Twenty five years ago next month, Czechslovakia was born after a half century of the Communist darkness. Throughout November 1989, students protested in Bratislava and Prague. A two hour general strike was held on the 27 of November throughout the country causing the entire Communist Party leadership to resign including Milos Jakes the puppet General Secretary. In response to this demonstration of people power, the Communist Party announced it would relinquish power and dismantle the single-party state. As barbed wire was removed, the Constitution changed. Vaclav Havel became the first President of Czechoslovakia on 29 December 1989.

I was in Paris and 23 years old at the time, and could not stop reading about this seismic shift in the newspapers. I wanted to see it and my opportunity came to travel to the scene of the Velvet Revolution.

I came to Prague in February 1990 for a photoshoot sent by my modelling agency in Paris with a well-known Czech photographer and his model wife. I told them I wanted to see ground zero. My hosts were nervous as we crossed into the border of Czechoslovakia with an American in the backseat, and they told me to not say a word under any circumstance. ‘This is our first time back too. We don’t know exactly if it is all true,’ they said. They took good care of me. My memories of this couple have lasted far longer than the photographs of me on the Charles River Bridge that he took. They were incredibly generous despite an obvious uncertainty in the situation around them. When they drive me back to Paris, we hugged, and they said they were immediately returning as they had much to do to build their country. Paris was not enough.

Fast forward to 15 October 2014, EntrepreneurCountry Czech Republic was ‘born’. One of 15 regions across the continent, Lucie Bresova and Lukas Hrdlickainvited the leading entrepreneurs to come to the Pavilon Grebovka and formally announce the creation of this new country which I affectionately call: entrepreneur country. I decided to found a new country as I saw the ravaging of entrepreneurs and their businesses through the 2009 financial crisis. I remember myself saying repeatedly to myself, ‘I wish more people could go to ‘entrepreneur country’ (that figurative place that entrepreneurs go everyday where only they know how much it takes out of them to drive their businesses forward, and where they can share their loads with other entrepreneurs) and see how much these business owners have to carry in leading and building their businesses.’ I ultimately wrote the book, Welcome to EntrepreneurCountry published in 2012, and set up EntrepreneurCountry Global because I realised that it was inevitable: we are all going to entrepreneur country. It’s just that not everyone realises it yet.

We have imperfect information about the future today, just as those Czech protestors did not know the detail of the arc of history, but they knew the endgame: they would demand fiercely their freedom, and they would have it. Today if we could aggregate the visions of all entrepreneurs, we’d have much more perfect information about the future as entrepreneurs live in the future. EntrepreneurCountry aggregates those future visions, and brings them kicking and screaming back to the present, so that we can act. In EntrepreneurCountry, we also are tapped on the shoulder by the arc of history, and we answered the call.

Back to Prague.

William Lobkowicz also returned to Prague after the Velvet Revolution as his family had a little bit of history there. His father had fled his country as a refugee days before it fell to the Nazis. The family had grown up in the United States as average citizens of that country. Rumor has it that pere Lobkowicz told his son to return upon seeing the events in Prague and Berlin in 1989, and William and his wife Sandra have dedicated their lives to restoring the cultural and family heritage of the Lobkowicz collections.

Today Prague is the cross-roads of Lobkowicz and the entrepreneurs who came to the launch of EntrepreneurCountry Czech Republic. One of the most impressive individuals I’ve met was there at the Pavilon Grebovka: Ondrej Kratky who founded and is the Chief Marketing Officer of Liftago. Their story indicates why we are never checkmated by history. There are always clever moves on the chessboard – unique opportunities for individuals who believe that have a contribution to make to the world, and who are willing to do the hard work of thinking about business models and how technology is a layer slicing through all industries.

Liftago also says something about the European venture capital scene, and two competing visions of how North America and Europe are dealing with the digital disruption.

In Ring Number 1, our incumbent fighter are the US technology platform firms, the gang of 4 – Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google. They control the economics of their industries, and the profits they drive in their ecosystems, they disproportionately share in. There is a lot of evidence that they will take over every industry. Closely related are their little brothers, but the big new Digital Disruptors, the likes of Tesla, AirBnB, and Uber. The entrepreneurs behind these firms have a system-level vision, an ability to raise large amounts of capital and to tell a consistent story to the market about the market position they intend to occupy.

