Brouk [beetle] Pytlík is a famous children’s book character. Given his propensity to boast, the name Brouk Pytlík is often used in tongue-in-cheek fashion for people who behave as if they know everything.
Designblok Název článku 2018
MICHAL BAČÁK WINNER OF A CZECH GRAND DESIGN AWARD, MICHAL BAČÁK IS ONE OF OUR MOST EXPRESSIVE ILLUSTRATORS. HIS ILLUSTRATIONS ARE FULL OF HUMOUR AND GRACE MANY BOOKS, MAGAZINES, WALLPAPERS AND PORCELAIN.
At October’s Designblok you will see Michal Bačák’s work featured in several exhibition spaces, often belonging to his friends. An example is wallpaper created for a collection of lights created by Studio Dechem.
When you look back at the hundred-year history of our nation, what designer, work of art, structure or object of applied art has inspired you the most? I could list many illustrators, visual artists and other artists. But for thirty years I looked out at the copper tower of the New Town Hall in Ostrava built by the architects František Kolář, Jan Rubý, Vladimír Fischer and Karel Kotas. I lived across from it in a house that was also built by one of the architects, and we used its dial to adjust the time on our kitchen clock. That green beacon is Ostrava’s gem, and from the top you get a great view of the whole of north-eastern Moravia and Czech Silesia.
NázevCelebrate! Let’s článku
JANJA PROKIĆ WAS BORN IN SERBIA’S CAPITAL BELGRADE, BUT SINCE THE AGE OF NINE SHE HAS BEEN LIVING IN PRAGUE. A GRADUATE OF PRAGUE’S ACADEMY OF FINE ARTS, JANJA IS ONE OF THE MOST DISTINCTIVE JEWELLERY MAKERS WORKING IN CZECHIA TODAY.
For this year’s Designblok Janja has created a jewellery collection named Homa. Inspired by birds of paradise, the collection comprises jewellery pieces that serve as objects of personal protection. Birds of paradise are endemic to New Guinea and are endowed with a very particular type of feathers. Males perform an extraordinary courtship display including spectacular vocal and body moves. The main motif in the collection is a feather as a representation of divine protection and an eye as a protection against evil spirits. As part of the collection the designer has also created a full-feather glove.
When you look back at the hundred-year history of our nation, what designer, work of art, structure or object of applied art has inspired you the most? I love Josip Plečnik’s door handles in Prague Castle gardens, and also his Church of the Most Sacred Heart of Our Lord in Jiřího z Poděbrad Square, where I go quite often.
THROWN GLOVE When I thought about what I most like about the First Republic era, and what I most miss in modern times, I decided it was style. And by style I mean not only style in fashion and presentation, but also style in our behaviour. Gloves were a key part of women’s and men’s fashions during the First Republic, and to me they are a potent symbol. Taking off one’s glove before shaking hands symbolises pure intentions. I consider my illustration as a kind of challenge to our generation: What will we do with our elegant history? Will we be able to emulate it at least in some way?
IN THE HOUSE OF ANGELS FOR ALMOST 130 YEARS, INSTITUTIONS WORKING IN THE FIELDS OF ECONOMICS AND FINANCE HAVE BEEN HOUSED IN THE NEO-RENAISSANCE SCHEBEK PALACE IN PRAGUE’S NEW TOWN, A MAGNIFICENT BUILDING ALSO KNOWN AS THE HOUSE OF ANGELS. FROM 1890 IT WAS THE HOME OF VARIOUS BANKS, THE NAMES OF WHICH CHANGED WITH THE TIMES, AND TODAY IT IS THE BASE OF CERGE-EI, A JOINT ENDEAVOUR OF CHARLES UNIVERSITY AND THE ECONOMICS INSTITUTE AT THE CZECH ACADEMY OF SCIENCES. SOFFA SPOKE WITH THREE PROMINENT REPRESENTATIVES OF THE INSTITUTE ABOUT THEIR NOTIONS OF PROSPERITY. YOU MAY BE SURPRISED, BUT MONEY ISN’T ALWAYS IN THE FIRST PLACE.
text: Petr Ludwig, Jan Lukačevič and Adéla Lipár Kudrnová in collaboration with CERGE-EI photo: Ondřej Lipár
In the House of Angels
The Center for Economic Research and Graduate Education–Economics Institute (CERGE–EI) is a joint endeavour of Charles University and the Economics Institute of Czech Academy of Sciences. It was founded shortly after the Velvet Revolution by Josef Zieleniec from the Czech Academy of Sciences, later a minister in the Czech government, and the Czech émigré Jan Švejnar, then a professor at the University of Pittsburgh. The two economists had a vision for a world-class economic institute that would serve the entire transition region of Central and Eastern Europe. In September 1991, CERGE-EI enrolled its first group of 12 students from seven transition countries. A quarter century later, more than 500 graduates are working in dynamic and influential positions in more than 30 countries around the world. Through the Teaching Fellows Program, which was designed to promote Western-style economics education in the transition economies of Central and Eastern Europe, CERGE-EI has also educated over 120,000 students in 2,200 courses taught at 160 higher learning institutions in 25 countries. Successful CERGE-EI alumni work in academia, international organisations, central banks and the private sector. One of them is Michaela Erbenova, the first Czech woman to serve on the International Monetary Fund’s Executive Board. Today, CERGE-EI is recognised as a centre of excellence in economic research and training. The Social Science Research Network and Research Papers in Economics rank CERGE-EI in the top 5 per cent of research institutions in the world. International faculty members publish in the world’s leading economic journals, including the American Economic Review and Econometrica. Academic excellence is overseen by a board of overseers, consisting of renowned economists including Philippe Aghion (Harvard University), Lucretzia Reichlin (London Business School) and Nobel laureates Christopher Sims (Princeton University) and Joseph Stiglitz (Columbia University). Students at the institute study in two graduate programmes, both of which are taught in English: a flagship PhD programme in economics and a oneyear Master’s programme in applied economics. In addition, CERGE-EI runs projects that enable other students in Prague to experience the institute’s premium-level education. The Economics Discovery Hub is a free educational platform offering high-quality courses and workshops in data science and soft skill development, and is available regardless of a student’s field of study. In addition, the recently launched Mentoring Program for Women Researchers supports women in science to pursue their research careers. In addition to its global outreach, CERGE-EI has a strong local impact. The institute runs the policy-oriented think tank Institute for Democracy & Economic Analysis (IDEA), through which it examines important policy issues and raises their impact among policy and opinion makers in the Czech Republic. ■
JAN ŠVEJNAR Internationally esteemed economist and professor of international relations at Colombia University in New York, Jan Švejnar focuses in his work on development and labour economics and on transformation strategies. The Prague native became a US citizen in 1981. In 1991, following the fall of communism, he cofounded the Center for Economic Research and Graduate Education at Charles University (CERGE) and in 1992 the Economic Institute (EI) at the Czech Academy of Sciences. Today the two institutions come together under the umbrella of CERGE-EI and include the independent think tank IDEA (Institute for Democracy and Economic Analysis), which Jan Švejnar directs. This interview with Professor Švejnar was led by Petr Ludwig, a consultant, writer and publicist whose life passion is to end procrastination.
Professor Švejnar, you have access to economic data from all around the world. How are we doing? Globally we are doing exceedingly well in comparison to the past. But unfortunately, millions of children are still dying from poverty and preventable diseases. So on a global measure we are doing well, but we continue to face many great challenges and problems. When thinking about the situation in the Czech Republic, we are doing much better than we did in the past, but it’s important that we compare against something relative, not simply the past. Before the Second World War and immediately after we were essentially on the same level as Austria and Germany – in some ways even better. And now, according to indicators like average wage, we are at about a third or half of their level, which is not a great result thirty years after the Velvet Revolution.
Czech Republic is among the top ten safest countries in the world. USA lags a bit behind. This is something we should appreciate. Of course. Culturally we are a very rich land, and as you say, probably also safer, though I must say that America, especially New York – as a city that used to have unsafe areas – has really improved in this regard. You really do feel safer there now than before. It used to be that people would avoid Harlem, yet today they flock there for culture and to buy or rent properties. So in terms of safety, the difference is not as big as it used to be.
What has moved in the positive direction in the Czech Republic? I think that people are happy for the freedom they have to do what they want – in general there are no limits. Before the Velvet Revolution we were a land with many restrictions, but now we have a situation where everyone can do pretty much what he or she wants. People do say, however, that they would like to be better off, and as economists we can see that the standard of living is not the same here as elsewhere. Naturally we would like it to be.
What is your thinking on the growing class divide? This is a phenomenon of the past few decades, in which we have seen society all over the world crystallising into classes on opposite ends of the earnings scale: suddenly there are very wealthy people, who are becoming ever more wealthier, while the lower middle class is experiencing greater hardships because their earnings are not increasing – or if they are, increasing at a very slow rate. On a global scale the level of poverty has decreased significantly, but this is mainly due to improvements in China where hundreds of millions of people have moved from poverty to middle class. On a global level that is a great success, but if you are not living in China or a few other countries where this shift applies, then you are not experiencing this improvement, quite the contrary.
You live part of the year in the United States, so you have a broader view of the situation here than many others. What do you think is better in the Czech Republic in comparison to USA? Czech society looks after pretty much everyone, it has a far better social system, one that we have in great part adapted from greater Europe. That’s where I see the key difference with the US. Anyone can go abroad, give it a go there, return back home, and derive all the benefits that flow from this kind of openness. One area that is worse here – especially for young people – is the excessive regulation of all aspects of business, including greater barriers for startups.
I’d like to return to the comparison of Czechia vs. abroad. In what areas could or should Czech society improve? The key area is the quality of our education system and linked to that, the quality of research, innovation and their application in economic life. I say this because unlike Norway, for example, we don’t have many natural resources and can’t rely on oil and gas for our wealth. In the past we succeeded thanks to human capital, which equates to education. And education – more specifically high-quality education – will determine whether we will succeed in the future. Worldwide the entire economic system places great emphasis on excellence. Over the past three decades we’ve
In the House of Angels
True personal satisfaction is achieved when you help others and they are better off as a result. made great strides in increasing the numbers of young people studying at university, but we have not paid attention to quality. When you look at international rankings of educational institutions, our universities are not among the top 300, often not even the top 400 institutions. And so we are not endowing our young people with what they need to effectively compete. Education in Asia is starting to overshadow old Europe. How can we face Asian competition? Face the challenge head on and work really hard to make sure that we are as good or even better. Our education system is not considered top notch in great part because we have not exposed it to global competition in the same way we have exposed our industry, agriculture or business services. I think that exposing our education would help us raise our standards and focus on quality in education, science and research, which is what is needed. Can you now think of any specific leverage points that could be engaged to see improvement? When you look at top-level universities and research institutions, you see that they have great freedom in research and exploration, and they are also led by savvy managers. These require high-level results, which means publication in top academic journals. Universities compete for the best students, and if the education on offer is not the best, students go
elsewhere. The education sector is one of the most competitive in the world: there are thousands of universities, most of them teach in English, todayâ€™s lingua franca, and students are admitted regardless of their nationality. So itâ€™s a very open, very competitive system. So we need to improve Czech society through better education. What else? Place emphasis on infrastructure and invest in it effectively, so that we can transport ourselves, other people, goods and services in the most efficient way possible. We are located centrally in Europe, which is excellent, and we should take advantage of this position and become truly accessible. One of our political parties has made the claim that we are a skilled nation led by fools. What political or executive measures are necessary to improve education and infrastructure? There are a couple of factors at play here. In our country the most talented individuals are generally not willing to work in government or to go into politics. This is different from more mature democracies like Great Britain, France or the United States, where people are prepared from an early age for the possibility of entering public service. Many of their best students from top universities move in this direction â€“ they are sophisticated in their presentation and their engagement in the public sector is viewed positively.
