Saturday, June 28, 2014

Bratislava Visit

I had meetings this past week in Bratislava.  On Thursday my meetings, which had been planned for a couple of months, started at 9 AM.  So of course, right at 9 AM, there was a fire drill.  The entire 28 floor building had to evacuate.  Not a great start, productivity wise, but we managed to get everything covered in the end.

That night we had a team outing.  It was great to get my teams from Bratislava and Brno together for the evening.  Everyone seemed to have a really good time.  

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Vyškov Aviation Musuem

After the Olomouc Aviation Museum we went and checked out the Vyškov Aviation Museum.  This open-air museum is much bigger than the one in Olomouc

The exhibits are former Czechoslovak and Czech aircraft plus some other military hardware, all in various states of restoration. 

Focke-Wulf wreckage from 1939
There is also a display of World War II aviators. 

As well as aircraft wreckage from the war found in the local area.

The AZP S-60 is a Soviet made 57 mm automatic anti-aircraft gun from the 1950s.  It was heavily used by the Warsaw Pact countries.

The 2K6 Luna was Soviet ballistic missile complex that was in operation from 1960- 1982.  The 3R10 rocket had a 400 kg nuclear warhead with a range of 10 to 32 km.  While used in Poland, Romania, and East Germany, I don't believe it was used in Czechoslovakia.

The Mil Mi-8 is a Soviet-designed medium transport helicopter.  It is one of the most produced helicopters in the world.

The MiG-23 was produced by the Soviet Union from 1967 to 1985.  Over 5,000 MiG-23's were put in service.

This air museum is well worth the 50 Kč ($2.50) admission.  If only the displays were written in English as well as Czech.  But oh well.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Olomouc Aviation Museum

I tagged along with a fellow IBMer from Bratislava who was off to see a couple of aviation museums.  The first one was just outside of Olomouc, in Neředín.

Not much to see from the outside

The Olomouc Aviation Museum was founded in July 2009.  It was an idea of Zdeněk Svobodník who is a well known stage actor.

The city of Olomouc provided two hangers for the museum.  The staff of aircraft mechanics, pilots and engineers are all volunteers. 

The foucs is on the history of Czechoslovak aviation.  It's pretty small but if you like aviation then it's worth seeing.  The entrance is only 50 Kč ($2.50).

The MiG-21 is the most heavily produced supersonic jet aircraft in history.

The cockpits were always painted a turquoise green color.  Apparently, it was found out that this color helped keep pilots awake and reduced stress on long flights.

The Aero L-29 Delfin was Czechoslovakia's first locally designed and built jet aircraft.  It was used for jet training and in the 1960s it was the standard jet trainer for all of the Warsaw Pact countries.

The Mil Mi-24 is a large attack helicopter that could transport eight people.

The Let L-610 was a prototype aircraft.  It could transport 40 passengers.  It was only in Czechland as only eight were ever built.

The Ilyushin Il-14 was a Soviet twin-engine aircraft.  It was used to transport military personnel and cargo.  The planes were manufactured in Czechoslovakia and East Germany. 

There's something a bit sad about seeing the planes there in pieces.  Kind of like visiting an aviation cemetery.  But still worth going for a visit.

Friday, June 20, 2014

2014 Global Peace Index Results

The Global Peace Index uses 22 indicators which gauge the absence of, or fear or, violence.  It looks at the level of safety and security in society, the extent of domestic or international conflict and the degree of militarization. 

Some of the items which go in to the formula include:

  • Perceived criminality in society
  • Violent crime, number of homicides,  access to weapons and the number of people in jail
  • Political instability, relations with neighboring countries, civil liberties, freedom of press, gender inequality, adult literacy, education spending, enrollment in primary/secondary/higher education
This year's results have Iceland ranked #1 out of 162 countries.  Czech Republic just missed making the top ten.  It tied for 11th place with Sweden.  The USA didn't fare so well as it ended up #101.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Brno Bans Soliciting

Brno city council members have now banned soliciting anywhere in the city.  Apparently there was a previous ruling that restricted it to certain places.  A prostitute caught soliciting will now be fined 1000 Kč ($50) on the spot or will get a ticket and have to pay up to 30.000 Kč ($1,500) to the authorities later.

I hadn't realized that there was a solicitation problem but then again I'm not exactly looking for it either.

How it works in Czechland is that prostitution is legal but soliciting isn't.  So one can have sex for money but it is against the law to offer sex for money.  Loczech.  Although organized prostitution is illegal, there are a number of brothels in Prague and I'm sure there are in other Czech cities as well.  It's not an uncommon site to see Czech prostitutes working the roads near the German or Austrian borders.

In some other countries, like Germany or Austria for example, prostitution is legal.  Prostitutes have to be registered with the state, undergo periodic health exams and pay taxes.  In the past, the Czech government has tried to legalize prostitution but attempts never get approved by the parliament.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Shop Hours

The time that stores are open is much different in Europe than back in the USA.  In America, stores have longer opening hours.   Heck, most big grocery stores are open 24/7.  Not so over here.