Article source: http://www.forbes.com/sites/juliemeyer/2014/10/22/a-return-to-prague-24-years-later-we-are-never-checkmated-by-history-brushfires-of-the-mind/


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Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/22/world/europe/in-britain-child-sex-abuse-defies-easy-stereotypes.html


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Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/22/world/europe/warsaw-museum-of-the-history-of-polish-jews.html


Gentle landscapes, quaint villages, stately homes and murder? For a country characterized by its genteel manners, England inspires a lot of killing sprees — of the fictional variety, of course.

The so-called “green and pleasant land” has surely spawned more mystery novelists per capita than any other nation. In addition to dedicated readers, TV viewers on this side of the pond also lap up the excellent English mystery series that come our way.

In recent years, these have included everything from the sometimes tongue-in-cheek Midsomer Murders, to Inspector Morse — and spinoffs Inspector Lewis and Endeavour — edgy newcomer Broadchurch, and the enduring exploits of super-sleuth Hercule Poirot.

In many cases, the visually stunning shooting locations become key to the tale.

Viewers of Midsomer Murders and the Morse-productions know a murder will take place, but they are almost lulled into a false sense of pleasantness by scene after scene of quintessentially English eye-candy.

Detective Inspector Barnaby’s world is rife with thatched-roof cottages and quaint fictional villages with idyllic sounding names — Midsomer Worthy, Midsomer Vertue, Midsomer Mallow and the like. But in a single episode as many as four or even five villagers might meet untimely ends.

In all of the Morse series, murder most foul takes place against one of England’s most elegant backdrops — the university town of Oxford, the so called “city of dreaming spires.”

Broadchurch is set in a sleepy seaside town that becomes the site of a brutal child murder. The crime shakes the small community to its core as dark secrets are revealed each week until the murder is solved.

Key scenes in the first season of Broadchurch were shot against the towering cliffs of West Bay in Bridport.

When I toured Dorset and neighbouring Devon a few weeks back, the popular ITV series had just wrapped filming on Season 2. (An American remake — Gracepoint — has since debuted at home. It features the same crime and the same lead actor, David Tennant, but with Victoria, B.C., standing in for the States.)

While all of these productions have their devotees, most would agree that Poirot — based on 33 Hercule Poirot novels plus many short stories penned by Agatha Christie — is in a class of its own.

Like the Queen of Crime herself, detective Hercule Poirot is a sophisticated world traveller. But more than a few of his complicated cases unfold in and around Torquay — Christie’s home turf in South Devon.

Dubbed the “English Riviera,” for its mild climate and seaside resort towns, the area shows up again and again in Poirot novels and also Christie’s Miss Marple mysteries.

The elderly Jane Marple usually stumbles on crimes in various locales around the English countryside, often while visiting friends.

For the past 25 years, English actor David Suchet has starred in ITV’s Agatha Christie’s Poirot. The last five mysteries in the series — including Curtain, which details the Belgian detective’s death — have all aired in Britain. In North America, two of the last five episodes have aired on PBS while the last three episodes are available only through streaming service Acorn TV.

Suchet has said he will not reprise the role. And with Season 2 of Broadchurch not set to air before 2015, mystery fans may soon be looking for a fix.

Fortunately in Devon and Dorset there are tours, literary trails and other ways to go into a mystery. Here are a few to try:


– With more than 2-billion copies sold, Agatha Christie is not only the world’s top-selling mystery novelist but also one of the world’s top-selling authors of all time.

Throughout her lifetime, she maintained close ties with her hometown of Torquay, where many of the important chapters of her life unfolded. She and second husband Max Mallowan bought a summer home in the area — Greenway — where they spent holidays with family and friends. Christie called the 96-hectare hideaway on the River Dart, “the loveliest place in the world.”

Christie’s only child, daughter Rosalind Hicks, inherited Greenway and later donated it to the National Trust, which opened the house and woodland gardens to the public.