Our young democracy has not made it that far yet. Another factor is that voters in Czechia are willing to give their votes to completely new political parties and movements, because they view traditional parties as corrupt and incompetent. As a result, those who lead our country have not managed in thirty years to modernise our infrastructure or elevate our universities. And so we have Chinese universities that used to be worse than ours surpassing us in quality rankings. Where do you see meaning in your work, and what values shape your life? My values were shaped by what was instilled in me by my parents in Czechoslovakia of the 1950s and 1960s. When in 1968 I realised that my government and its leaders were not telling the truth, and that they were persecuting honourable individuals, I began to follow an ethical puritanism. I hoped that I myself would never have to be subjugated to such unethical way of being, and that I would not be part of anything similar. And when by chance I began to study in the US at top universities, I embraced American idealism. Afterwards I focused on trying to excel in my field and being useful to society. When the Velvet Revolution came, I decided to return to Czechoslovakia and work towards ensuring that what we were building would come close to the ideals of the First Republic – with an emphasis on fairness and ethics. I wanted to contribute to a society in which everyone, inasmuch as possible, would have the same opportunities in life. And because I am an economist, I’m also trying to raise our quality of life – not only financially, but in general terms. That is why together with Josef Zieleniec and other colleagues I cofounded CERGE and the Economic Institute at the Czech Academy of Sciences. And because we founded CERGE with the goal of serving the whole former Soviet Bloc as well as former Yugoslavia and Albania, we
are now educating people who are becoming important players within the greater region. So your motivation was partly altruistic? To give something back to Czechoslovakia? Yes, exactly, and once again, altruism is a value with which people in the US or the UK grow up. It’s important that we also instil it in our people, that we help them understand its significance. Of course it is necessary to focus on oneself and one’s success, but part of living in modern society – in the way Western civilisation understands it – is about altruism and philanthropy. Should ethics be taught at schools? Definitely! Ethics is taught in all the better business schools around the world. University educators have long ago realised that students who will someday lead small and large businesses will also carry a lot of responsibility. In Czechia a young person can get a degree at just about any school without ever being challenged by critical thinking or ethics … Critical thinking is extremely important, especially now, where countless individuals and institutions are trying to influence general thinking. To be able to discern what is true and what is not true is more important today than ever before. In closure, can you share with us the most important thing you have learnt in your life? I think it’s the importance of combining ethical living, which for me is the foundation, with one’s personal quest for success. It’s about realising the importance of caring not only for yourself and your family, but having a broader understanding of what is fair and needed in society. True personal satisfaction is achieved when you help others and they are better off as a result. This increases your own wellbeing and with it your own prosperity.
SUSAN WALTON London-based Susan Walton is a member of the CERGE-EI Board of Directors. She is a senior finance and media executive with more than 20 years experience in global top-tier investment banks and most recently the founder and former executive chair of CapX, a successful digital media channel. Born and raised in the US state of Ohio, Susan was educated at Harvard University and studied at London Business School and University College London. She has Slovak roots on her mother’s side of the family. This interview with Susan Walton was led by Adéla Kudrnová, editor in chief and an owner of Soffa magazine, and a champion of women’s entrepreneurship.
Do you have a special connection to this part of the world? Absolutely. I think that was part of the attraction for joining the CERGE-EI board. They say it’s in your DNA, that your DNA has a cultural memory, and I just felt like I belonged here. Before joining CERGE, I studied Czech at University College London. This was in the days when you could not visit Czechoslovakia easily and we had very basic tools for studying the language – like poor quality cassettes of Václav Havel’s speeches. So do you understand the language a bit? I would say that if I spent a bit more time here, it would come more easily. As a child I could understand my grandparents and I could speak a bit, but that was baby talk. Now it’s more difficult. How did you come to CERGE? The previous chairman of the US foundation that supports CERGE lives in London. We knew each other through our work and he discovered that I had studied Czech. He got excited about the connection, introduced me to CERGE and the rest is history. That was almost nine years ago, and I have been coming to Prague frequently ever since. What is your role at the institute? I work on several levels. I’m on the board of a US foundation that raises funds for CERGE from US donors, so I help with fundraising there and also here. I also support events – talks, presentations, seminars – through my networks in banking, finance, economics and the Czechoslovak community in London. I suppose that my biggest impact at CERGE has been my promotion of something that one would consider more of a social matter. When I arrived here I saw that CERGE did not offer its graduates an end-of-programme gala like they do in the US or the UK. So I made a suggestion for this to change but at first it was difficult to get people on board. Economically things were different and people felt that a gala would be a big waste of money, that it was not relevant or necessary in the local context. So I wrote a paper for the institute, explaining the value of a gala event at a postgraduate institution, the kind of ‘soft power’ it would generate
and how the funding would work. The gala event is now seven years old, and I no longer have to do any planning – the students arrange it all. Last year the theme was Phantom of the Opera, and the year before it was the First Republic. That was my favourite … people dressed in 1920s fashions, very glamorous. I must admit that when I started this I couldn’t have imagined what a big impact the gala would make on the school. Now we raise money through the event and students have the opportunity to network and establish important business relationships. You have been coming to Prague regularly for a number of years. What are the biggest changes you have seen since your first visit? Since 2006 I’ve been coming six times per year, sometimes more. I feel that the last three years have been a big turning point in terms of change. I see wonderful small restaurants popping up, different kinds of food on offer, people caring about where their food comes from. There are also many young people opening up small businesses. I think this new energy is thanks to the fact that young people have no memory of the Velvet Revolution or the time before. There is no hangover about being watched by the state, or worries that if I raise myself up, if I do something big, it will be taken away from me. What differences do you see between younger and older generations of Czechs? Although young people may identify by their nationality – Czech, Slovak, Polish – I believe they also see themselves as European. Even if they do not articulate it this way, they act like it. They can travel easily and cheaply, they can choose to work in the Czech Republic, or they can go to Vienna or Warsaw. The older generation does not share this sentiment, I think, at least not en masse. In his interview, Professor Švejnar spoke about the importance of improving the Czech education system so that it becomes more competitive globally. What do you think about Czech education? What needs to change? I’ve met a very impressive young man at CERGE – Jan Straka – who
In the House of Angels
founded a wonderful programme that aims to improve the Czech education system through teacher education. The programme is called Teach Live (www.ucitelnazivo.cz) and trains future teachers for upper primary and secondary schools. The Teach Live team is brilliant and reflects the new, young, entrepreneurial and socially minded culture that is changing Czech society. I’m very excited about the initiative and have become involved on its board. The interesting thing for me is that I came here to support higher education but in my support of the Teach Live initiative I’ve come to appreciate the importance of starting with much younger students and doing it here, rather than abroad. When Czechs go abroad they do incredibly well, but often they don’t return. We want talented and skilled people to stay in the region and ideally in their home country. Obviously it’s great to have experience from abroad, but it is even better to return home and use the experience in a leadership position, at a central bank, or as a policy maker or business leader. We have another exciting programme at CERGE that is aiming to improve education at the tertiary level. The Teaching Fellows programme has been running since 2007 and is supporting young people who have received graduate degrees from western universities and who want to teach economics in their home countries. We train them in teaching techniques and provide active mentoring from our faculty and supplemental income. Jump forward to 2018 and we are working on building a digital library so we can support everyone who has been involved in the programme, because by now our Teaching Fellows have taught over 120,000 students. Very impressive… Yes, it’s a big reach. And with our new digital capability we can provide more support.
Now economics students in Kazakhstan or Ukraine will not only be taught in their language by someone who has been through our programme, but they’ll also have online access to many of our resources. You are also passionate about young women’s education. Yes, I am. I have no children of my own so this is one of my outlets for nurturing. I have been lucky in my life to receive help from many people, and so I want to give back by extending a helping hand to young women. And so this November we are starting a new women’s mentoring programme at CERGE. It’s a brand new initiative in which I have been very much involved. When we talk about young women in business, politics and science, the situation varies from country to country – for example between USA, UK and the Czech Republic. How do you see the situation here in the Czech Republic? In the US and in the UK, people have been thinking about women’s rights issues for a long time and the issues have been supported at the policy level and in law. My experience of the Czech Republic is that people don’t speak about these issues very much – the topic is not discussed extensively. Since the region is less experienced with democracy than Western Europe or the US, people are more focused on just getting on with their studies or work. All of our PhD programmes have always been roughly half female, not because of design – that’s just how it has worked out. Again, I think that’s a reflection of the general attitude within the region. One of the few historical benefits of socialism and communism was that everybody was treated equally, at least in theory. So jobs were available for both men and women. And there was childcare for everyone. On the other hand, sometimes I see here what to me is blatant sexism, yet it’s not seen that way by people locally. In the UK you would never say many of the seem-
We want talented and skilled people to stay in the region and ideally in their home country. ingly innocent sexist comments that are said here. And that kind of thinking undermines progress. You have mentioned childcare in the Czech Republic. In this and in some other areas, we already have a lot of pro-women policies. You are more feminist than you think. Childcare policy is a big positive for this country and for the whole region. In the UK and in the US, accessing affordable childcare is a real challenge. In London, for example, childcare is so expensive that people spend more on it than on their mortgages. The whole system is terribly dysfunctional. Returning to education, do you think that economics is being taught enough worldwide? No, I think it isn’t, though there is now a push in some places, like the UK and the US, to help people understand economics better. Behavioural economics can be helpful in this way, because it’s fun and it helps you understand that economics is actually a form of social science. You can use numbers to model people’s behaviour, which is often irrational, but you try to model for irrationality too. It really is important that people understand the context for behaviour and how it influences economic policy. For example, everybody has to pay taxes – if you understand economics, you understand why that is. There have been a couple of programmes on BBC recently about women in economics, looking into why there are so few women among top research-
ers. Many women study economics but few move into research, because it is a very male dominated field. But thankfully that is also changing. To conclude, I’d like to ask a question about how we can help young creatives. I know many young designers and artists who are very talented but completely lost in basic economic concepts. They don’t know how to go about starting a business, they struggle with taxes, and often this stands in the way of their success. There is a difference between economics as a social science and finance, though they are directly related of course. I think the best thing to offer to your creative friends is a course in basic finance, which should be part and parcel of any curriculum. Basic finance will help them understand how to grow their business, and coupled with some training in marketing, how to build brand value. So we should teach finance, and teach it early? Yes, even starting with children. Little ones already dabble in basic finance when they play shop, and what child doesn’t like to play shopkeeper? We can help them: when the shopkeeper takes money, let’s count it. How much money comes in? How much money goes out? Cash flow is the most important thing for a business owner to manage. Let’s start by teaching our creatives how to manage their cash flow, so that their ideas can thrive.
FILIP MATĚJKA The first Czech economist to win a prestigious European Research Council grant and a 2016 winner of the Czech Neuron Award for Young Scientists, Filip Matějka came to economics via the Charles University Faculty of Mathematics and Physics and a doctorate from the prestigious Princeton University in the United States. Since 2011 he has been a professor at CERGE-EI and is also a member of the institute’s Executive and Supervisory Committee. Filip Matějka was interviewed by Jan Lukačevič, winner of the British Interplanetary Society Award for Best Technical Paper and a member of the Czech Academy of Sciences who is researching the existence of electrical discharge in dust clouds on the surface of Mars.
