What can you do in the Czech Republic over several sunny summer days, but eat ice cream, have the odd, beer, seek out the local lido, read all the newspapers and steadily do the usual tour of all the in-laws. Actually, things seem to getting a bit more difficult than they used to be: tougher hygiene regulations and the filtering down of EU structural funds to local politicians and busipeople have seen the closure of a lot of traditional open air municipal pools and their replacement with self-styled ‘Aquaparks’ charging double the price which have plenty of water slides and flumes for the kids, but basically nowhere to swim. Even allowing for the traditional ‘cucumber season’ when there is little hard news, there seems less and less to read in the Czech papers and, if buy five national dailies, you should manage to read most of the interesting news in about half an hour. There even seems to be fewer brands of beer to choose from and the local Janáček brew – nothing to do with the composer in case you were wondering – has daftly rebranded itself as Patriot
, presumably in an effort to combine regional appeal with an up-to-date, English sounding moniker.
There is, however, a little politics to be seen on the highways and byways of Moravia: as we head down from wooded country into agricultural district in search of an old style koupák to swim in, I spot a billboard left over from the election campaign – probably paid for by the Social Democrats – slagging rising new parties TOP09 and Public Affairs (VV), by warning that popular TOP09 figurehead Karel Schwarzenberg will soon by given the chop by ruthless, much less popular TOP deputy leader Miroslav Kalousek. VV leader Radek John is also there in dark glasses, looking vaguely goonish.
In reality, post-election Mr – or, in fact, I should say Prince – Schwarzenberg seems to be quietly slipping out of the limelight of his own accord to get on with the business of running Czech diplomacy as Foreign Minister, and the thought of Radek John, now Interior Minister, as sinister backroom operating would make anyone smile given his bumbling and incompetent first month in office: his floundering performance in a TV interview
struggling to explain what his ministry’s strategy director did is already the stuff of legend.
The local elections scheduled for October also seem to throwing up some fascinating contests: all eyes are currently on the Alien Versus Predator type battle between the Civic Democrats and TOP09 that is taking shape in Prague, but in Zlín the long, long central boulevard of hypermarkets, industrial units and public building is replete with billboards for a new movement of local independents called Moral Clean-Up for City Hall (MOR), which despite the name seem to be a standard outfit of anti-politically minded worthies not a group of Christian fundamentalists: on the other hand, where does a scratch list of civic minded citizens get hold of the cash for a 30 billboards? Not to mention a snazzz and professional webiste. The regional daily Zlínský deník said that MOR was ‘funded by another electoral list’ – presumably as some kind of spolier party’ – producing howls of protest for the new group, but hard information seems hard to come by.