Room guides at the house are happy to dish up Christie tidbits: Three of her 66 mystery novels are set there — Five Little Pigs, Dead Man’s Folly and Ordeal By Innocence. Scenes for the TV version of Dead Man’s Folly were shot at the boathouse. The novelist didn’t like alcohol and preferred a glass of double cream. Christie didn’t write at Greenway, but did read works in progress to family and visitors. The typewriter in the upstairs office belonged to Christie’s husband, a prominent archeologist. The author trained to be a concert pianist but was too shy to play in public.

It’s all very homey with closets full of Christie’s clothes and family photos on every surface. Visitors are welcome to sit outside on the lawn chairs and tinkle the ivories inside on Christie’s grand piano. (Anything but Chopsticks, please.) During my visit, a man wowed the room with an impromptu performance of Claude Debussy’s First Arabesque.

Greenway is open Wednesdays through Sundays from March 8 through Nov. 2, and selected dates at other times.

We took the scenic route from Torquay — a combination of the Dartmouth Steam Railway to Kingswear, riverboat to Dartmouth — where we popped into Rock Fish for take-away fish and chips to eat on the quayside — then the Greenway Ferry to the estate.

– We also hit the Agatha Christie trail with Alex Graeme of Unique Devon Tours.

Graeme tells us “Agatha” was a fun-loving, somewhat mischievous girl who loved the sea and loved to swim. During the tour, we visit several of her favourite coves and beaches, and see vintage photos and postcards.

Graeme also takes us for a stroll along Torquay’s Agatha Christie Mile, where plaques and a statue mark other places she frequented as a young woman, as well as story settings such as The Strand, the Princess Gardens, and the Imperial Hotel.

– For those who prefer meandering on their own, the English Riviera Tourism Co. has a well researched brochure titled The Agatha Christie Literary Trail: Through The English Riviera South Devon. It lists dozens of places significant to the writer and featured in her work.

– Torquay Museum has a permanent Christie gallery. After the final episode of Agatha Christie’s Poirot was shot, ITV donated the furniture, books, and other set items to the museum. Visitors can now step inside the lounge/study of the fictional and fussy detective’s Art Deco London apartment.

– Mid-September is a busy time in Torquay with the annual International Agatha Christie festival taking place around the author’s birthday. Next year’s lineup has not been announced but organizers say the week-long festival will be bigger than ever as 2015 marks the 125th anniversary of Christie’s birth on Sept. 15, 1890.

This year’s events included the Garden Party To Die For, murder mystery teas and dinners, a crime writers’ workshop, and talks by authors, including Geoffrey Wansall, author of Being Poirot — the acclaimed biography of David Suchet — and crime writer Sophie Hannah, who was chosen to write the new Hercule Poirot mystery, The Monogram Murders.

Many activities take place at 800-year-old Torre Abbey, where the Potent Plants garden features some of the “horticultural nasties” employed by Christie’s villains. (More than half the victims in Christie’s novels are poisoned.)


Natalie Manifold, of Literary Lyme Walking Tours, leads a location tour for Broadchurch fans.

Creator Chris Chibnall is a local who has been quoted as saying the Dorset coastal landscape was always intended to be a character in the whodunnit, Manifold says.

Chibnall wrote some of the series while sitting in the Watch House Cafe, where we enjoy large tasty bowls of mussels, mackerel salad and a view of the beach and cliff where the victim’s body is found.

Manifold says she originally planned to take tour groups on a hike up the steep cliff, but changed her mind after trying it herself on a windy day.

This area is part of England’s Jurassic Coast, a 153-km stretch from East Devon to Dorset valued for its age (185 million years) and wealth of fossils. Described as a “geological walk through time,” it’s England’s first natural World Heritage site.

We walk from the cafe across rocky Chesil Beach (boots recommended) and hike part of the coastal path to the neighbouring town of Eype. The coastal views are amazing as Manifold points out Broadchurch filming sites along the way.


VisitBritain has a wealth of travel information at its website, visitbritain.com.


– In Torquay, we stayed at the waterfront Grand Hotel. While perhaps not as chic as it might have been in 1914 when Agatha Christie spent her honeymoon night there, rooms are modern, clean and reasonably priced from about $80 for a single to $650 for a two-bedroom suite. See grandtorquay.co.uk.

