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Easter, oysters and Oko

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The summer season began 1 April for many national monuments and cultural sites and the weather as if decided to give a hand. Temperatures have jumped to above 20 degrees Celsius, making the beginning of spring exceptionally warm. It is time to start making plans for weekend outdoor activities. Here is one tip: The national institute dealing with preservation of historical monuments has prepared a series of events, aiming to introduce new features of Czech cultural sites. In May, for example, selected castles, including Točník, Veltrusy and Březnice, will open their doors to places, which are normally not open to public. Children’s activities will be the focus in June and night tours are planned for July. Oživlé památky project will last until September.

One castle you may want to visit already this weekend. The Křivoklát castle, with history dating back to the 12th century and located not to far from Prague, is a popular one-day trip destination. This upcoming weekend you can reach it with a steam express train as part of Easter celebrations. The train leaves from Braník at 9:15am, Vršovice 9:36am, Smíchov 9:53am on Saturday, Sunday and Monday, returning back to Prague at 3:38pm. The around-trip ticket costs CZK 240. In addition to the train ride, you will see a traditional Easter market at the castle, with woodcarvers, pottery and basket makers showing their skills.

Easter celebrations are already in full swing in the Czech capital. Besides traditional Easter specialties offered downtown Prague throughout the holiday, you will get to see (and perhaps also taste) real oysters. Chefs from Prague restaurants will be competing in Old Town Square in oyster opening and the winner will qualify for the Galway International Oyster Festival to be held in September. For more Czech Easter tips, read the Monitor’s Do It on Thursday.

And what are Czech galleries offering these days? The Holešovice-based gallery DOX is showing the portrait of Barack Obama from Spanish artist José-María Cano, which Václav Havel gave to the US president when they met in Prague on Sunday. You can see it between 9 and 22 April.

If you like photography, you should not miss the Prague Photo exhibition open at Galerie Mánes until Sunday. Not only will you get to see more than 300 works, but you will also be able to buy one or two for your private collection. Among some 40 exhibitors are the private galleries (Galerie Chagall, Millenium, Gambit, Dům pražské fotografie), publishing houses and agencies specialised in photography as well as art schools. The PPF Art Corporation is featuring the collection of 28 works of Czech avant-garde artist Jan Lauschmann (before moving them to Galerie Louver for a solo exhibit).

Another photo exhibition is at the Langhans Gallery. The Dutch photographer Erwin Olaf is presenting A Choreography of Emotions, a selection of his photographs from 2004 to 2008. Olaf created the photos with references to his favourite filmmakers: David Lynch, Federico Fellini, Pedro Almodóvar and the 17th century Dutch iconic painter Jan Vermeer van Delft. You can see it until 7 June.

More artistic works, including design, architecture, dance, theatre and music, will be on show at various places across the Czech Republic as part of festival of Dutch culture starting at the end of May.

To compare the works of Dutch designers with those from the Czech Republic, you can visit the Museum of Decorative Arts in Prague, which is hosting until Monday the works of Czech designers shortlisted for the Czech Grand Design Awards. A vase inspired by the outline of a Finnish lake expressing the effects of global warming, a wardrobe by late Jan Kaplický and the Brussels Dream book are among the featured designs. If you missed Designblok last year, this is your second chance.

Japanese ink painting on silk and wood from the 18th and 19th centuries is the last exhibition you can see at the Zbraslav Chateau. The National Gallery’s oriental art collection, which the chateau has been hosting for many years, is moving to the Kinský Palace on Old Town Square. Don’t miss your chance to see the 18th century Baroque-style chateau in the Prague outskirts.

Fancy some music? Czech ska band Sto zvířat is having a release celebration for their album Postelový scény (Bed scenes) at Roxy 8 and 9 April. Ice Cube, a famous hip-hop artist from Los Angeles, will play at Incheba Arena on Friday. The Czech Gypsy band Bengas will have a show at PopoCafePetl Music Club on Újezd Sunday. Lucerna Music Bar will stage Us3, a jazz-rap group from London, on Tuesday. The same evening, a Lithuanian folkrock group Atalyja will play at Palác Akropolis.

Pass the Popcorn
Febiofest is over, at least in Prague, but some of the featured films are still available at Czech cinemas. One of them is Mike Leigh’s Happy-Go-Lucky, a film that promises to put a smile on your face. Poppy, played by Sally Hawkins, is a 30-year-old primary school teacher, who solves all kinds of ridiculous life situations with a smile on her face.

The German film Der Baader Meinhof Komplex is, on the other, quite horrifying. Based on Stefan Aust’s bestseller the film directed by Uli Edel looks at the Red Army Fraction (RAF), a postwar West Germany’s militant left-wing group, which operated in the late 1960s and 1970s. “The movie looks great regarding all technical aspects and the actors do an incredible job, but if you don’t know about the RAF, you will not understand most of what is going on,” one imdb user wrote. Kino Světozor shows the film today before it hits other Czech movie theatres.

Contemporary documentary film of US filmmakers is on this and next week’s programme of Kino Oko. Today (at 5:30pm), you can see Empowering the Yard focusing on HIV positive women serving a prison sentence; Betrayal, the epic story of a family forced to emigrate from Laos after a secret air war led by the US. Later today at 7:30, Flow: For the Love of Water will confront the reality of water supplies on the planet.
The screening of US documentary films will continue next Wednesday, with America’s Lost Landscape: The Tallgrass Prairie and Street Fight.

On the occasion of Barack Obama’s visit, Oko is showing a number of films featuring US presidents. For his film People’s president: man, myth and media, director Chuck Workman collected more than 130 film and television shots, focusing on the relationship between Americans and their president. Later this month, Oko will play Virtual JFK: Vietnam If Kennedy Had Lived, a Koji Masutani’s film looking for an answer to what would JFK have done in Vietnam if he had not been assassinated.

Ron Howard’s dramatic retelling of the post-Watergate television interviews between talk-show host David Frost and Richard Nixon is also on Oko’s programme.

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