“I didn’t choose to be homeless,” he said after completing an evening tour.
“But I’m trying to do the best I can. I don’t steal, I don’t cheat people, I don’t abuse welfare benefits. The tours are great. They are a chance for me to explain myself better.”
Since August, about 430 people have paid 200 crowns ($10.31) to visit the places where some of Prague’s homeless gather.
Half of the proceeds go to the guide and the rest to student-run agency Pragulic, set up after it won a 1,500-euro social entrepreneurship award.
SAFETY NET DISAPPEARING
Prague’s homeless population, estimated at around 4,500, has not changed significantly in the last three years despite two recessions in the Czech Republic during that period.
Yet a common sight for tourists arriving at the city’s main railway station is groups of homeless people sharing cartons of wine.
There are around 600,000 homeless people in Europe, with about a tenth living “rough” on the streets, according to estimates cited by the U.N. Human Settlements Programme.
(Reuters) – London may have put on a cheerful face during the Olympics but tourists have still rated the city poorly in terms of friendliness, cleanliness and value for money, a survey showed on Thursday.
Of 40 cities worldwide, London this year ranked second to last for the friendliness of its locals, according to a poll by travel website TripAdvisor.
Britain’s capital barely performed better in the nine other categories of the poll, ranking 28th for safety, 26th for cleanliness and 35th for best value for money.
The study was based on responses from 75,000 TripAdvisor users surveyed last month.
A day after breaking the news, the couple popularly known as “Wills and Kate” received advice from the world’s media and public on what to call the offspring, what he/she/they will look like, what to wear during pregnancy and even what the child was thinking inside the womb.
In an instant reminder of the goldfish bowl of attention the next generation of royals is destined to live in, newspapers splashed the story across their front pages on Tuesday and filled column after column with news, views and speculation.
In his article entitled “A feelgood foetus?” he praised the royal family’s “impeccable” timing, temporarily diverting attention as it has from Britain’s battle with debt and economic stagnation and a blazing row over press regulation.
Tabloid newspapers will relish the chance to cover every twist and turn of the pregnancy and birth, and they have not held back in their opening salvoes.
The Sun, Britain’s biggest selling daily newspaper, gave a lengthy account of the announcement concluding with a bizarre photo-montage of what a royal heir might look like created by the Sun’s “graphic experts”.
(Reuters) – The desk where Bram Stoker wrote his famed 1897 book “Dracula” is going up for auction next month after having been restored and turned into a work of art, auction company Profiles in History said on Wednesday.
The desk, which will be auctioned off by the California company on December 15 and 16, has had a long history, which, over the past century, has left it battered, with missing drawers and legs sawn short.
The Irish-born Stoker, who died in 1912, initially gave the desk to his friend J.S.R. Phillips. The current owner commissioned British-based furniture maker and designer Mark Brazier-Jones to preserve the desk, but also make it a stand-alone art piece, the auction house said.
Brazier-Jones said in a statement that he wanted to preserve the desk’s scars and textures, but also pay homage to the man who introduced the vampire Count Dracula to today’s pop culture.
(Reuters) – Jesus may have walked on water and turned it into wine but the hefty water bill for one of the holiest sites of Christendom is proving a headache for the church.
This week the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem, which has extensive and valuable property holdings in the Holy Land and maintains a headquarters in the ancient church, had its bank account frozen, said an official at water company Hagihon.
A report in Israeli newspaper Maariv on Friday said the Patriarchate was threatening to shut the doors of the church, which is a major pilgrimage site for millions of tourists.
A church was first built there in the 4th century under Constantine the Great, the first Christian Roman emperor, whose mother, Queen Helena, had visited the site and identified it as the place of Jesus’ resurrection.
The General Secretary of the Patriarchate, Archbishop of Constantina Aristarchos, had no comment on the Maariv report. He said the church was willing to pay water bills from now on, but that the accumulated debt, stemming back years, would be problematic.
