Sunday, 13 March 2016

Drowning Morana - the End of Winter

I always spend March in England, for a number of reasons including being with my mother on Mothering Sunday. For this reason I have never seen the Czech traditional ceremony that marks the end of winter. But my friend Hannah has and she gave me this photo of the ceremony taking place in a small village a few miles from my home.

Morana was the Slavic goddess of winter and so her ritual destruction towards the end of March every year marks the end of winter and the beginning of spring. The girls of the village create an effigy of Morana out of straw and branches, dress her in old clothes and drape a necklace of eggs around her neck. On the day of the drowning, she is processed through the village to the river, to the accompaniment of songs and music. There she is set on fire and hurled into the river.

It is obvious that this ceremony predates the arrival of Christianity to the Slavic lands and may at one time have involved a human sacrifice. In this country, in which winter can be very harsh and where we do not have the early wildflowers that act as harbingers of spring in England, a sacrifice might well be thought needed to secure the death of winter. Nowadays of course no other reason is needed than the excuse to have a party.

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Creating an e-guidebook to Cesky Krumlov.

I am currently working on my guidebook to Cesky Krumlov, ready for publication at the end of the month (I hope). The text is written and edited, so nearly everything is done. The cover has been mocked up (see above). But I have a dilemma and I would welcome your feedback.

The book is designed as an ebook. I have observed that a lot of visitors to the town come with ipads and other electronic readers and so thought that there was a need for a downloadable guidebook.

This choice of book format offers opportunities and problems.
The opportunities are that:
  • with an ebook I can incorporate active web-links in the book, allowing the reader direct access maps, bus timetables and other resources
  • I can update the book easily
  • it does not take up space in people's luggage
  • the book is easily searchable.
The problems are that:
  • ereaders reformat the page to fit the screen, so there is an issue about the look of the page and in particular the position and size of images
  • the size and quality of images have to be limited 
  • Czech characters such as in Český do not convert easily into an ebook format.
To resolve the first two problems I will create a gallery of photos that readers can access if they want to see more images of Cesky Krumlov.

The third problem is the one I would welcome your thoughts on. It is possible to code the book to feature Czech characters using HTML, but I am not sure I am capable of doing it and more importantly I am not sure that I should. My readers will be English-speakers, readers and writers, using devices with a standard English keyboard. By using Czech characters I will probably be reducing their capacity to interact with the book. So what should I do?


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