– In Bridport, we stayed at The Bull, a historic 16th-century coaching inn turned boutique hotel. Some of the Broadchurch cast stayed there while filming, and the hotel is mentioned in Thomas Hardy’s short story Fellow Townsmen. While floors in the ancient building are a bit tilted, rooms are generous, clean and creatively decorated. The restaurant is excellent. Single rates start around $165. See thebullhotel.co.uk.

Article source: http://www.torontosun.com/2014/10/20/civilized-england-a-hotbed-of-dark-deeds

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During Charlie Hill’s 47 years at the National Gallery his work and study and even his life have been considered and written about many times, yet still he surprises.

When I ask Hill about the high point of his career at the gallery — the last 35 years as curator of Canadian art, which is to say the high priest of this nation’s art heritage — he doesn’t do the expected and cite an exhibition. Instead, he cites the catalogues that go with the exhibitions.

“That’s where the content remains, whereas on the walls it’s gone,” he says, over the phone as he readies for his imminent retirement. “The exhibitions are quite ephemeral. The publications remain and hopefully either are criticized or built on.

“When I arrived” — that was as a long-haired, free-spirited, gay lib champion in 1967 — “Jean Boggs had initiated a very ambitious publications program for the National Gallery, which in many instances the gallery’s been able to maintain. These catalogues, these books, really are, I think, the thing we can all contribute to the debate about Canadian art history.”

Boggs, the gallery director when Hill was hired, would be followed by Hsio-Yen Shih, Joseph Martin, Shirley Thomson, Pierre Théberge and the current director Marc Mayer, and through all their reigns Hill would work to expand his understanding, and the world’s understanding, of Canadian art. He did it with authority and passion. In an app the gallery released this year Hill talks about one artist’s “very contemplative attitude towards nature.” Having toured exhibitions with Hill over the years, I’ve seen his very contemplative attitude towards art.

“My work tends to focus on the object: it gives me more pleasure,” he says. “I’m not a theoretician, and I think there’s a risk in theory becoming divorced from the object.”

He’s always been drawn to how objects or projects or genres or eras relate to one another, and to society at large, as demonstrated by his first and last solo exhibitions as a curator at the gallery. In the mid ’70s he put together Canadian Painting in the Thirties, of which he now says, “What I was trying to do there was look at the whole context of the arts scene. . . and the relationship of art to society, and also collectors and writers and critics.”

More recently came his swan song, 2013’s Artist, Architects and Artisans: Canadian Art 1890-1918. The exhaustive exhibition brought together everything from tiny pieces of art to grand architectural dreams, with untold layers and links to be found among the array.

“They’re more complicated shows to do in some ways,” Hill says. “How do you start to find a structure of something, which is not necessarily a structured history.” The final show was, he says, the most complicated. It was a bold, final hurrah of assemblage.

Much changed between the years of his first and last exhibitions.

“When we started we were all doing solo exhibitions, in the sense that there was one curator,” he says. “Now — and I think it’s a very constructive direction — you’re working with a group of curators, who have input on different levels. I think that really helps develop new ideas.” A current example of group curation is the gallery’s biennial, Shine A Light, which is the work of a half-dozen curators. (Being contemporary art, it doesn’t involve Hill.)

He’s also seen broader changes, beyond the walls of the gallery. When he was a student in the 1960s, he says, “Canadian art wasn’t really taught at Canadian universities at that point. It was not deemed a suitable subject for academic research.”  Now Canadian artists are known around the world, and the study of indigenous Canadian art has especially expanded.

There’s always a price to growth. “There are fewer shows of Canadian historical art, which is a pity in some way for me personally, but I think a variety of ways of looking at things, diversity, is very good for the country,” he says.  “It some ways our Canadian historical art is losing ground to the contemporary — which is certainly good for contemporary artists.” Besides, he notes, everything contemporary becomes historical.

In the interview Hill sounds content, happy. He’s leaving behind a career as distinguished as it is long, and he’s only days away from his 69th birthday (Oct. 25). So, what next?