The limited number of highly talented individuals in our country results in relatively average individuals gaining prominence and receiving a lot of airtime from the media. How do you see this situation? That’s true. Especially in some fields of science people don’t get out a lot, and yet it’s so important! Top-level science is global and it doesn’t really make sense to do it only locally. All findings should be internationally publicised, so when one travels abroad, they would see there are many talented people there, in some areas even more talented. And with that recognition can come improvement. You’ve just spent a year in the US. What were you focusing on there? Actually the same thing I’m doing here – research. I was part of their department, I had an office and did some lecturing, so that students would know about my work. As a result three students at Berkeley have decided to write their dissertations on my topic. And I started new projects with several of the professors. It was a really great experience; I had a chance to go to many lectures myself. Is your ‘topic’ still the theory of rational inattention, or have you shifted somewhere else? The topic is still very much alive, but I frame my interests by saying that I’m interested in economics and important social issues. Most of the time I try to see what new information we could learn about these issues if we accepted the fact that people make mistakes. I try to bend classic economic theories so they give us new answers and look for applications in fields like macroeconomics, finance or the understanding of discrimination bias. The reality that people can’t read all the information presented to them, and are unable to think about everything, touches on all economic disciplines, though more on some than others. It’s important in the labour market, for example, when an HR manager is selecting one person from a hundred resumes and automatically skips over some names. It’s also important in politics, because we tend to think that a single voice will not matter much and so we pay little attention
to politicians’ platforms and overlook important information. But when we all do it, then democracy functions very differently than… …the way it was conceived? Exactly. In the last two years we have been focussing quite intensively on studying how democratic systems function. We are using economic methods, as economics is the one social science that has ‘stolen’ the greatest number of tools from the natural sciences. We are trying to quantify our thinking and to use more rigorous data. With economic tools you can look at democracy as competition among various subjects. Just as in the marketplace various products compete for the attention of a consumer, so in politics you have various political parties trying to come up with the best ‘product’ for voters to choose. We use the various theories and data in trying to learn how political parties frame their products so that people would see only the positive aspects, not the negatives. We see that political parties prefer to appeal to emotions rather than presenting their platform. For example, in the current campaign for local elections no one seems to be talking about their vision or ideas, and many resort to igniting fears. Is this evident in your research? We are not really sure if this is the case, and it’s interesting because local elections have the greatest impact on voters’ lives – whether you have a big road or a park in front of your home affects you much more than whether value added tax will go up or down by one per cent, which is what they are addressing at the parliamentary level. But for some reason people pay much less attention to local elections, which is evident from participation rates that are about half of those for national level. And that’s why together with Julie Chytilová and Michal Bauer we have just launched a project called Volební lavička [Election Bench]. It’s a website on which we publish the profiles of people campaigning in local elections. In the week since we have launched the website, about 500 poli-
In the House of Angels
ticians have completed their profiles, which are made up of four parts: the politician’s programme, their experience, their broader worldview, and an anecdote from the local area. The local anecdote helps to show a more human side of the candidate, asking them to present a story – it can be a humorous one – about something they feel is important in the local community. We are interested in looking at whether voters are more likely to read the local anecdote or the politician’s programme, and we hope to get valuable data. With the project we want to popularise local elections, to provide a fair representational platform for all candidates, and to better understand how voters and politicians make their decisions. How will you use the data in your research? The project has two main goals: the first is about getting current socially relevant data and the second is scientific. We want to get information that’s unavailable at the moment so that we don’t have to speculate about what is and what is not happening with democracy. We’ll be able to understand how the internet influences election outcomes and look at whether there is greater voter participation when people are better informed. From web visitation data and candidate representation we should be able to get information about voter participation rates and some other questions.
That sounds quite technical. To what extent do you use your knowledge of physics? A lot. My background helps me in using models to describe precisely what I am trying to say. In economics we use a lot of mathematics and take inspiration from physics to develop models – in other words, we write theories about how people behave. It’s not because we think that people behave like machines, but because we scientists need a commonly accepted, precise language for describing what it is we think is happening in a given situation. And that is more accurately described in a simple equation than in pages and pages of text. So I use my physics background to help me describe people’s behaviour with the help of models and simultaneously come up with experiments – which is the same in physics – that would help me understand what works in my model and what doesn’t, experiments that could either refute or confirm it. Currently our theory independently maps how people behave, and gives instructions for what to test. That sometimes works well and sometimes not so well. Does this bring us back to the theory of rational inattention? The theory of rational inattention is based on the premise that people have access to information, for example on the internet, and that they are able to read it, even if in a cursory fashion, but they choose to only read information that is
I want to understand how to avoid great economic crises, because these are the source of social unrest and war. 62
most important to them. It assumes that people will choose the right information, although in praxis this is not always true. This process works well with tasks that you repeat often, so you learn to focus on that which is important. For example, the earlier mentioned HR manager knows that when looking at a resume it’s more important to look at the section outlining education background than the section about hobbies. On the other hand, when you are driving a car and another car hits you, in that moment of impact you don’t worry about what information you need, you act automatically. So rational inattention is appropriate only in some situations, and I think that politics is one of these. Voters know that it’s more important to read what a politician is recommending in their own city than in a city on the other side of the country. To what extent are the theories and models you are creating already being used? Some central banks are already using our theories. Our models are telling them, for example, that monetary policy could function differently in a time of crisis, and our research is providing different answers than those offered by earlier theories. With many other issues we are at the ‘careful, this might not work’ stage, or qualitatively our research shows that a given theory may move in a slightly different direction. For our work we were recently given a prize, for which I’m very happy. It was for the best article in behavioural economics published in the year, and this was for the whole world. That’s fantastic! What was it for exactly? We wrote an article about discrimination and how discrimination already begins when HR personnel read resumes. We tested this question together with Julie Chytilová, Michal Bauer and Vojtěch
Bartoš, and one of our recommendations was for the use of quotas. We also recommended that in the first phase of recruitment, when decision is being made on which applicant to invite for an interview, it would be good to omit information about applicants’ gender, name and so on. One of the goals of our research was to describe situations when omitting key data can be helpful, and when it can not, and how to ensure that all candidates receive the same level of attention. When we talk about the information we take in and the information we ignore, can the results of your research be useful in everyday situations? Can an average person on the street benefit from your findings? That’s a good question. It’s true that most things we study lead to recommendations for systems designers. For example, we might advise the government on how to regulate markets. It’s difficult to advise an individual because the theory assumes that people are able to choose information and to do it well, so we cannot advise them to do it any better. But people should be aware of this when they are working with information. They’ll read thirty emails in the morning and then be surprised that they are exhausted and unable to read more. Another, perhaps even more important yet not very obvious realisation, is that while people might be aware of their own limitations, they are not aware of other people’s limitations. Or people don’t realise that markets don’t work well because of their own inattention. One example is the mortgage market. People think that everyone else is choosing their mortgage well by carefully comparing interest rates offered by different banks, and so they assume that the market is working well. But in practice people usually only compare between two banks. There are studies showing that if people spent just two
hours more on choosing a mortgage, they could be saving hundreds of thousands of crowns. People don’t know this; they don’t realise that the market is not working perfectly, that one bank will easily offer 1.5% more than another. For me that’s a big surprise. Most people don’t know how much money can be saved. They keep tabs on where to buy the cheapest beer, but they don’t bother with the mortgage. They might do so when financing a car, but not with a mortgage. Have you ever experienced a moment when you were really surprised by the results of your research? It doesn’t happen often, because usually we intuitively expect a particular result that we want to show to others, but it does happen sometimes. It was like that with our discrimination work. In the US they have famous studies that have been cited thousands of times that speculated that minorities always receive less attention. In our research we found that yes, this is true in certain situations, but there are other situations in which minorities receive more attention. I have also written an article with Chris Sims in which we show that collecting and filtering information can suddenly help explain many phenomena we see in macroeconomics that are somewhat surprising. For example, why companies don’t change prices often. It’s not because it’s difficult to change the price tag on a product, but because it’s difficult for companies to think: ‘should today be the day when I change the price of my product by a crown’? This kind of result we really didn’t expect. In terms of current political issues, we have found other interesting things. We took the original model of democracy and changed an equation within it that describes the process a voter uses to se-
lect their candidate. When we made this change we learnt that populism is a successful campaign strategy. If a politician wants to win, they need to promise lots of gifts. When voters are rationally inattentive, they’ll notice what the politician promises for their region, because an extra crown in their region means an extra crown in their pocket. On the other hand, promised expenditures in other regions will for them have only marginal benefits, for which everyone will have to pay collectively anyway. So everyone pays greater attention to their region, and the savvy politician knows that. They know that the more promises they make, the more votes they will get. Do you have ideas about what to do with this knowledge? In terms of politics and the first theory, a solution could be data gathering – providing people with an overview, a summary, of how much they paid on taxes and how much they received in total. The key isn’t to provide more information, but simple and useful information. This very simple solution could help address many problems. Your work involves studying human behaviour and decision-making. To what extent does it influence your own behaviour? A bit. For once, I’m probably more aware of the mistakes I make every day, and there are many. I’m also aware that just as we need to regulate poorly functioning markets, we also need to regulate at the level of the individual. There can be many things to regulate, so I have my own little aids, which may seem funny and irrational, but they are rational when you know about your own shortcomings. Like what? For example with my phone. Sometimes I don’t look at my phone, because I know that if I start reading messages, I won’t be able to work, and
If people spent just two hours more on choosing a mortgage, they could be saving hundreds of thousands of crowns. also because I know that I’m not able to open an email and forget about it. If I were, then I’d open it. You often mention Chris Sims. What is it like to work alongside a Nobel laureate? It’s fantastic. Chris is a good friend. We see each other more during personal gatherings than writing to each other. Nobel laureates don’t look at themselves in any special way. I know several Nobel prize winners and what connects them is that they really believe in and love what they do. Their work is important to them, and often what separates them from the rest of us is that they don’t feel the need to sell it. My experience is that people who are really at the top of their game don’t need to promote themselves – they really believe in what they do and are open about the pluses and shortcomings of their achievements. When I spoke with Chris for the first time, I was looking for a professor who could introduce me to the world of economics. Other students recommended Chris who at that time hadn’t yet been awarded the Nobel prize. I went to him and said: ‘I don’t know much about economics, so tell me what the current big questions are in the field. And he spoke with me very patiently for an hour.’
not expecting, which doesn’t happen often. Our projects last between three to four years, and the first phase – the creative phase – is very interesting. That’s when I get to read several books and then I discover something I’d like to know more about. And the thing that interests me the most is discovering how society works. I’m trying to contribute at least in a small way. Or more precisely, I’m trying to ensure that it doesn’t get worse, because I think that right now we’re doing pretty well. That to me is an unexpected conclusion. The world is continuously evolving, and there are many forces at play. Yes, there are a few countries that have a higher per capita GDP than we do, but life expectancy is expanding and that is great. Yet there are still many conflicts in the world, which in the past involved us too, and there is no certainty that we won’t be affected in the future. So I want to understand how to avoid great economic crises, because these are the source of social unrest and war. And that very much touches on questions of democracy, because countries that prosper over the long term are always democratic. ■
So Nobel laureates and top scientists get to do what they love. What do you enjoy the most? The best is probably when I learn something I was
Utterly Název článku Czech
text: Helena Stiessová photo: Ondřej Lipár styling: Janka Murínová
DROPLETS OF BLOOD
CZECHIA’S GEOLOGICALLY VARIED SUBSURFACE OFFERS UP A WIDE ARRAY OF RICHES – FROM COAL TO SILVER, KAOLIN TO LITHIUM. PEOPLE HAVE BEEN MINING ROCKS AND MINERALS IN THESE PARTS THROUGHOUT HISTORY AND CREATING FROM THEM ITEMS OF BOTH LASTING AND FLEETING VALUE. AMIDST LAYERS OF SUBSURFACE SEDIMENT ONE CAN ALSO FIND SMALL, CRIMSON-COLOURED STONES THAT WILL ENHANCE YOUR BEAUTY AND MAY EVEN HEAL. IN THE SEVENTEENTH CENTURY THEY CAME TO BE KNOWN AS BOHEMIAN GARNETS.
