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The Czech Republic is showing its modern face with an increasing intensity. The far-reaching structural change that has been underway in the country since the 1990s has not always been simple, but over the last few years a lasting consolidation has occurred. With high growth levels and low debt and unemployment, the landlocked EU country with a population of 10.5 million is today indisputably one of Europe’s most competitive and future-orientated economies. The rate of unemployment in the capital city, Prague, is one of the lowest on the entire continent.

The privatisation of the retail trade and its focus on customer demand has resulted in a radical reorientation of the goods on offer: more boutiques, fewer food shops. Major urban projects plan more space for pedestrians, less transit traffic and retail. This is also appreciated by foreign tourists, for whom Prague is becoming ever more attractive.

Unlike in many places before the 1989 Velvet Revolution, the inhabitants of Prague don’t just enjoy life on their days off. Proof of this are the restaurants and cafés that put their tables on the street and which are well-frequented on weekday evenings as well as at weekends. Prague is a city of strollers, but a nonchalant lifestyle was barely imaginable here 30 years ago. Young people particularly enjoy the emerging opportunities and characterise the cosmopolitan flair of the new Prague.

Making way for the future: university campus in Dejvice, Prague.
Making way for the future: university campus in Dejvice, Prague.

Domestic and foreign companies flourish in the Czech Republic thanks to the many specialists available and the long tradition in manufacturing. The proximity to other major EU cities such as Berlin, Budapest and Vienna is also a plus in terms of commercial relations abroad.
In addition to the auto industry, Prague’s new start-up companies are also driving economic growth. Thousands of students make the most of international exchange programmes, and return home with innovative ideas and a feeling for the modern European lifestyle. The start-up scene in the capital is regarded as one of the liveliest in the region, attracting a large number of creatives, media experts, app specialists and IT developers.

www.czechstartups.org

PRAGUE IS RENOWNED FOR ITS SOPHISTICATED CLASSICAL MUSIC SCENE. THE LEVEL AT THE CONSERVATOIRES IS QUITE SIMPLY EXCEPTIONAL

Josef Špaček (29), solo violinist and leader of the Czech Philharmonic

The Player

Among the cognoscenti, Josef Špaček is regarded as the the violinist virtuoso of his generation. He himself experiences the musical tradition of his country as a living legacy. In few of Europe’s cultural powerhouses is classical heritage maintained as it is in the homeland of Antonín Dvořák and Bedřich Smetana. The Prague Spring International Music Festival is popular throughout the country, and the Czech Philharmonic, founded in 1896 and the professional home of Špaček since 2011, is regarded as one of the world’s top twenty orchestras. Outside of the concert hall, the violinist can often be found where Prague is at its most lively: the Náplavka weekly market on the banks of the Vltava. The ability to feel like a tourist time and again amid the resplendent cultural history of this grand city – this is his greatest compliment to Prague.

www.josefspacek.com

PRAGUE’S CAFÉ CULTURE IS CONTINUOUSLY ­DEVELOPING. MORE AND MORE CREATIVE MEETINGS ARE TAKING PLACE IN COFFEE HOUSES.

Lada Brůnová (left, 28) and Soňa Hančuľáková (23), fundraisers for Loono

The Charity Networkers

Networking might not be on the menu, but for Lada Brůnová and Soňa ­Hančuľáková, it’s a staple of their café visits. Creatives in particular are leading a renaissance of Prague’s great coffee house tradition. Bohemian café culture ­flourished from the 19th century until the 1930s. Today such ­glorious places as the Café Imperial, the Café Savoy and the Grand Café Orient are celebrating this legacy. The two fundraisers work for non-profit organisation Loono, which strives to promote early detection of breast and testicular cancer, among other conditions. In the popular café EMA, they hold workshops for young girls – the relaxed atmosphere makes it easier to talk about medical issues with young people.   

www.prsakoule.cz

The Blogger

Nikol Kouklová loves diverse and elegantly feminine outfits. Her trademarks are her long red hair and unusually patterned socks. From her passion for fashion and beauty, the theatre graduate developed her own field of business. In her blog Femme Armeria, the 25-year-old reflects daily on the latest trends in and around the increasingly ­fashion-conscious capital, where numerous young designers, such as Jakub Polanka, have also been making international waves for years. Nikol Kouklová meets designer friends in their ateliers or at fittings. Her posts –­ ­unfortunately only available in Czech – rely less on statements by the ­fashion desingers than on their personal experiences and the blog’s closeness to its readership. She recently described the winter trends for 2016: loud primary colours and comic prints.

www.femmearmeria.com

EXPERIMENTING WITH COLOURS? WHY NOT? MORE AND MORE YOUNG WOMEN IN PRAGUE ARE ­DEVELOPING THEIR OWN STYLE – AND SHOWING IT OFF

Nikol Kouklová (25), fashion expert and founder of the blog Femma Armeria
Eight faces, eight success stories of the new Czech Republic – an eventful day in the new Superb
Eight faces, eight success stories of the new Czech Republic – an eventful day in the new Superb

BEING MOBILE IS A MAJOR ISSUE IN PRAGUE. IDEAL FOR START-UPS THAT ARE WORKING ON SMART SOLUTIONS.