He says he wants to return to the biography of Montreal art dealer Max Stern that he began some years ago while on a sabbatical. Presently, he’ll fly to Ireland to spend the winter with his partner, who is a visiting chair to the University College of Dublin.

Dublin is only a cheap flight from most anywhere in Europe, so where might he go from there?

“I’d like to go back to Rome,” he says. “I haven’t been to Rome since I was 17. Never been to Florence.” He mentions Naples, Barcelona, “more of Germany,” and adds, “everybody raves about Prague.” It’s the itinerary of a man with plenty of time, and still curious about the world around him.

Finally, I ask him which piece from the gallery’s collection he would most love to take with him when he walks out the door. He laughs wistfully, and says, “Well, I recently bought an absolutely fabulous Emily Coonan with a young girl and a cat in an interior that I would take, but I can’t.”

In every word of his reply, his enduring love for the art of Canada rings clear.

Click here and read an interview with Charlie Hill’s successor, Katerina Atanassova.

Article source: http://ottawacitizen.com/entertainment/local-arts/retiring-charlie-hill-looks-back-on-47-years-at-national-gallery

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By Ali Akbar Dareini

TEHRAN, Iran - The number of foreigners visiting Iran jumped dramatically over the 12-month period ending in March, with 35 per cent more tourists compared to the same period a year earlier, Iran’s top tourism official said Saturday.

Masoud Soltanifar said on state TV that the thriving industry could help boost Iran’s economy out of recession and bring in much-needed hard currency. He said 4.5 million foreign tourists that came to the Islamic Republic over the period, bringing in some $6 billion in revenue.

He attributed the increase to the 2013 election of President Hassan Rouhani, who has shifted away from the bombastic style adopted under his hard-line predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Rouhani, who has advocated for tourism, hopes it will boost the country’s image.

“The new government has employed a proper language in international relations, leading to growth in tourism,” Soltanifar said, adding that foreign tourists, most of whom are from neighbouring countries, spend about $1,500 each in Iran.

Looser visa policies have also helped. The government has instructed its embassies around the world to issue visas, especially for group tours, within less than a week, while in the past applications took over a month.

Tourism from Europe has grown 200 per cent, he said, thanks to fewer restrictions at embassies, especially in Germany.

Iran has 17 UNESCO-registered world heritage sites, and plans to host 20 million tourists a year by 2025, Soltanifar said, a sum that would fetch $30 billion annually.

That would require tripling the number of four- and five-star hotels, for which the government plans to offer incentives for investors to build.

“The government is ready to provide low-cost loan facilities out of the National Development Fund to investors,” Soltanifar said. “There is a strong government will to help promote tourism and good co-ordination is being developed among all sectors to make that happen,” he said.

Ebrahim Pourfaraj, a leading tour organizer, said all four- and five-star hotels at Iran’s three major tourist-destination cities of Isfahan, Shiraz and Yazd have been sold out for 2014 and are now being booked for 2015.

One factor driving the surge is cost: Iran’s currency, the rial, has fallen sharply in value over the past years under international sanctions over Tehran’s disputed nuclear program. That makes top Iranian hotels cheaper compared to those in other countries, with a room at a four-star hotel in Yazd for example costing about $100 a night.

Article source: http://o.canada.com/travel/irans-top-tourism-official-reports-surge-in-number-of-foreigners-visiting-the-country

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Bruges Belgium Getty Images

Bruges-based De Halve Maan brewery is building an underground pipeline to move beer from its brewery in the city center to its bottling facility a few miles away. It makes a lot of sense practically speaking, but let’s be honest: Most people are probably concerned with how they can sneakily drill into the ground and siphon off some brew for themselves. But before their plans can go horribly awry, De Halve Maan has to build the thing. And it’s going to be a lot harder than digging a trench, laying some pipe, and turning on the spigot. That’s because this is no ordinary construction area: Bruges’ entire city center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and it’s covered in medieval architecture.

De Halve Maan has been brewing in Bruges since the 1850s, and in 2010 opened a new bottling facility just outside the city center to accommodate growth. That created a logistical problem: To move four million liters of beer from the old site to the new each year, De Halve Maan used trucks, which burned fuel and clogged Bruges’ small, cobblestone streets.