Droplets of Blood
The first garnet was probably found when someone noticed what appeared to be droplets of blood on a sandy riverbed. Especially after rain, a garnet stone can sparkle with such lively energy it looks as if it were bathed in living water. A member of the pyrope mineral family, Bohemian garnet is a very small stone, rarely larger than four millimetres. In spite of its small size, the gem has become popular thanks to its exceptional colour and clarity. Focussed garnet mining probably began with the collection of red coloured stones amid mounds of soil and over riverine gravel. In the Middle Ages, underground mining came to complement surface-level collection with simple shafts dug to sedimentary layers carrying pyropes. Sedimentary material was collected and brought to the surface, where it was rinsed and sorted by hand. This type of mining was used until 1955, when it was finally replaced by surface-level mining. Mining of Bohemian garnets reached its height in the middle of the nineteenth century, when garnets became fashionable in long strands of faceted jewels and later in brooches and necklaces. Next to clergy, who cherished garnets on monstrances, garnets were prized by nobility and townsfolk alike, and even coveted by village girls. Today we find them in folk costumes, rosaries and talismans of all kinds. Romanticism and patriotism played a role in the popularisation of the gemstone, which has come to represent the Czech people’s love for their homeland. Exquisitely worked Bohemian garnet also found a fan base abroad, promoted by influential noblewomen and through international trade fairs. A common feature of garnet jewellery was the clustering of the small gemstones to enable their colour and lustre to be more pronounced. Designers and jewellers developed many effective methods for setting the miniature stones into jewels of varying designs. They were often paired with the larger almandine, also from the pyrope family, as well as with pearls. More recently, garnets have been paired with another typically Czech gemstone, the green-tinted moldavite. If there is a place in Czechia that is intrinsically linked to the garnet, it is undoubtedly the northern town of Turnov, the historical destination for endless strings of blood-red stones gathered all across Czechia. Turnov is where the stones were cut and then sold on to adorn the necks of fashionable ladies. A jewellery school opened there in 1883 and the industry managed to survive both world wars. In the 1950s the Granát cooperative opened its doors in Turnov, and from there it sends garnet jewellery out to the wider world to this day. Although the form has become simplified over time, the clustered stones recall the era of resplendent jewels and folk amulets that were believed to protect against sadness, heartache and snakebites. There is a story hidden in the blood-red droplets that is far longer than can be told. Information for this article was drawn from the book Český granát [Czech Garnet] written by Radek Hanus and published by Granit in Prague, 2013.
The popularity of the Bohemian garnet has fluctuated over time in line with changing fashions. The gemstone was very popular during the time of the Emperor Rudolf II, when master cutters from Italy and Germany settled in Czechia. It was the Emperor’s personal physician Anselmus de Boodt, an accomplished mineralogist himself, who named the beautifully coloured stones found in the Central Bohemian Highlands granati bohemici. The renowned collection belonging to Emperor Rudolf II was fabled to include a garnet the size of a goose egg, but today we are quite confident that a garnet of this size could not exist. The largest well-known Bohemian garnets were set in the early nineteenth century into jewels belonging to the Baroness Ulrike von Levetzow. Today the jewels are kept in the depository of the Regional Museum [Oblastní museum] in Most.
Droplets of Blood
The English word ‘garnet’ derives from ‘granat’, proposed in the thirteenth century by the German theologian and philosopher Albertus Magnus. It is believed to derive from the Latin word granatum [pomegranate], because the red crystals were thought to resemble the colour of pomegranate seeds. Other name designations for deep red garnets are related to colour and light refraction: carbunculus, or small glowing ember, was coined by Pliny the Elder (Gaius Plinius Secundus) in Ancient Rome and pyrope was derived from the Greek word purōpos, meaning fiery eyed. As evidenced by this short journey into etymology, the deep red stones have been fascinating us since time immemorial. ■
The Art Nouveau brooch in the shape of a moon crescent is from the early 1900s, the round brooch is from the 1850s. Both have garnets set in tombac, a brass alloy with high copper content that was used from the beginning of the nineteenth century. We thank Antiques Cinolter (www. antiquesprague.cz) for lending us the two brooches featured in this photograph.
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Creative Název People článku
text: Jarda Zaoral and editorial team photo: Jarda Zaoral
THIS SUMMER THE PASSIONATE CZECH TRAVELLER AND PHOTOGRAPHER JARDA ZAORAL SET OFF ON A JOURNEY ACROSS EUROPE. CALLING HIS EXPEDITION EU PEAKS, JARDA GAVE HIMSELF THE TASK OF SCALING THE TALLEST MOUNTAIN OF EACH STATE IN THE EUROPEAN UNION. WHY? HE WANTED TO MOTIVATE OTHERS TO TRAVEL AND DISCOVER THE BEAUTY OF EUROPE. ‘IT BOTHERS ME THAT THESE DAYS MANY PEOPLE SPEND THEIR LEISURE TIME PASSIVELY, AND I’D LIKE THIS TO CHANGE.’ HIS 88-DAY JOURNEY TOOK JARDA TO THE TOPS OF 27 PEAKS. NOT SURPRISINGLY, IT WAS THE MOST FASCINATING PERIOD OF HIS LIFE SO FAR.
‘Europe is incredibly diverse and I am thankful for the opportunity to explore it,’ says the young man in recognition of the fact that roaming across the continent was not an option for his parents’ generation. Even today travelling around Europe is not an easy proposition for many Czechs, so the feel of the wind atop Sweden’s tallest mountain Kebnekaise or Romania’s Moldoveanu is an experience to last a lifetime. Some of the peaks were a ‘walk in the park’ for Jarda, while others required significant skill and a full mountaineering kit. There were also many challenges, often in places Jarda would not have expected, and many factors that could not be influenced – weather among them. A mountaineer must simply learn to humbly accept what the mountain will allow. Jarda succeeded on his mission thanks to strong will and the kindness of friends who helped in difficult moments. He documented his ambitious journey with copious diary entries and photographs. Take a moment to explore the stunning scenery, and if it should inspire you, then set off on a journey of your own. There is no shortage of big adventures! ■
JARDA’S DIARY ENTRIES When the weather won’t budge The first group that went up early to catch the sunrise is returning from the summit. Gridlock is beginning to form, so much so that it seems like the keepers of the route up Grossglockner should consider setting up traffic lights. There are loads of climbers here – at one point we have to wait some twenty minutes. It‘s cold. The rocks are covered in frost. Each meter of elevation means stronger winds and we are beginning to feel the cold seeping in. The first thirty climbers finally make it through the narrow passage leading down from the summit and so we can now ascend. We get to the top an hour after sunrise. It doesn‘t matter though – it’s a cloudy day. When the weather performs The day is just beginning to break, opening up beautiful vistas of the surrounding landscape. Two hours from the hut we reach a vast glacier from which we finally see the majestic Mont Blanc, towering above its neighbours by at least 500 metres. It takes your breath away. And then the sun begins to rise – what a show. The first rays bathe over the top of Mont Blanc and in a few minutes they reach us too. If only we could stop time. This, and other moments like it, is why you embark on mountain expeditions. The stunning spectacle recharges our batteries so much that we jump about like mountain goats. And then, standing in silent awe, we savour the 360° view.
Visit www.thebestviewpoints.com to learn all you want to know about Jarda’s expedition.
JARDA’S TEN COMMANDMENTS Don’t overestimate your abilities Don’t go alone Study the route in advance Check the weather forecast Find out what equipment you need Rise early Don’t hurry Don’t cause rock-falls Take risks seriously Have fun
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MORE THAN DUMPLINGS WHEN HEARING THE PHRASE ‘CLASSIC CZECH CUISINE’, MANY PEOPLE IMAGINE THE HOLY TRIAD OF SVÍČKOVÁ [ROAST SIRLOIN IN SOUR CREAM SAUCE], VEPŘO-KNEDLO-ZELO [DUMPLINGS WITH SAUERKRAUT AND ROAST PORK] AND ŘÍZEK [SCHNITZEL]. THEN THEY MIGHT ADD THE CHRISTMAS DINNER CLASSIC OF BREADED CARP WITH POTATO SALAD, AND FOR THOSE WITH A SWEET TOOTH, FRUIT-FILLED DUMPLINGS, BUNS AND CAKES. BUT THERE IS MORE TO CZECH COOKING THAN DUMPLINGS AND SAUCES. AND EVEN IF ONLY A HANDFUL OF DISHES CAN TRULY BE CALLED ‘OURS’, IT IS WORTH KNOWING MORE ABOUT OUR NATIONAL FOOD. IT IS, AFTER ALL, PART OF OUR CULTURE. WHERE ELSE IN THE WORLD DO PEOPLE ENJOY CHLEBÍČEK [OPEN FACED SANDWICH] – WHICH SHOULD HAVE BEEN PATENTED LONG AGO – OR OIL-MARINATED HERMELÍN [SOFT MOULD CHEESE], THE PERFECT COMPANION TO BEER? THE FOLLOWING STORY ABOUT CZECH CUISINE WAS WRITTEN BY ADÉLA HÁLKOVÁ, EDITOR IN CHIEF OF THE PUBLISHING HOUSE DOŠEL CARAMEL [WE’VE RUN OUT OF CARAMEL]. THE RECIPES THAT FOLLOW WERE SOURCED FROM NEW AND CLASSIC COOKBOOKS.
CHLUPATÉ KNEDLÍKY [FURRY DUMPLINGS] Peel raw potatoes, grate them on a potato grater and set aside. Drain the water the potatoes release and add a few cooked and grated potatoes. Add salt, two egg yolks and enough flour to form dumplings from the resulting dough. To make the dumplings take a small ladle, wet it in water, and scoop out a dumpling-sized portion of dough. Finish forming the dumplings with wet hands and drop them immediately into boiling water. Cook for 20 to 30 minutes. When finished, roll the dumplings in melted butter and top with fried onions.
JABLKA V ŽUPANU [DRESSING GOWN APPLES] Peel and core a few whole apples. Fill the cavity in the apples with a mixture of strawberry jam, cinnamon and icing sugar. Make all-butter pastry dough and cut it into square shapes large enough to wrap around an apple. Wrap the apples in the dough by pinching the corners together on top of an apple and clasping them with a peeled almond that has been split lengthways – like a peg. Brush the wrapped apples with a whipped egg and bake for about 30 minutes. Dust the baked pastry-wrapped apples with sugar and serve warm.