Ondřej Krátký (31), co-founder of the Liftago taxi app company
Superb symbol: into the future with gusto
Superb symbol: into the future with gusto

The Entrepreneur

Getting from point A to point B quickly can be a complicated endeavour – especially in a labyrinthine and notoriously congested city such as Prague. Personal experience inspired Ondřej Krátký and his co-founders to organise the taxi services in his adopted home in a better way. So they developed the Liftago service – a “mobile taxi marketplace”. Liftago brings together drivers and passengers around the clock. The taxi drivers send price quotes for passengers in their vicinity who want a taxi. This reduces waiting time for passengers and also makes the utilisation of taxis more efficient. Krátký, who studied International Business at Prague’s ­University of Economics, and his team have their sights set on “making urban transportation more accessible and flexible”, and Krátký is already working on other start-up ideas in this field. But transportation is just one of the fields that Ondřej is interested in. With his experience as an entrepreneur, he grapples with urban logistics challenges in general and looks for practical solutions.

www.liftago.cz

The Publisher

Longing can lead in surprising directions. While living abroad, Adéla Kudrnová missed the mentality of her compatriots – the warmth, the helpfulness, the sociability. In recent years, she says, the Holešovice neighbourhood, with its trendy bars and clubs, has turned into a hotspot. She was inspired to launch her English-language ideas magazine by the quarter’s particularly spirited designers and artists, and the quality of the magazine is every bit the equal of similar international titles. Stylish and ­opulent, humorous and imaginative, under headings like “Pleasure”, “Colours” and “Travel”, the Soffa team takes readers on inspiring journeys through the worlds of ­contemporary design and décor, with tips and DIY tutorials on topics ranging from jewellery to cuisine.

www.soffamag.com

LIVING IN A BIG CITY IS STRESSFUL. BUT PEOPLE ARE ENJOYING THE FINER THINGS IN LIFE MORE AND MORE.

Adéla Kudrnová (34), founder and editor-in-chief of the lifestyle magazine Soffa
Architectural statement: the Ventilation Tower in the Strahov district symbolises the modernist spirit of the city and the country.
Architectural statement: the Ventilation Tower in the Strahov district symbolises the modernist spirit of the city and the country.

THE MANY POP-UP STORES DEMONSTRATE THAT DESIGN PLAYS A MAJOR ROLE IN THE CZECH REPUBLIC.

Josefina Bakošová (37), designer and director of the Harddecore Gallery
Shining city: golden light over Golden Prague
Shining city: golden light over Golden Prague

The Gallerist

Eight years ago, when Josefina Bakošová opened her showroom for international contemporary design, stores likes hers were rare in Prague. Today, the city is full of small ateliers and innovative design shops, offering everything from furniture to glass design, everywhere from the area around the Pařizšká shopping boulevard in Josefov to the formerly working-class neighbourhood of Žižkov. The 37-year-old herself designs clothes, while the portfolio of her tasteful gallery focuses on interior and lighting, jewellery and tableware. She stays up to date with visits to design fairs around Europe, and finds new Czech talent mainly at shows organised by art schools. Bakošová is especially taken by the craftsmanship of her ­compatriots, and exhibits contemporary glass vessels and figurines from the Czech Republic.

www.harddecore.cz

The IT Reporter

The Prague start-up scene is abuzz. Particularly in the fields of big data and e-commerce, successful business models are emerging with increasing frequency – major international players such as SAP and Avast are taking advantage of the high density of IT experts. With his internet portal CzechCrunch, Michal Ptáček offers a digital home for the ­pioneers, providing continuously updated information on international start-ups, mobile apps and new technologies. Being a patriot is explicitly permitted: Czech entrepreneurs enjoy priority treatment on the Czech-language portal.

www.czechcrunch.cz

WE SHOULD SHARE OUR KNOWLEDGE WITH OTHERS INSTEAD OF ONLY KEEPING IT FOR OURSELVES. MY COUNTRY IS BENEFITING FROM THE START-UP SPIRIT.

Michal Ptáček (27), founder of the Internet portal CzechCrunch
The cafés and restaurants of Josefov, in the centre of  Prague’s Old Town, are also popular with locals.
The cafés and restaurants of Josefov, in the centre of Prague’s Old Town, are also popular with locals.

Čzech it out

New_Faces_Czech_it_out_Karte

Metropolis on the vltava

WITH 1.2 MILLION INHABITANTS, the Czech capital has been undergoing its latest transformation since the 1990s – as the most popular destination of the former Eastern Bloc.


MORE THAN 5 MILLION VISITORS put Prague in 19th place on the Global Destinations Cities Index 2015 – just behind Vienna and far ahead of Munich and Berlin. The next most popular destination in Central Eastern Europe is Budapest with around 3 million visitors.


2.16 TRILLION KRONE – the German-Czech foreign trade volume exceeded the two trillion mark for the first time in 2015. Trade with Germany accounts for nearly 30 percent of total Czech foreign trade, making Germany its most important trading partner.

A 3.2 PERCENT AVERAGE rise to Czech salaries in 2016 is a sure sign that the Czech economy is doing well, as gowth is reflected in remuneration. The salaries of specialists and managers in Prague are 35 percent higher than the national average.


40.63 PERCENT OF GROSS DOMESTIC PRODUCT – the Czech Republic’s national debt in 2015. Over the last two years, the Czech Republic has reduced its national debt. The pro capita debt is relatively low compared to the EU average.


IN 1348, CHARLES IV founded the first university in Central and Eastern Europe in what was then the capital of the Holy Roman Empire. Studies were organised in the same way as at the Paris university on which it was modelled, with the classical faculties of theology, law, medicine and philosophy.


IN 1992, THE 866-HECTARE HISTORICAL CITY CENTRE was declared a UNESCO world heritage site. Prague castle, St. Vitus Cathedral, the Charles Bridge and the Old Town Square with the Church of Mother of God before Týn are all particularly well-known. The wide variety of architectural styles takes in Romantic, Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque.

Photo: Bernhard Huber