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Cultural Recognitions


A few notable events related to culture and history of central Europe have or will have happened this week. In Prague, the Charles Bridge celebrates its 650th anniversary.* As the curious still from Karel Vachek's documentary A New Hyperion (1992) indicates, the Bridge is viewed as an artifact of culture that, at least in this illustration, not only metaphorically connects them, but actually places New York, Moscow, and London within the Czech lands. It's a wonderfully suggestive image that visually encapsulates the frequent characterization of the Czechs themselves as a cultural "bridge" between Eastern and Western Europe, Slavic and Germanic cultures, and perhaps even History and the Present. Radio Prague also has a special feature on the bridge.

In late June, UNESCO inscribed the "Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathian" (stretching over mountains in Slovakia and Ukraine). UNESCO describes the forest as "a transnational serial natural property of ten separate components and as an outstanding example of undisturbed, complex temperate forests exhibiting the most complete ecological patterns and processes of pure strands of European beech." (More here.)

I haven't experienced the forests much myself, although I was lucky enough to travel through them in June 2005. There is a definite magic to the Ukrainian Carpathians, they have a feeling of incredible ancientness. Villages there seemed highly secluded (in part because most people cannot afford cars to travel long distances, at least not quickly), much more so than similar rural areas in the Czech Republic. Czech fascination for this area is probably most apparent in Ivan Olbracht's novel about Nikola Šuhaj, which has inspired two musicals and a film since the 1970s. Perhaps, to artists and audiences during Communist times, the setting of the Carpathians appealed as a symbol of freedom and independence that was not to be found in Czechoslovakia.


*Of course, that was a long time ago and it seems that there is a bit of dispute. Petr links to a news report that points out a nine-day discrepancy between the Julian calendar in use during Charles IV's reign (fourteenth century) and the current Gregorian reckoning.

Notes:photo and information on the Charles Bridge anniversary is from Patrick Jackson's story at the BBC; Beech forests from UNESCO. I've also discussed the UNESCO recognition of the Moravian verbuňk (recruitment dance) and suggestion to add the Ještěd television tower to UNESCO rosters.

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