We Czechs tend to describe our cuisine as rather rich, perhaps even heavy, fatty or overly meaty. It is part of our self-deprecating nature – even if the Queen of England wanted to dine on Czech food, we wouldn’t think it good enough. I would say that our food is more playful than heavy. It is also quite varied, with every region boasting its unique dish. Let’s take sweets for example. In eastern Moravia they make sorb fruit spice cakes, in Wallachia the large, wheel-like frgál pastries, in central Bohemia beetroot sweet buns called řepánky, and in the Krkonoše foothills spice cakes shaped like a prayer book. There are more examples to go around, enough to tantalise our taste buds all the way to the kitchen. Every cuisine has its characteristic qualities and its golden era. For Czech cooking this was the time between the two world wars, the period of the so-called First Republic. This is when many classic cookbooks and kitchen guides came to life, books we return to even today. And it wasn’t only the bourgeois kitchen that thrived in this era, or the art of pastry making, it was also the cuisine of the working folk. It’s no wonder that simple dishes like potato pancakes, uhlířina [potato/gnocchi/onion/bacon dish named after coal miners], meat hash and griddlecakes are finding their way onto the menus of Czech high-end restaurants. Czech cuisine’s less than glorious times came during the era of communism and the period that immediately followed. We searched long and hard for our Czech identity in those dark times and looked for it in every corner of the kitchen. Now we hold onto it proudly with our flour-dusted hands and rejoice in the increasing number of restaurants specialising in classic Czech cuisine. Not so long ago, while dining in Prague, I was served an excellent žemlovka [sweet dish made with old bread and apples] and in Brno I delighted over a plate of potato gnocchi topped with sweet poppy seeds. Taking inspiration from the wider world is great, but why not look for it in our own backyard? It is no surprise that modern Czech gastronomy is rediscovering treasures that our great-grandmothers knew all too well. Beetroot or asparagus anyone? And while our cuisine may be fatty and meat-rich, it also includes fish from South Bohemia’s countless ponds. Every nation’s cuisine is influenced by the offerings of its land and its climactic conditions, so it is no wonder that our tables are laden with meals rich in pork, grains, potatoes and other root vegetables. If we continue to cook from the bounty of our land, and honour our cuisine rather than dismissing it, we will have something we can share proudly with the rest of the world. The golden triad of Bohemia, Moravia and Silesia – now that is a tasty and fragrant treat! ■
The recipes for Chlupaté knedlíky and Jablka v županu were taken from the cookbook Jak se vaří u Šroubka [Cooking at Šroubek’s], 6th edition, Paseka, Prague 2008, www.paseka.cz
More then Dumplings
SOUR CREAM SAUCE (AND THE MEAT OF COURSE)
Recipe taken from the cookbook Bez buchet se nevdáš! [Won’t Be A Bride Without Buns!] by Adéla Hálková and Kateřina Podoláková, Došel caramel [We’ve run out of caramel], Prague 2018.
PREPARATION TIME: 4 hours including freezing and roasting
MASTERING A ROAST SIRLOIN IN SOUR CREAM SAUCE WILL IMPRESS YOUR SPOUSE, PARENTS AND THE IN-LAWS. ONCE YOU LEARN IT, YOU’RE SET FOREVER! METHOD: First prepare the meat. If you are skilled in sewing or embroidery, this will come in handy, as it’s crafty work. Cut the bacon into 1 cm wide sticks, each with a pointy end. Put the bacon in the freezer for about an hour. Also cut half of the carrots into pointy sticks. Remove all membranes from the meat and with a sharp thin knife cut long horizontal slits into the meat, almost to the other side. Insert the frozen bacon sticks and carrot sticks into the slits. Salt and pepper the meat on the outside. Heat some oil in a pot or a pan and sear the meat on all sides. When sealed, put the meat in a deep baking dish. Keep the pot/pan for the vegetables. Peel the remaining carrots, parsley roots, celeriac and onions and cut them into small pieces or grate them (minus the onion) coarsely. Sauté the carrots, parsley root and celeriac in 2 tablespoons of butter in the pot/ pan in which you seared the meat, then add the onion and sauté gently until the vegetables are golden. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of flour over the vegetables, stir well, and continue to sauté for another minute. Pour in the stock, bring to a boil, and then add everything to the meat in the baking dish. Add allspice, peppercorns and bay leaves and bake at 180 °C for 1.5 or ideally 2 hours, until the meat is soft. Turn the meat periodically.
WHAT YOU NEED: 600 to 800 g sirloin 100 g slab of bacon 4 carrots 2 parsley roots half a celeriac 2 onions 2 tablespoons butter oil 1 tablespoon flour 0.5 litre stock (can be substituted with water) 5 allspice berries 5 peppercorns 3 bay leaves 2 tablespoons butter 1 tablespoon flour 250 ml whipping cream lemon wedges and cranberries for garnish
Once the meat is roasted, remove it from the baking dish and set it aside. Puree the vegetables through a fine sieve. In another pot, warm 2 tablespoons of butter until frothy, add 1 tablespoon of flour and mix well until you have a light roux. Pour in part of the vegetable puree, mix it with a whisk, and then add the remaining puree. Simmer for about 10 minutes, season with salt and pepper, and add lemon juice as required. Pour in the whipping cream at the very end. Heat the meat before serving and cut it into thin slices with a sharp knife. Serve with dumplings and the sauce and garnish with cranberries and a wedge of lemon. ■
FRIED EGGS Heat a small amount of fat or butter in a pan and then carefully break a couple of eggs, taking care not to disturb the yolk. Cook on medium heat until the egg white is firm but the yolk still runny. Season with salt, pepper and herbs if desired.
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AT THE CROSSROADS
A MEETING PLACE OF NATIONS, RELIGIONS AND CULTURES REPLETE WITH ARCHITECTURAL GEMS, UNSPOILT NATURE AND PLENTIFUL ROOM FOR CONTEMPLATION – WELCOME TO POLAND’S SUBCARPATHIAN REGION. THE LAND LOCATED IN POLAND’S SOUTH-EASTERN CORNER AND BORDERED BY UKRAINE AND SLOVAKIA WAS SHAPED BY SKILLED HANDS AND MOMENTOUS HISTORICAL EVENTS. TODAY IT IS A PROSPEROUS REGION OFFERING TRAVELLERS MANY WONDERFUL EXPERIENCES. WE SET OFF IN QUEST OF THE REGION’S SACRAL STRUCTURES AND MONUMENTS, BUT ALSO FOUND TIME FOR A GLASS OF LOCAL ABSINTH. SUBCARPATHIA’S CROSSROADS OFFER MANY SURPRISES.
PREVIOUS PAGE: The Church of the Assumption of Holy Mary and St. Michael the Archangel in Haczów belongs to a group of six wooden churches from Southern Lesser Poland that have been on UNESCO’s world heritage list since 2003 as a unique example of medieval church-building traditions of the Roman Catholic culture. LEFT: A balcony in bloom at the rear of an old apartment building in Przemyśl, not far from the city chateau.
Evening is setting in. We are driving on a fast and comfortable highway and nearing our first stop in south-eastern Poland, having already passed Oświęcim [Auschwitz] and Kraków. We enter the town of Stary Lwów near Krosno with the star filled night sky our only source of light. The owner of the guesthouse where we are staying mentions something about a wolf visiting at night, and that’s why he’d rather close the gate... There is no time to look for wolf tracks in the morning. We are heading for Krosno, which could be a sister city to the Czech Nižbor, as it too has a glassmaking history that reaches beyond the border of its region. In the local museum we learn about the centuries-long history of the local glass industry, which in the 1950s represented the largest centre of glass production in Poland and employed some 7,000 people. Krosno is home to another industry, perhaps somewhat unexpected. In 1854, after a discovery made by the Polish chemist and kerosene lamp inventor Ignacy Łukasiewicz, the first oil well in the world opened in the nearby village of Bóbrka. Oil is drilled there to this day, and the history of the industry is documented in an outdoor exhibition. Krosno’s charming archways and quaint streets beckon for an afternoon respite, but coffee must yield to the lure of UNESCO heritage. Behind an inconspicuous bend in the road lies the unassuming village of Haczów, home to the majestic wooden Church of the Assumption of Holy Mary and St. Michael the Archangel, the oldest, largest and surprisingly well preserved structure of its kind in all of Europe. The church was built around 1450 and its walls and roof are made entirely from shingles. The interior walls of the church are decorated in priceless polychrome and we stand in awe of the delicate artistry that has managed to survive Tatar raids and the hungry flames of fire. The nearby village of Blizne is home to the wooden All Saints Church, only a few years younger than the church in Haczów and also a proud bearer of a rich polychrome interior, each century etched indelibly in the stunning ornamentation. The colours, styles and motifs blend seamlessly, perhaps because they were all created to honour a common faith. There is also a secret altar box containing a statue of the Virgin Mary, which the church keeper – much to our delight – unveils with the help of a remote control. The Subcarpathian region boasts dozens of wooden churches of Roman Catholic, Eastern Catholic and Eastern Orthodox faiths. Each church is unique, and collectively they attest to the rich spiritual history of the region – a region in which different faiths have blended over centuries into one common landscape. Subcarpathian Province is one of sixteen administrative areas comprising modern day Poland. The region was part of the territory known as Kievan Rus
At the Crossroads
THESE PAGES: The interiors of the wooden churches are richly ornate. Wall paintings from different centuries reflect the development of sacral art and the personal relationship that parishioners formed with their place of worship. Wooden icons are archetypal decorative elements in Eastern Orthodox churches. The painting on the left is on view at the open-air museum in Sanok.
THESE PAGES: The distinctive interior of the wooden All Saints Church in Blizne. The main altar is from the year 1700, the left side altar hides a Late Gothic statue of the Madonna behind wooden sliding doors. The Late Renaissance pulpit framed by flower frescoes is from 1604. A ray of light casts a playful rainbow on the flower-decorated wall.
