25 October 2016
Lucie Nebesářová, Consul General of the Czech Republic in Hong Kong, is an ardent supporter of the heritage preservation movement. Photo: HKEJ
Lucie Nebesářová, Consul General of the Czech Republic in Hong Kong, is an ardent supporter of the heritage preservation movement. Photo: HKEJ

Heritage conservation: Notes from a Czech diplomat

When you think of the Czech Republic, the thing that often comes to mind is the nation’s magnificent cultural and historical monuments.

Now, what lies behind the success of the Czechs in preserving their old buildings and protecting their heritage?

Lucie Nebesářová, 38, Consul General of the Czech Republic in Hong Kong, says ancient structures are repositories of history and that their value can’t be seen purely in monetary terms.

In many cases, the buildings reflect the family history of the owners, she points out.

“The Czech people are generally in support of heritage preservation because the structures serve as a reminder not to repeat past mistakes,” Nebesářová says.

Of course, the law also plays a large role in the heritage movement in the country.

For buildings of certain age or those that have special significance, even the owners of the properties don’t have the right to modify or demolish the structures. The owners can only seek to revitalize the properties, turning them into museums or serve some other public good apart from residences.

The Czech Republic probably has the highest density of castles and chateaus in Europe. Depending on the definition, the number could vary from 800 to 2,000 establishments. Nebesářová says many of the facilities are open to the public and that they are also hot picks for film shoots and weddings.

While being a conservation champion, the Consul General is open to improvements in old buildings. She notes that in the old days, architects had limited or no opportunities to construct modern structures.

Having served as a diplomat for more than 10 years now, Nebesářová had applied for a gap-year in the past when she turned 31.

“I bought a single-way ticket to Bangkok and intended to travel round the world. But in the end I stayed mostly in Asia only,” she recalls.

She did part-time gigs teaching scuba diving in Thailand, while also taking the time to travel to Hong Kong, Nepal, the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia and some other places in the region as a backpacker.

“Traveling alone, it motivates you to make friends with others. Some would even become your companion buddies. Those were wonderful moments,” Nebesářová says, adding that she still keeps in touch with some of the people she met during her travels.

Asked if it is common practice to take a gap-year in the Czech Republic, Nebesářová said it was not quite prevalent there, unlike some other European countries.

However, she didn’t have any problems with her application as she put in her leave request in the wake of the global financial crisis when her employer was happy to cut some costs.

Commenting on trade issues, the Consul General says she hopes to facilitate exports of Czech-made hospital beds and dentist chairs to Hong Kong.

Czech beers, in her opinion, would also be welcomed by Hongkongers.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Sept. 27.

Translation by Darlie Yiu

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Writer of the Hong Kong Economic Journal

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