Two years ago, the brewery started looking for a new way to make the trip, and someone suggested a pipeline under the city. It “seemed to be a kind of joke” at first, says owner and Managing Director Xavier Vanneste. But upon considering the idea more seriously, “we realized it was not so crazy after all.”

De Halve Maan brewing vats. De Halve Maan

This isn’t the world’s first beer pipeline: According to City Labs, Cleveland’s Great Lakes Brewing Company uses underground tubes to move beer across the street, from its brewery to its pub. But there’s a difference between tunneling under a Cleveland street and digging up a medieval city.

Vanneste and his team started by looking at the oil and gas industries, where pipelines are commonplace, to see if it was technically feasible. They discussed the idea with beer experts, to make sure shipping their good stuff underground wouldn’t ruin the flavor. (The only consideration is that too much pressure can affect flavor, so they won’t be pumping too fast.) Then, they turned to the local authorities, to start the process. That’s where things started to get tricky: Bruges has its heritage site status thanks medieval buildings that testify “to significant stages in the commercial and cultural development of medieval Europe.” And what does UNESCO list as one of the biggest threats to preservation? New construction.

Bruges, a few miles inland from the English Channel in northwest Belgium, has been inhabited since at least the Iron Age. The city was founded by Vikings in the ninth century, and really got going between 1200 and 1400, when it was “the economic capital of Europe north of the Alps,” according to UNESCO. In the following centuries, it was home to some of the great painters of the Flemish Primitive movement. It’s where the first books were printed in English and French. Many of the buildings constructed during its “golden age,” from the late 14th to early 16th century, still stand today, and the city is lauded for its influence on the development of architecture. Colin Farrell filmed In Bruges in Bruges. (It also has great beers and waffles to offer for those less intrigued by history.)

A resting horse feeds in the medieval old town of Bruges Belgium. Getty Images

All of that makes it a tricky place to dig up the ground to lay a beer pipeline. Town officials liked the idea, says Vanneste, but were quite “difficult on the idea of breaking up all the roads,” the risk of damaging historic sites, and increasing congestion with construction. They did approve the pipeline, which is expected to cut heavy truck use by 85 percent, in September. “It is a win-win situation for everyone,” says Franky Dumon, the alderman for spatial planning who approved the project on behalf of the city council. It helped that De Halve Maan has pledged to cover all associated costs, though Vanneste would not provide an estimated budget.

The pipeline will likely consist of four polyurethane tubes, each about four inches in diameter, since the brewery will be moving different types of beer, and sometimes water. Between batches of beer, it will wash out the pipes with a “clean-in-place” process that disinfects and sterilizes everything when necessary.)

But before construction begins, De Halve Maan has to negotiate the exact course it will take. While a straight shot from brewery to bottling facility would be the quickest way to go, it’s totally unfeasible. The pipeline has to be built under public land, otherwise the brewery would need permission from a go-ahead from each individual property owner. Even under roads and public parks, there are centuries-old historic sites to avoid. There are more practical obstacles, too, like canals, major traffic crossings, and sites where things like underground garages will be built in the future. Utilities should be simple to avoid, as most of them are at pretty shallow depths. (The depth of the beer pipeline will range between 1 and 30 meters.) Then there’s the chance the drilling process will stumble across something like the ruins of an unknown ancient castle. Fortunately, Bruges’ history and archaeological sites are well mapped, so Vanneste says a new discovery, which would derail the digging, is unlikely.

Once the pipeline’s course is set, things should be pretty easy. De Halve Maan will use a computer-guided drill that can travel 300 meters underground at a time. That way, it won’t have to break up the cobblestone streets along the whole route, just at strategic points.

Vanneste says the route should be finalized in the next few months, and the pipeline should be in place and running by the end of 2015. Then everyone in Bruges can enjoy the drop in traffic and start dreaming about their great underground beer heist.

Article source: http://www.wired.com/2014/10/how-to-build-a-beer-pipeline-under-bruges-a-unesco-world-heritage-site/

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