during the High Middle Ages, and was added to Poland in 1340 under the rule of Casimir III the Great. Polish rule was interrupted after the First Partition of Poland in 1772, when Subcarpathia came under the control of the Habsburg Monarchy for some 150 years. While borders shifted, people stayed â€“ at least until the Second World War. The Holocaust reached cruelly into the cities and towns of the region, where as much as half of the population was of Jewish heritage before the war. People of Ukrainian and Rusyn background were moved to other parts of Poland once the war ended, their places taken by Poles who had been forced from territories controlled by the Soviet Union. The region has therefore experienced a massive and traumatic loss of identity. There are no longer open wounds, but the scars of the times call for reflection. The open-air museum of folk architecture near the town of Sanok illustrates beautifully the history of the rural region. Since the 1960s it has been the new home for some 180 cottages, churches, mills and other public structures from all corners of Subcarpathia. Wood, a cheap and easily available material, features in all the buildings. Walking along the sunlit paths of the open-air museum we learn about the ethnic groups that lived here before the war. The colourful cottages belonged to Rusyns, known locally as Lemkos. Their women wore stunning, intricately woven bead necklaces called krywulka. We saw these a day earlier during our visit to the local arts academy in Bukowsko, where the striking necklaces are still being made. The open-air museum also boasts a collection of Eastern Catholic and Protestant churches with imposing iconostases, a treasury of
At the Crossroads
icons spanning the fifteenth to the twentieth centuries, and a school from the time of the Habsburg Monarchy. One can easily spend an entire day in the welcoming bubble of the olden days. Our journey continues on the scent of herbs, as Subcarpathia is more than a feast for the eyes and the soul – it’s also a food and drink lover’s paradise. Traditional dishes include beetroot borsch and žurek, a soup made from rye yeast, and both dishes are typically served with pirogi. We tried a few versions during our trip, including in the restaurant Stary Kredens in Sanok. Herbs featured next in the pleasant surrounds of a taproom called Hipisówka near the Bieszczady National Park, where they serve excellent spirits made only from local herbs. Their finest product is the superbly presented and slightly bitter absinth. Even though we are not fans of strong spirits, this one was definitely worth the journey. The owners organise regular concerts, with listening spots that include hammocks and blankets spread across a meadow. The following day we visit Przemyśl, one of Poland’s oldest cities. Located close to the border with Ukraine, the city is encircled by an unusual fortification system built in the time of Emperor Franz Joseph I and strengthened during the Second World War with bunkers along the Molotov Line. Individual fortresses are open to visitors, but given their location close to the border with Ukraine, it’s necessary to go with a guide. Those who find their way to Przemyśl should try the pizza in the town’s oldest pizzeria at Franciszkańska 18, or the heavenly sweets available at the self-serve
ABOVE: Weaving of tiny beads into colourful patterns creates ornamentation typical of the Lemko people. The tradition was lost in Subcarpathia by post-war developments and forced migration, but today the fine craft is returning to the region. The beads come from Czechia, a teacher from the arts academy in Bukowsko told us with a smile. The glass industry is concentrated in the town of Krosno, where in the local museum you can observe the glass blowing process. RIGHT: Wood remains a key building material for the Subcarpathian region – at least as presented in the many carved objects and statues we admired along the way. Antoni Łuczka is a local woodcarver.
At the Crossroads
THESE PAGES: The open-air museum of folk architecture in Sanok is one of the largest in Europe and in a concentrated format offers an image of Subcarpathia you wonâ€™t see anywhere else. The museum is flanked by the river San, a favourite waterway for canoeists and kayakers.
At the Crossroads
THESE PAGES: The ruins of a Carmelite monastery near the town of Zagórz date to the eighteenth century and make for a worthwhile tourist destination. Guarded by a larger-than-life statue of the Virgin Mary, the ruins are veiled in many legends. NEXT TWO PAGES: Subcarpathia is also rich in Renaissance architecture. An exquisite example is the Krasiczyn Chateau located some ten kilometres from Przemyśl. In the photograph on the right a sister chats with a parishioner outside a church in Przemyśl.
At the Crossroads
Domowa Piekarnia & Spiżarnia [Home Bakery & Pantry]. History buffs will enjoy a visit to the local museum of bells and pipes, which have been made here since the nineteenth century. The museum tower offers a gorgeous view over the city roofline, the city chateau and other historical points of interest. There is also a statue of the Good Soldier Švejk in the town square, as the fictional character was known to have spent time there. In the local cemetery visitors can honour Ryszard Siwiec, the Polish father of five who killed himself in 1968 by self-immolation as a protest against the occupation of Czechoslovakia. The last two significant stops on our journey are sites commemorating the Jewish heritage of Subcarpathia. The Baroque synagogue in Łańcut may be unimposing from the outside, but on the inside it offers a magnificent glimpse into the world of Hasidic mysticism. Frescoes and rich ornamentation present a wide retinue of animals, each with specific symbolism, and there is an unusual rendition of Adam, Eve and Noah with artfully covered faces. A visit to the synagogue is a very powerful experience even for those who don’t have strong connections to the Jewish community. All the more difficult is a visit to the museum honouring the Ulma family in the village of Markowa. The family with their six children hid Jewish people during the war and paid for their humanity with their lives, a fate that befell many other courageous Poles. It is to them, the heroes of dark times, that the museum has been dedicated. We learn of their courage and fate from period documents and eyewitness testimonies and leave in respectful silence, aware that the Subcarpathian crossroads have made a lasting impression. ■
THESE PAGES: The synagogue in Łańcut was built in 1761. It survived the ravages of the Holocaust and today is one of the most valuable Jewish heritage sites in all of Poland. In the early nineteenth century it was the base of the renowned mystic known as the Seer of Lublin. This part of its history makes it an important stopping point on the Hasidic Trail – a tourist route focussed on discovering the Orthodox Jewish tradition of south-eastern Poland. NEXT TWO PAGES: The Markowa Ulma-Family Museum of Poles Who Saved Jews in World War II opened in 2016. The museum tells of the brutality of the Holocaust through the story of the Ulma family from the village of Markowa. The museum exhibitions present with great sensitivity the fates of ordinary people turned heroes who risked, and in many cases lost, their lives while helping others.
At the Crossroads
BIRTH OF THE ABSTRACT
THE CULTURAL EVENT OF THIS AUTUMN IS THE EXTENSIVE FRANTIŠEK KUPKA RETROSPECTIVE AT THE NATIONAL GALLERY’S WALDSTEIN RIDING SCHOOL IN PRAGUE. ALTHOUGH THE OPOČNO NATIVE RESISTED BEING LABELLED AN ABSTRACT ARTIST, HE NEVERTHELESS BECAME A PIONEER OF THE ABSTRACT ART MOVEMENT AND ONE OF ITS LEADING PAINTERS. ON THE FOLLOWING PAGES WE EXPLORE HOW TO BRING KUPKA’S VISUAL THINKING INTO YOUR INTERIOR IN WAYS THAT GO BEYOND HANGING HIS REPRODUCTIONS ON THE WALL. partner for the article: National Gallery Prague | text: editorial team styling: Adéla Lipár Kudrnová and Róbert Kováč photo: National Gallery Prague and company archives
LEFT: František Kupka, Circulars and Rectilinears, 1937, National Gallery Prague; oil on canvas 1
1 . Ga 4 decorative object, Sargadelos, store.wallpaper.com, €49 | 2 . Tiiliskivi cushion cover, Marimekko, www.finnishdesignshop.com, €49.50 | 3 . Graphic: 500 Designs That Matter book, store.wallpaper.com, €20 | 4 . Egg armchair, Republic of Fritz Hansen, www.stockist.cz, from €3,750 | 5 . Bølling tray coffee table, large, Brdr. Krüger, www.illumsbolighus.com, €645
Birth of the Abstract
1 . BeoSound Shape wall-mounted speaker system, www.bangolufsen.com, from €4,000 | 2 . Hand-cut vase Surf, www.moser.com, price upon request | 3 . Iittala X Issey Miyake bag, www.iittala.com, €139 | 4 . S1 Duda chair, design Lazzarini & Pickering, Marta Sala Éditions, store.wallpaper.com, €2,965 | 5 . LP1 Claudia Applique table lamp, Marta Sala Éditions, store.wallpaper.com, €2,599 | 6 . Eucalyptus & Acacia Australian Native Incense, www.additionstudio.com, €19
ABOVE: František Kupka, Colour Planes (Winter Reminiscences), 1915–1923, National Gallery Prague; oil on canvas
THIS PAGE: Passbooks, mortgage deeds, share certificate, stock certificates; all Erste Premier
partner for the article: Erste Premier text: Hana Janišová photo: Lina Németh styling: Janka Murínová
A PENNY SAVED
PEOPLE SAVE FOR WEDDINGS AND FUNERALS, FOR HOLIDAYS AND RETIREMENT, TO BUY A HOUSE OR A CAR, AND TO LEAVE SOMETHING FOR THEIR CHILDREN. RESEARCH SHOWS THAT AS MANY AS 86 PER CENT OF CZECHS SAVE, AND THE HIGHER THEIR EDUCATION AND INCOME LEVELS, THE MORE THEY FEEL THE NEED TO SAVE FOR THE FUTURE. ONE OF OUR MOST POPULAR SAVINGS INSTITUTIONS IS THE BUILDING SOCIETY. ABROAD THESE HAVE A LONG HISTORY, WITH THE FIRST BUILDING SOCIETY ESTABLISHED IN ENGLAND AS EARLY AS 1775. IN CZECHIA WE CAME TO KNOW BUILDING SOCIETIES IN THE EARLY 1990s. HOW DID WE SAVE BEFORE THAT?
THIS PAGE: Promissory note and stock certificates; both Erste Premier C de Cartier wallet from Taurillon leather; Panthère de Cartier ring, white gold, diamonds, emeralds, onyx; Destinée ring, platinum, diamonds; all Cartier | eyewear, www.nastassiaaleinikava.com | lamb skin gloves, www.engelmuller.com
ABOVE: Passbooks, contract for insurance of movable and immovable assets, saving box; all Erste Premier Calfskin leather Interoffice Envelope, Tiffany | menâ€™s bracelet, Swarovski | key chain/key holder; fountain pen; ink bottle; all Louis Vuitton
A Penny Saved
RIGHT: Passbook, authentic banknotes, share certificates; all Erste Premier Set of three pouches in Epi leather; leather pencil case; both Louis Vuitton | eyewear, www.nastassiaaleinikava.com | lamb skin gloves, www.engelmuller.com
A saving deposit account is the oldest formal method of saving in our land and it emerged with the creation of savings societies/banks in the first half of the nineteenth century. Czechs had access to savings banks since 1825, in Moravia the First Moravian Savings Bank opened in Brno in 1852. The smallest allowable deposit was 25 krejcars, which in those days bought you six loafs of bread or a dozen beers, and earned an interest of 4% and later 3%. Prominent individuals were among the first savers – the proud owner of the first deposit book from the City Savings Bank was the ‘Father of our Nation’ František Palacký; President Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk’s saving deposit book had the auspicious number 1 000 001. During communism people were encouraged to save with the help of various government slogans, often presented in catchy rhymes. Army savings deposits were popular at the time, as were savings deposits that came with a chance of periodic prize money. There were also anonymous savings deposits – payable to the bearer; these were annulled in 2003. Name-bearing saving deposits, including in the name of a child, are of course still available today. At the beginning of the twentieth century many savings banks lent their clients locked saving boxes for use at home. All that was needed was a deposit equivalent to today’s 150 crowns. A saver collected money in the box and once in a while took it to the savings bank, where an employee unlocked it, counted the savings, and added them to the saver’s account. Popular home saving methods of piggy banks or designated envelopes – which often succumbed to the saver’s sticky fingers – have been replaced in our digital era with electronic banking products. The banking package George at Česká spořitelna offers saving help with so-called Savings Envelopes. Other banking institutions offer small automatic savings each time you make a card payment, helping you reach your savings goal step by step. Have a look at what your banking institution offers. Until 1948, savings banks paid great attention to the aesthetics of their passbooks, promissory notes, stock and bond certificates, and lottery draw tickets. Saving passbooks included images of the issuing savings bank and their saving boxes were so attractive they often served as home decor. Savings banks adopted the hardworking bee as a symbol of thrift and industry and the beehive as a symbol of a mutually supportive community. And that is why we see bees not only on the decorative facades of bank buildings but also on their printed material. ■
A Penny Saved
ABOVE: Passbooks and saving box; all Erste Premier Padovaâ„˘ magnifying glass; notebook set; T-clip ballpoint pens; all Tiffany
THIS PAGE: Share certificate, lottery draw ticket, passbook with an image of a savings bank; all Erste Premier Santos de Cartier watch, steel with yellow gold, calfskin band; Santos de Cartier cufflinks, palladium-finish sterling silver, synthetic spinel; Santos-Dumont ballpoint pen in palladium-finish metal with blue resin cabochon; all Cartier
THIS PAGE: Passbooks, mortgage deeds, share certificate, stock certificates; all Erste Premier
Bag Crossbody W and Crossbody M PBG Studio blickfang Onlineshop, blickfang Stuttgart
Wardrobe Eila Minuuk blickfang Onlineshop, blickfang Stuttgart and Hamburg
Design fairs are springing up like mushrooms everywhere. Unfortunately, they aren‘t always what they claim to be: the international design fair blickfang is different. Design is often equated with ‘handmade’, and the actual design quality becomes secondary. This is different at the international design fair blickfang, where a curated spectrum of international furniture, fashion and jewellery designs is presented at seven different sites and a jury ensures that hobby creations are excluded. In addition, designers are always available at their stands for visitors, because unlike at similar conceptually strong design festivals, everything that appeals to you at blickfang can be bought directly from the designer. Or if you can‘t wait until the fair begins, you can browse the online blickfang design shop right away. www.blickfang-designshop.com
Stool and bench Shoes Anna DYAN blickfang Vienna
Save the Date!
