Sunday, 22 October 2017

Czech elections

The elections in Czech were held over the weekend. The new Czech prime minister is Mr Andrej Babiš. While in Czech i have not paid so much attention to the politics, it has always seemed quite confusing. In the media outside of Czech, Babiš is being painted as a Trump. For me they are quite different though. Babiš has a billion more in wealth than trump, yet compare the GDP of the US to the GDP of the Czech republic and you'll see that Babiš is a titan in the Czech economy. It's not possible in any logical way for this man to govern the country in any direction, without having a conflict of interest. A man today told me that while working as minister of finance, his wealth grew from 33 billion Czech Crowns to 88 billion, in a period of 4 years. I'm no expert on the politics in Czech, yet as i know it, the situation in the last years has not been so good for small and medium sized independent businesses, is this man with all his understanding and influence going to make it any easier? Did Czech just become a corporation?

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Interesting airbnb guests- long-term business in e-bikes.

Towards the end of summer i had an interesting couple stay from Germany through the airbnb. They built electric bikes for the long term, the company based in Germany www.enviado.de . As i understand it, a lot of bike manufactures are focused on building a bike for the short term. Enviado puts together all its bikes in Germany, yet gets almost all its parts from China, they are built as robust as possible. Most of the bikes needed for the courier market, are used in a disposable way by the drivers, especially if a driver might be working for Domino's pizza or another company. The company is focused on this market. Through my view it seems like China has cornered the world into a situation, where most parts and products come from that part of the world. Yet China can't offer immediate service if a battery is faulty, or if a bike somehow fails. I think companies in Europe that build to spec for the market here can maybe thrive. My thoughts are that as time ticks on, less cars are going to be on the road, more e-bikes. Maybe driverless delivery vehicles, made from e-bike parts. who knows? The consumer market looks to be based on the short term. A bike company that imports complete bikes from China, does not want to build a battery that lasts longer. Yet a battery that will not allow the driver to discharge its complete charge will last longer, yet not drive so far. Was interesting to meet Sebastian, wishing you guys much success with your business. Thanks for staying through the airbnb.

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Mushrooms from Coffee

One idea that keeps bouncing back, is growing mushrooms from the coffee waste. Oyster mushrooms thrive in the used coffee. A lot of start-ups have started in the US and UK, for this. If you put coffee & mushrooms into youtube, you'll see a whole bunch of videos showing how different business's are using this waste. I'm thinking that the station is a good place for this, mostly as I have a huge basement space.

Sunday, 17 September 2017

Over the summer and start of this Autumn, volunteers have spent a lot of time with stripping windows. When i have just one volunteer at the station, I tend to focus on smaller jobs around the place, with 2 or more, focus has been the preparation of the windows for painting. This year I had a lot less volunteers than the last years, shorter stays rather than longer ones works better. Airbnb guests pay so as not to work, volunteers are guests working in order to stay. Using the funds from the airbnb to pay for food and materials.




























Friday, 7 July 2017

change in Xpat community

I've been here in Czech since 2004, a lot has changed in that time. When i first arrived, Prague had a totally different X-pat community. Because Czech was not a part of the Schengen countries, yet a part of the EU, foreigners were able to travel outside Czech for one day and then come back for another 3 months. In 2007 the x-pat community changed (the year that Czech joined Schengen), unless the xpat had a business or a Czech partner, to stay was not so easy. Many moved further east or back to their home countries. Kind of sad in a way. Now the x-pat community from developed third countries is made up mostly of those working in high end corporate jobs, people with a Czech partner or people that teach English. The Czech republic offered no amnesty to people that had lived here a long time under the old laws. Some since the 1990's.

Recently Prague has really changed, as far as urban culture for younger people. A lot of alternative cafe's have started, that resemble those in Western Europe, UK, US, Australia and Canada. Prague has its own coffee culture. My thoughts are that this evolution might have happened sooner and have more integrity, if more of those foreigners had stayed. 

Airbnb Group From Celebration of 17th November





A couple of weeks back i had a group of 10 people staying through the aribnb from an NGO that organises the celebrations for the 17th of November, on the internet this public holiday is written as the "Struggle for Freedom and Democracy Day." They hold the event at Národní Třída. link here

On the 17th of November 1939, nine Czech students were Executed by Nazi forces that occupied the then Czechoslovakia. Link here The 9th of November is also International Students' Day.

The group were positive, full of energy and enthusiasm for Czech and its future. Was kind of refreshing to see this.

Thursday, 29 June 2017

repair of table that broke in the post

I bought this table for one of the airbnb flats. Table was really badly smashed in the delivery by GLS, its been quite a huge job to bring it back it back to its better days. This table is a kind of hack of a halabala table, and something else. Sometime in the last 20 years two tables were put together. Probably 1950's. Quite abstract, want find it in any design catalogue. Yet will find parts in a halabala catalogue. 


Table dispute.