(Reuters) – Heard about the end of the world in December 2012 as predicted by the Mayans? The members and editors of online travel consultants VirtualTourist (www.virtualtourist.com) have compiled a list of the “Top Ten Less Crowded Mayan Ruins and Sites” to help you explore the Mayan culture, but keep you off the heavily beaten path to Chichen Itza and Tikal before the impending doom. Reuters has not endorsed this list:
One of the most important cities of Mayan civilization, Calakmul was once home to more than 50,000 inhabitants. Though the city’s timeline goes as far back as the Preclassic period (300 B.C. to 240 A.D.), its golden age was in the Classic period (250 A.D. to 900 A.D.), when it served as Tikal’s main rival and battled for dominance of the central Mayan area. Many visitors might focus on the 6,000 structures within the city, but it’s equally important to experience the surrounding Calakmul Biosphere Reserve, which encompasses over 723,000 hectares (292,594 acres) of protected land and wildlife. While the reserve is a paradise for bird watching, the site itself is a hotbed of stelae, or stone monuments, often in the form of a high-relief sculpture, that were popular and characteristic of the Mayan civilization. 117 stelae have been discovered at Calakmul so far, more than any other Mayan site, and all of them from the Classic period.
2. Clenque, Chiapas, Mexico
Palenque was the most important city of the low western lands during the late Classic period, reaching its peak between 600 and 800 A.D. Along with Tikal and Calakmul, it was one of the most powerful Classic Mayan cities, as well as the seat of the distinguished Pakal dynasty. Much of the architecture (tilted facades on the buildings, stucco-sections) is unique and uncharacteristic of the time period; it has become a real hot spot for archeological research interested in architecture and written language. One of the most notable aspects of Palenque is Temple XIII, where the Tomb of the Red Queen was found in 1994. This tomb is significant because it shares the same platform as the Temple of the Inscriptions, suggesting nobility; the remains found are referred to as “the Red Queen” because the tomb was entirely covered in red cinnabar.
Reuters – If you plan on hitting the beach this summer, a new report recommends first checking your local water quality online before packing your bags – or risk bringing home more trouble than wet bathing suits and sand-filled shoes.
Last year was one of the worst on record in terms of bacterial pollution from human and animal waste, according to the nonprofit Natural Resource Defense Council’s NRDC 22nd annual survey of water quality at over 3,000 U.S. beaches.
State and local beach officials reported the third-highest number of closings and advisory days in over 20 years. The impact of sewage and stormwater runoff on swimmers include diarrhea, pink eye, ear, nose and throat problems, respiratory ailments and several neurological disorders.
To make the information easier to access, NRDC debuted a new online tool at http://www.nrdc.org/beaches that allows the public to search beaches by postal zip code. An application for mobile devices is also in the works.
“Having that information when you’re planning the trip is far more important than when you’ve taken the trip,” said Steve Fleischli, Director of NRDC’s Water Program.
The report shows how water quality levels vary significantly across the country. Delaware, not usually the first state that jumps to mind for many when thinking of fun in the sun, nonetheless had beaches reporting the lowest water contamination levels in the country, while Louisiana pollution has for consecutive years violated federal beach water standards.
In California, the picture was mixed. Five beaches, including Newport and Huntington State Beaches in Orange County, for example, were awarded NRDC’s 5-star rating out of the dozen others, nationally, that received the top honor.
However, eight of the state’s beaches appeared on a list of the nation’s 15 worst “Repeat Offenders” for violating public health standards.
Strange Random Beach Quote:
“If pinpointing God’s presence were really that simple, then he supposed the beaches would be more crowded in the mornings. They would be filled with people on their own quests, instead of people jogging or walking their dogs or fishing in the surf.” ― Nicholas Sparks, The Last Song
- Dirty water an issue at US beaches, report shows – msnbc.com (overheadbin.msnbc.msn.com)
- Florida beaches rank high in water quality, escape nation’s dirtiest list – MiamiHerald.com (miamiherald.com)
- The USA’s cleanest — and dirtiest — beaches (travel.usatoday.com)
- NRDC: Georgia’s beaches among the cleanest (bizjournals.com)
- 15 Repeat Offenders: America’s Polluted Beaches (snspost.com)
- Annual Beach Report: Is Your Beach Safe for Swimming? (ecowatch.org)
- Northeast Florida beaches rank among cleanest in state, Georgia’s Glynn County notably polluted (jacksonville.com)
- At Jersey Shore, Stormwater Runoff Blamed for Spike in Beach Closings (njspotlight.com)