Minuuk blickfang Onlineshop, blickfang Stuttgart and Hamburg
blickfang Vienna | MAK | 26.–28. October 2018 blickfang Bern | Bernexpo | 16.–18. November 2018 blickfang Zurich | Stage One | 23.–25. November 2018 Designers Market by blickfang | imm cologne | 18.–20. January 2019 blickfang Hamburg | Deichtorhallen | 01.–03. February 2019 blickfang Stuttgart | Liederhalle | 15.–17. March 2019 blickfang Basel | Messe Basel | 26.–28. April 2019 Freckled bowl frauklarer blickfang Vienna
Tickets at a discount: www.blickfang.com
OUR COLLECTIVE WEALTH STEMS NOT ONLY FROM ARTEFACTS AND STORIES OF THE PAST, BUT ALSO FROM GENERATIONS IN WAITING. IN THIS FASHION STORY WE PRESENT THE WINNERS OF THE PRESTIGIOUS ELITE MODEL LOOK 2018 COMPETITION THROUGH THE LENS OF THE YOUNG SLOVAK PHOTOGRAPHER IVAN KAŠŠA. THE FOUR MODELS ARE WEARING THIS AUTUMN’S LUXURY PIECES TOGETHER WITH DESIGNS FEATURED ON THE CATWALK OF THE UNIQUE PRAGUE FASHION SHOW WE’RE NEXT. IN ITS THIRD YEAR RUNNING, WE’RE NEXT BRINGS TOGETHER FASHION DESIGN GRADUATES FROM THE ACADEMY OF ARTS, ARCHITECTURE & DESIGN IN PRAGUE AND THE ROYAL ACADEMY OF FINE ARTS IN ANTWERP. WHAT’S YOUNG BLOOD’S MOST EXPRESSIVE FEATURE? PLAYFULNESS! THERE IS PLENTY OF IT IN THE LATEST COLLABORATION BETWEEN THE SWEDISH FASHION RETAILER H&M AND THE MOSCHINO CREATIVE DIRECTOR JEREMY SCOTT. AND IT SHINES IN THE NEW, FRESH INTERIOR OF THE SWEDISH EMBASSY, THE WORK OF THE ARCHITECT AND INTERIOR DESIGNER MARTIN EDVARDSSON AND THE SETTING FOR THIS FASHION STORY. ENJOY THE SHOW!
partners for the article: H&M, Embassy of Sweden, Prague, We’re Next Prague, Elite Model Management Prague text and styling: Patrik Florián | photo: Ivan Kašša | make-up: Kristýna Hošková / Douglas models: Marie Sýkorová, Martin Burian / Elite Model Management Prague, Jasmína Simová, Jakub Janírek / Elite Model Management Bratislava
JasmĂna: skirt and boots; both Dior
JasmĂna: top, skirt, earrings, bracelets and rings; all Dior | eyewear, Moscot, www.eye-eye.cz Jakub: pants, coat and band; all Fendi Martin: pants and sweater; both Fendi
JasmĂna: top and rings; all Dior
Marie: dress and coat; both Prada JasmĂna: dress and vest; both Federica Di Leo / Royal Academy of Fine Arts Antwerp | handbag and bracelet; both Moschino for H&M
Marie: dress, Jan Smejkal and Johana Skรกlovรก / UMPRUM | boots, Fendi
Jakub: shirt, Jakub Patka / UMPRUM | dungarees, Moschino for H&M Martin: shirt, Jakub Patka / UMPRUM | jean shorts, boots, suspenders; all Moschino for H&M JasmĂna: dress and bag; both Fendi
Marie: dress and vest; both Prada | eyewear, Moscot, www.eye-eye.cz Jakub: Jakub: jumper, jacket, shorts, accessories; all Prada
JasmĂna: top, jacket, necklace and handbag; all Moschino for H&M | pants, Mia Jadrna / UMPRUM Marie: dress and jacket; both Di Du / Royal Academy of Fine Arts Antwerp | mask and boots; both Moschino for H&M
Martin: shirt, Noa Kapchitz & Elijah Schali / Royal Academy of Fine Arts Antwerp | jacket, pants and boots; all Moschino for H&M Jasmína: dress, belt and boots; all Hermès | eyewear, Moscot, www.eye-eye.cz | earrings, Moschino for H&M
Maria: knit dress, Federica Di Leo / Royal Academy of Fine Arts Antwerp Martin: Martin: shirt, suit, accessories; all Dior Jasmína: coat, Di Du / Royal Academy of Fine Arts Antwerp We thank the Embassy of Sweden in Prague for the opportunity to shoot this fashion story in the Embassy’s beautiful interiors, which you can enjoy at www.soffamag.com .
ballet AT THE NATIONAL THEATRE
SYMPHONY OF PSALMS
L. Foss, J. B. Pergolesi, A. Marcello, A. Vivaldi, G. Torelli
W. A. Mozart
W. A. Mozart
Kylián The Czech National Ballet Music preparation: Jaroslav Kyzlink National Theatre Orchestra National Theatre Opera Chorus Premiere: October 11, 2018 142
FOTO: GERT WEIGELT
BRIDGES OF TIME
EMBRACE THE MAGIC OF THE PRESENT MOMENT AND THE BEAUTY OF ORDINARY THINGS.
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8. – 11. 1. 2019
TEXTILE INSPIRATION ABSOLUTE PASSION FOR HOME AND CONTRACT TEXTILES – NOW WITH A NEW TRADE FAIR CONCEPT FOR GREATER PROXIMITY.
The new Heimtextil – surprisingly different. heimtextil.messefrankfurt.com firstname.lastname@example.org Tel. +420 233 355 246 144
ALL THAT GLITTER!
67789-027_HT_allg_Soffa_216x303_EN • CMYK • mr: 17.09.2018
text: Michal Dvořák and editorial team photo: Lina Németh styling: Janka Murínová
WHEN YOU HEAR THE WORD WEALTH, YOU MAY IMAGINE TREASURE CHESTS OVERFLOWING WITH PRECIOUS STONES OR SCROOGE McDUCK FROLICKING IN A VAULT FULL OF GOLD COINS. HISTORICALLY, CZECHIA WAS RENOWNED FOR ITS RICH DEPOSITS OF SILVER, ESPECIALLY THOSE AROUND JIHLAVA AND KUTNÁ HORA, WHICH ENABLED CZECH RULERS TO DOMINATE CENTRAL EUROPE BETWEEN THE THIRTEENTH AND FIFTEENTH CENTURIES, ULTIMATELY SECURING THE SEAT OF THE HOLY ROMAN EMPIRE. WHAT IS LESS KNOWN IS THAT CZECHIA ALSO HAS GOLD DEPOSITS IN PLACES LIKE JÍLOVÉ U PRAHY AND JESENÍKY MOUNTAINS. LEARN MORE ABOUT THE GLITTERY METAL FROM MICHAL DVOŘÁK, AN ECONOMIST WITH THE CZECH NATIONAL BANK WHO FOCUSES HIS WORK ON THE FINANCIAL MARKETS AND AVOIDANCE OF FINANCIAL CRISES.
Gold, Matto Grosso, Brazil, 65-gram nugget. Donated to the museum in 1905 by Baron František Kaska from Horažďovice, an officer of the Austrian Army, diplomat and scientist.
Gold, Rosia Montana, Romania, 11 × 7 cm, an unusually rich cluster of gold bands in a rock matrix. Donated to the museum by Count Kaspar Maria von Sternberg, one of the museum’s main founders.
Gold, Rosia Montana, Romania, 4 × 2 cm, twisted sheet of gold. Donated to the museum in 1902 by the scientist and mineral collector Vojtěch Wraný.
No such thing as ‘pure gold’ Gold is found in the form of alloys that are more or less pure. By refining gold we can reduce the amount of other substances, but never completely. The purest form of gold ever created is used in chemistry and has a purity rating of 999.9999, which means that 1,000 grams contain 999.9999 grams of pure gold and 0.0001 grams of another substance. Investment gold has lower requirements of purity: anywhere from 995 to 999.9, meaning that 1 kilogram can contain anywhere from 5 to 0.1 grams of another element. Purity levels of 999 and higher are labelled as 24 carat gold. Most jewellers use gold of much lesser purity, because less is more when it comes to gold in jewellery, as very pure gold is too soft to wear. How much gold is in the world? It is estimated that we have extracted over 180,000 tonnes of gold so far, which is equivalent to a cube with a side longer than 21 metres. Apparently an additional 54,000 tonnes remain under ground. Although we often think of South Africa when talking about gold mining, today China is the biggest gold producer, followed by Australia and Russia. Gold can be found in every stream and river, but not necessarily in concentrations high enough to make it worth your while to mine. Gold is soft Gold is relatively soft and malleable, and it is this quality that has made it useful as a form of currency. The melting point of gold is lower than that of iron, which has made it possible to work with gold since antiquity with fairly simple technologies. One troy ounce of gold – named after the French town of Troyes – represents a little more than 31 grams of gold and can be hammered into a thin sheet with an area of 10 square metres. If you have ever wondered how one could gold-plate the roof of the National Theatre or cathedral domes without going into debt for evermore, you have found your answer. The gold standard Some economists and old-timers yearn for the time of the gold standard, when the value of money was tied to the precious metal. A fixed relationship between money and gold meant that a person could walk into a bank with a certain amount of banknotes and exchange them for a fixed amount of gold. This way central banks couldn’t print money as they pleased, which stabilised purchasing power. The problem, however, was that the amount of money in circulation was tied to the existing volume of mined gold. And that is not good over the long-term because when the volume of business grows, in step with growth in population and productivity, yet the amount of printed money remains stationary, then you start running out. ‘Physical gold’ not the only investment option In addition to buying gold bars and coins, investors can purchase financial investments that are tied to the price of gold. These include exchange-traded funds that have gold in their portfolios, shares in gold mines and gold futures. These alternatives to physical gold offer investors
All That Glitter!