Stores in Czechland usually open between 7 or 8 AM and close by 6 PM, Monday to Friday.  It is not uncommon for small shops to close from 12 to 1 PM for lunch.  If small shops are open on the weekend then it is usually only on Saturdays and they will close by 12 or 1 PM.

Hypermarkets (shopping centers) are open seven days a week and usually close at 9 PM.  My local Albert is open from 7 AM to 9 PM.

A večerka is a small convenience type grocery store that is open late night.  Or if you're lucky there will be a local nonstop that is open 24/7.  In Brno, there's even one Tesco that is open 24 hours.

Czechs (and Slovaks), traditionally, tend to start work early in the morning and stop early enough to still make it to the local shops before they close.  It must come for the days of Franz Joseph and the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

Limited office hours are a leftover from the days of communism and make bureaucracy so much worse here.  Most government office are open to the public on Mondays and Wednesdays, and may have limited hours on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  Don't even think about trying to renew your driver's license, visit city hall or go to the Foreign Ministry on a Friday.

Optician's opening hours M-F
I just don't get why shops aren't open longer here.  There's this very cool antique store in Brno which I would love to spend some money in.  Too bad  it's only open Tuesday - Thursday, from 10 AM to 1 PM.  It's like some stores are afraid to be open longer because then the employees would have to work more.

In the USA, the prime time to buy a car is on the weekend.  Not so over here because that's when the car dealerships are closed.

One of the great things that I like about Christmas time over here is that almost all shops stay open longer.  At least until 7 or 9 PM. 

As much as I may complain at times about limited shopping hours in Czechland or Slovakia, it's even more restrictive in Austria and Germany.  In Austria and Germany, Sundays are meant for family time so nothing is open on Sundays.  Not even the mall.  Unless you want to do your grocery shopping at a gas station mini-mart then you had better get your Sunday supplies on Saturday because nothing will be open on a Sunday.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

State of Israel

I’ve got a birthday coming up in July and just happened to find a great deal on flight from Prague to Tel Aviv.  So I’ll get to spend my birthday weekend in Israel.  It’s a place that I’ve wanted to visit for some time.  So here’s a bit about it.

The State of Israel, מְדִינַת יִשְׂרָאֵל, is in the Middle East.  It sits on the Mediterranean Sea and is bordered by Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and the Palestinian Territories (the West bank and Gaza Strip).  Israel is about the same size as Maryland and is home to about 8.1 million people.  It is the only Jewish-majority state in the world.  
Israel's capital is Jerusalem which is where the Knesset (Israel's parliament) is.  However, this is not internationally recognized and all of the foreign embassies are located in Tel Aviv. 

Hebrew alphabet
The population is about 75% Jewish and 20% Arab.  Hebrew and Arabic are both official languages.  The Law of Return grants all Jews, and those with Jewish lineage, the right to Israeli citizenship.  Since the break up of the Soviet Union, more than 950,000 people have immigrated to Israel so Russian is a commonly spoken language.

No more Israeli passport stamps
There several Arab countries that will not let travelers if their passport has an Israeli entry/exit stamp.  The way around this is to have a second passport or to request that the Israeli border guard not to stamp your passport.  As of 2013, Israel no longer stamps passports.  Instead, a small separate piece of paper is given as your visa so there is no evidence in your passport of having visited Israel.  

The Shekel is the official currency
Israel now has peaceful relations with Egypt and Jordan.  However, there are still problems with other countries in the Middle East.  So when it comes to sporting events Israel competes in the European championships.  

People seems to be either Pro-Israel, Anti-Palestine or Pro-Palestine, Anti-Israel.  The problems in the Middle East are quite complex and, personally, I think that both sides have valid claims and that both sides are guilty of prolonging the problems.

There has never been a country called Palestine.  The area known as Palestine was ruled for centuries as part of the Ottoman Empire.  After WWI, the area was placed under British mandate by the League of Nations. In 1947, the United Nations recommended the British Mandate for Palestine be divided to create two countries – Israel and Palestine.  The Jews accepted the recommendation but the Arabs did not.  On 14 May 1948, the Israeli state was established.  The very next day, the armies of Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Iraq invaded.  Israel won and they claimed more land.  Over the years there have been several wars with its Arab neighbors but Israel keeps winning.  Some land gained in wars has been returned for peace. 

I'm quite looking forward to a long weekend in Tel Aviv.  I know that I won't get to see everything but I would need at least two weeks to see all of the places I want to see in Israel and the West Bank.  But it's a start.  I'm sure that my mom will worry about me going over there but let's face it, there's always something going on between Israel and the Palestinians.  Fortunately, things haven't been too bad lately so it's as good a time as any to visit.