Sunday, 1 May 2011

'Now the lilac is in bloom...'

The weather's been mixed here - we had an almighty thunderstorm last night and further rain is forecast for later this week - but days and evenings are more often filled with light, and heady with the scent of lilac.

Traditionally, the first of May is Lovers' Day, and couples young and old will soon be making their annual pilgrimage to the statue of Karel Hynek Mácha, the Prague-born mill-owner's son who grew up to be the country's most respected Romantic poet.

Before the Velvet Revolution of 1989, however, today's date had a rather different significance. Under the communist whip, the Czechoslovak population was required to mark Workers' Day with vast rallies held at Letná Park, behind Prague Castle.

These artifical celebrations - an outrageous sop to Moscow - are now long gone; although twenty years on, some resourceful Czechs have been reviving them as an ironic way of capitalizing (no pun intended) on tourists' demand for 'retro-Communism', as this entertaining piece by the BBC's Rob Cameron explains. Give me the lilacs any day.

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