more comfortable and faster ‘buy and sell’ options with lower transaction fees and zero storage costs. But they won’t replace the sense of security from knowing that there is a ‘gold bar’ stashed in your home. Also they will not insure against the collapse of financial markets, because with financial investments you ‘own’ gold only through a vulnerable intermediary. Gold bars When people hear the word gold, they often imagine an ingot of gold. A classic example is a bar weighing 400 troy ounces – or 12.44 kilograms, very popular among central banks. At today’s price of gold and US Dollar exchange rate, this classic gold ingot is valued at approximately 10.5 million Czech crowns. Investors, on the other hand, prefer the more ‘storable’ 1-kilogram bars that are valued at roughly 850,000 Czech crowns. If this seems like an ideal way of storing property in a briefcase, don’t be fooled, as 1 kilogram of 1,000 Czech crown banknotes – the most popular notes in the Czech Republic – will amount to 1 million. Gold as insurance for a crisis Investors flock to gold when there is a panic on the financial markets. Before the fall of Lehman Brothers in September 2008, which marked the beginning of the last global financial crisis, the price of gold was about US$700 for a troy ounce. It reached its peak value of US$1,900 in September 2011, when the crisis moved to Europe and raised questions about the survival of the eurozone. After market stabilisation, the price of gold dropped to today’s US$1,200. This trajectory should be a guide for would-be investors: if there is a crisis looming, it’s a good time to invest in gold. In other situations it is not a great choice: in contrast to stocks and bonds, gold doesn’t yield a regular income and its value is dependent on the mood of other investors. Over the past ten years gold has brought a return of 39 per cent, while American stocks have risen by more than 300 per cent. What other precious metals make good investment? Next to gold, other investment metals include silver, platinum and copper. In contrast to gold, they have greater industrial utility and thereby regular demand, so their prices don’t drop dramatically. Like gold, however, they do not offer a regular income stream and to be successful, an investor must be able to forecast demand and supply levels. Gemstones, including diamonds, are in a category of their own. In contrast to precious metals, each gemstone is an original, and so the largest or most interesting examples can yield very high prices – sometimes in the order of tens of millions of dollars. However, the process of buying and selling gemstones is very specific, it takes a long time and is quite costly. Valuing a gemstone is also a difficult process, and high prices encourage fakes. Investing in gemstones is therefore recommended only for qualified investors with long-term investment horizons. ■ We thank the Natural History Museum in Prague for lending us samples from its collection for the photographs in this story. For more information about the Natural History Museum, which this year celebrates 200 years since its founding, visit www.nm.cz .
Small collection of diamonds, Democratic Republic of Congo, 3â€“8 mm in diameter
Large diamond, Kimberley, South Africa, 1.5 cm in size, rounded octahedron
Meteorite, Bohumilice, Czech Republic, original weight 55.7 kg. The iron meteorite was unearthed by a plough in 1829 after heavy rains, about 150 steps from the Bohumilice Chateau near Vimperk. FrantiĹĄek Malovec, the owner of the manor, donated it to the National Museum the following year.
Diamond, Kimberley, South Africa, 4 mm, rare octahedron embedded in a dark-grey kimberlite
Silver, Kongsberg, Norway, 18 Ă— 11 cm, an unusually large example of thick wire silver. The immensely valuable specimen was donated to the museum in 1882 by Alois Oliva, a politician, businessman and generous donor.
text: Hana Janišová photo: Lina Németh
A MATTER OF HELPING
IN THE OPULENT BAROQUE SURROUNDINGS OF STERNBERG PALACE AT HRADČANY, WE SPOKE TO DAGMAR HAVLOVÁ-VEŠKRNOVÁ ABOUT VARIOUS ASPECTS OF PLENITUDE. AS THE DIRECTOR OF THE VIZE 97 FOUNDATION, BOARD MEMBER OF SEVERAL ORGANISATIONS, THE FORMER FIRST LADY NEXT TO PRESIDENT VÁCLAV HAVEL, AND A RENOWNED ACTRESS, DAGMAR HAVLOVÁ-VEŠKRNOVÁ REFLECTED ON GIVING, THE STATE OF CONTEMPORARY CZECH SOCIETY AND WOMEN’S STANDING WITHIN IT. MEET A WOMAN WITH A RICH PALETTE OF INTERESTS AND RESPONSIBILITIES, A CANINE LOVER AND A PASSIONATE READER.
Mother Teresa used to say: ‘Life is too precious – do not destroy it.’ I think that your foundation Vize 97 [Vision 97] responds well to this challenge, as thanks to its work the colon cancer detection test has become part and parcel of medical check-ups for people over 50, and it is saving lives. What are some of your other achievements, and what is your foundation working on currently? We have accomplished a lot in the 21 years since we founded the organisation. One of our most visible achievements is the spiritual-cultural centre Prague Crossroads. We also opened up a pleasant walk through the lower and upper sections of the Deer Moat parkland surrounding Prague Castle. We did this by building a walkway through Powder Bridge and a small footbridge over Chotkov Gardens, and in so doing allowed visitors to enjoy natural beauty in the heart of Prague. Part of the Deer Moat pathway is also fringed with statues from Jan Koblasa, a unique feature for a large metropolis. Through our Fund of Understanding we have helped people in need with financial assistance and new appliances. We have covered school fees for children in Chechnya, built a senior care facility for flood victims, and provided assistance to flood-affected individuals for home repairs. We also assist women with breast cancer. In healthcare promotion we continue to collaborate with experts in gastroenterology to encourage people with an elevated risk of colon cancer to take advantage of the screening test you have mentioned. Our other ongoing projects include cultural events, the annual Vize 97 Prize and custodianship of President Václav Havel’s legacy. From your foundation’s logo – the words ‘Vize 97’ combined with an arrow – one can surmise that the organisation looks to the future rather than the past, supporting cultural and scientific ideas of a visionary nature. In your opinion, is Czechia guided by a strong vision? Does it have visionary programmes in education, family support or senior care? Do we provide a solid platform for inspiring voices that can help move our society in the right direction? Thank you for noting the idea behind the logo – an arrow at a crossroads indicating the direction we should be taking. Its visual form is the work of Joska Skalník. I think that in the last 25 years our country has experienced significant progress in the renewal of civil society. Unfortunately, day-to-day political infighting has shattered some aspects of our future vision, and some of our ideas have been weakened or altered as a result of compromise. Even so, I think we have many inspiring, erudite voices, though these may not be heard in the most popular media. The philosopher Blaise Pascal once said: ‘The true meaning of wealth is derived from its generous sharing.’ Your foundation has been in existence for 21 years and in this time you must have approached many wealthy entrepreneurs, companies and patrons. Is our society’s attitude to giving improving? Are the people you approach more willing to share in their wealth? Sadly, I would say not. We have better luck with companies from the West, where support for not-for-profit ventures is
A Matter of Helping
a matter of course. But to be fair, we do get help from some Czech patrons. The greatest donor to the foundation, however, was my husband. Since our founding, we have given away more than 140 million Czech crowns. Although that is a lot, there is still much to do and support. As a former first lady and the chairwoman of a board of directors of an important foundation, you have met many inspiring women and women in high positions. Do you think that women have become more competitive in recent times, both with men and also with other women? Or does a ‘feminine approach’ based on kindness, caring and intuition prevail? The women I meet are always respectful and open towards others. They are firm in their opinions and assertive in their dealings, but they have retained their femininity. Every woman in a high position is unique – some display more ‘male’ qualities while others have their male and female sides in balance.
‘I love books, I am surrounded by them and I need them to live.’ I’m aware that you don’t look back on your time as the first lady with great relish – I’m referring to the official aspects of the role, where you were literally thrown into the deep end and had to quickly learn how to dress and present yourself and how to master the complex rules of protocol and diplomatic exchange. Was the role of the first lady one of the most challenging roles you have played? Yes, it was difficult – for me it was an especially difficult time. I understood it, however, as a service to the nation and its people, and so I approached the role very responsibly. Before the office of the ombudsman was created, for example, I felt it my duty to meet with citizens to address their various concerns. I cannot understand how today’s senators and MP’s can accept high salaries yet often be absent from parliament and stay working in their civilian jobs. I felt it important to give up my profession and to take no salary. And in spite of how it may have been presented in the media, I paid for all costs associated with my representational duties – clothes, hairdressers, styling – as well as dining expenses at Lány Chateau, the president’s summer seat. We considered it a matter of course. The broader public knows you, I believe, as a film actress playing comedy roles, while as a stage actress at the Vinohrady Theatre you play very dramatic, almost tragic characters. How do you explain this difference in genres, and would you enjoy playing comedy in theatre? Since playing the comic character of the housekeeper in Chvíle pravdy, the Czech production of Israel Horovitz’s Park Your Car in Harvard Yard, I have mainly played in dramatic roles: Christina, the Queen of Sweden; Mary, Queen of Scots; Madame Ranevskaya in Anton Chekhov’s The Cherry
Orchard; and Rebecca in Henrik Ibsen’s Rosmersholm, among others. It makes sense given my current state of mind, and I’m happy for it. In fact, my Baroness Glembay from Miroslav Krleža’s classic drama Gospoda Glembajevi [Lords Glembay] was so liked by Croatian audiences, that Ondřej Brousek and I have been invited to Zagreb to repeat our dialogues at Krleža’s festival. Currently I am playing two different characters at the Vinohrady Theatre, my ‘home’ theatre where I will have been playing for 40 years next year. The first is the tough, proud and uncompromising Kostelnička in Její pastorkyňa, and the second is one of the most interesting, capable and attractive women of the Medieval era, Queen Eleanor in The Lion in Winter. I heartily welcome one and all. I will close the interview with a quote from Molière, who once said that ‘contentment is better than riches’. When, where or with whom are you most contented? What makes you happy? Receiving an ovation, taking a walk in the woods with your dog by your side, or reading a book in a quiet corner? You named all three things that make me happy and allow me to unwind. After a performance I like to exhale deeply. I return to the dressing room completely exhausted, but the applause is my greatest reward. Another reward is a walk in nature with my dog. The older I get the more I savour my time among trees – for me it’s an incredibly relaxing experience, as trees and nature recharge my batteries. And when the weather is awful I love to light a fire in the fireplace, sit in front of it with my Boxer, and reach out for a good book. When I had a broken patella recently and could not move, I read so much that I got conjunctivitis (laughter). As a child I had to read under the bed covers, because my mum considered reading a waste of time, preferring me to help instead. Of course it’s important to be practical, but I love books, I am surrounded by them, and I need them to live. We photographed Dagmar Havlová-Veškrnová inside the Chinese Cabinet of Sternberg Palace, located in close proximity to Prague Castle. The Chinese Cabinet is one of several intimate rooms in Sternberg Palace, located next to the large reception halls on the second level. Baroque decorative elements are complemented by chinoiserie, a decorative style characterised by the use of Chinese motifs and techniques. Ornamentation was carried out by Jan Vojtěch Ignác Kratochvíl before the year 1708 using a lacquer technique for which he had a monopoly through an emperor’s decree. The Chinese Cabinet is his only preserved body of work in Prague. The black lacquer walls of the cabinet are sectioned by brown decorative pillars and alternate with white panels that are embellished with medallions in gilded frames bearing fine ornamentation inspired by Chinese porcelain. Gilded wooden consoles are attached to the gilded frames and originally held valuable Chinese porcelain. Sternberg Palace is managed today by the National Gallery Prague, which we thank for allowing us to use the Chinese Cabinet as a setting for the interview. ■
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In this issue we explore what it means to have an abundance of good things, focussing not on material riches, but on what makes our lives tr...
Published on Oct 11, 2018
In this issue we explore what it means to have an abundance of good things, focussing not on material riches, but on what makes our lives tr...