Table was broken by GLS, i paid for the table and delivery and then 5 minuets latter when i looked at the box, saw that it was broken. In Germany (GLS) when a package is sent, and its not fit for travel the courier will inform the sender that the package was not packed properly. Yet in Czech, no such rule exists. Subsequently the person that picks up and delivers packages can treat an object as he chooses. I tried to get the funds back from the seller through Aukro, (Aukro is a kind of Czech eBay) run by a Polish company called Allegro. Anyway, as the seller refused to file a claim with GLS, it was assumed that it was my fault the damage. Because i signed for the goods without inspecting them. With the paypal the seller has many more rights. Its interesting how the Czech state has done all it can to keep paypal out of Czech, Paypal offers buyers a better deal, and gives the option of broader sales to sellers. Czech postal tracking is not recognised by eBay, because Czech post fail to comply with international norms with shipping times. This means that Czech in most instances are forced to use the domestic market for selling. Prices are lower, this in turn gives a lower value to quite cool furniture, and thus insures that a lot of nice things from Czech culture get put in the trash. Historically Czech's haves created some really interesting furniture, before and during communism. Mostly the bigger transport companies like Czech post, GLS and PPL in Czech are able to get around the consumer laws here. The democracy mostly fails here (i think??), as the Czech people don't demand the service and very few mid to small sized business offer accessible services, within the transport industry.


Sunday, 25 June 2017

Tree falling down

A couple of weeks back, a tree fell down at the station. Looks like well have a good amount of wood for the winter also thinking to making some chairs that people might sit in. Tree look as if it had no root system, i guess it had just rotted. This year has been really dry with a couple of days of wind. Was lucky that no-one was hurt by the falling tree, it fell directly onto the main road and had to be cleared by the council. Thank you and thanks to volunteers that cleaned up all the mess and brought these heavy logs onto the platform. 


A

Restoration of Windows

Over the last weeks I have been spending a lot of time with the windows in the building in conjunction with a local tradesman and volunteers, taking all the layers of old paint off and then re-painting. The most efficient way seems to be to use a heat gun/ with gas bottle in conjunction with a scraper. As the building is a monument, I have limited choices of what colour's I can paint the outside windows, I had a different bunch of blues and also a different bunch of cream colours. I've chosen a blue, it seems to fit well. For every different process with the buiding a new permit is needed from the monument preservation society. www.npu.cz

Initially I wanted to apply for funding from the local council to restore the windows, yet the bureaucracy was thick, and it really did not make sense when i have volunteers. As an owner of a monument your able to get 60-70 percent back on what you pay for work & materials from the local council or ministry of culture. The accountability is complicated though, and often has a big element of idocracy to it.  Often i see buildings that are very old, that look perfect, for me this kind of spoils the old buildings atmosphere. Fortunately i have found a local man that was previously a registered  architect working mostly in Prague, he understands materials and the way of old buildings. For now he likes the project and is not so expensive to employ. He's able to show the volunteers how to do the jobs, guide them through any process's and make sure that all is ok.

Bellow are pictures of the restoration of windows we have done so far.





















Sunday, 18 June 2017

Plaque Restored

Between 2012 and 2015 (before i was here at the station) the plaque that commemorated the life of the station master Václav Hajduk, went missing from the platform. It took about two years of negotiations with different authorities to get the plaque restored to the building. It was strange that the plaque was taken, as it was stone, not metal. Anyway, The Organisation against fascism (CŠBP) that installed the memorial plaque in 1971, were back for a ceremony in conjunction with the major of Zbiroh and representatives from the local historic society last week. Thank you CŠBP for putting the sign back. The platform feels much more comfortable to have the plaque back in place. 

Translation of what is written on the sign.
For the freedom of his country he sacrifised his life in the antifascist resistance. Vaclav Hejduk Station master of Zbiroh Nadrazi born 20.7.1900, arrested 22.12.1943, in-prisoned in Pilsen, Wroclaw, Dresden, missing since 14.2.1945 -people be awake.



Saturday, 3 June 2017

Agriculture in Czech

As far as agricultural production goes in Czech, as i understand the story goes something like this in Czech. During the communist times, the agriculture in Czech was centralised and each town or city had co-operative, that controlled the lands. After the communism had finished, the lands were given back to the owners of the lands before the communism started and the co-operatives were privatised into companies. The problem now seems that its not easy to have a small production and get into the "milk chain" for example, the co-operatives have a kind of monopoly still on the collection. There opinion is that its not possible to control the quality of the small farms produce. The only option that a small owner of the land really has around Zbiroh it seems, is to rent the land to the co-operative, who then would use it to produce milk.  At christmas i was in South Tyrol, the system is different. The co-operatives in South Tyrol is owned by the farmers, the amount of production and services the farmer uses of the co-operative, for apple is juice production for example, is what they pay for the use of the co-operaive. I'm not sure what is more effective, yet for sure in South Tyrol they have a lot of diversity in the production and high production. In Czech they don't have much diversity, and the production although it might be high, its got very few players, so the distribution of the rewards from the farming is not so good. I see these kind of situations more and more in Czech. I suggested to the local co-operative that they might start collection for organic produce for small farms and sell the produce in Germany. Most organic farming is done best by people that have smaller farms and a passion for it, the private corporate  ex "co-operatives" I don't think would be able to get that kind of quality. So the regions are really missing out, because of the old system that is still in place. You can find the website for the local co-operaive here in Zbiroh. I don't think they are looking to sell anything to anyone other than the same buyers point since 1990, the site at least looks this way.

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Flowers between the tracks

Have just cut the grass in front of the station, I want to see over the next year if I cut the grass in different places, what the effect will be. On different flowers that pop up at different times..I'm told though that a more fertile soil is bad though, as some plants thrive in bad soil. So when you cut the grass, it creates compost. guess this patch work mowing I do will make different things grow, be interesting to see what flowers at what time, evolve. When I arrived at the station. my mum spent 200 pounds on seed from the U.K., of wild flowers, for medows...and we threw it in the middle of the tracks.. maybe it takes some years for all the different things to evolve. It looked like he just sent a bag of grass seed, as it all looked kind of the same, yet my knowledge has got a little better since then.