Presidential candidate Jan Svejnar’s shoes come under close scrutiny in the town of Zlín, two Czechs get their hands stuck in a billiard table and many Bavarians are crossing the border for a quick fag in the Czech Republic. Find out more in Magazine with Daniela Lazarova.
Presidential candidate Jan Švejnar this week launched an American-style election campaign, touring the country to drum up support for his presidential bid. His first stop was the Moravian town of Zlín, where he gave a lecture at the city’s Tomáš Baťa University. And it was immediately obvious that this was the town of the Czech shoemaker king. The locals who turned out to greet Mr. Švejnar passed over his impeccable suit, turning their attention to his shoes. “Are those American shoes?” an elderly lady asked as soon as she had shaken hands with him. Mr. Švejnar steered clear of the trap. “I bought them in Prague and I did not ask where they were made, but they look just like Bat’a shoes to me” he responded. At Bat’a University where Mr. Švejnar’s lecture sparked a lively debate his shoes once again became the focus of attention, drawing praise from the dean of the university Petr Hlaváček. “Good seams, good shoestrings and the shoe size is in good proportion to your body – I hope these shoes take you far,” he told the presidential candidate to a burst of laughter from the assembly hall. No matter how Mr. Švejnar does in the elections – one thing is clear – this week he had the people of Zlín eating out of his hand.
This may sound surprising but there are risks involved in playing billiard. Two Czechs got their hands stuck in a billiard table last week while searching for a ball and their amusement over the incident turned to panic when they realized that they really couldn’t pull their hands free. The owner called in firefighters who had to take the whole table apart in order to free the unfortunate players. “It beats me how they could have got stuck like this – we’ve never come across anything like it” one of the firefighters told journalists.
Mothers pushing baby carriages often complain that bad parking makes their life extremely difficult because they cannot cross the street where they need to and sometimes have to push the pram into the street to circumvent cars parked on the pavement. The city of Brno has now invited them to fight back. The town hall has printed 10 thousand “angry mum” stickers which it is handing out for free, urging mothers – and fathers – to slap them on badly parked cars in the hope that drivers will get finally get the message and refrain from violating traffic rules the next time round.
The Czech border areas have become a haven for Bavarian smokers. A complete ban on smoking in Bavarian pubs and restaurants is sending many Germans across the border for a meal and a smoke in Czech eateries. Bavarian restaurant owners are grumbling that the toughest anti-smoking law in Germany is robbing them of clients while Czech pub and restaurant owners say their clientele has suddenly doubled. “Our prices are cheaper but they clearly come here to smoke,” one waitress told the daily Lidové noviny, “many of them ask at the door if they will be able to smoke here and they ask for an ashtray the minute they sit down.” A quick lunch or dinner trip to the Czech Republic has other advantages as well: a tight restriction on cigarette exports has been eased, which means that every German national leaving the country can now carry four cartons of cigarettes for his own use. As Lidové noviny says, a five-member family who drive to the Czech Republic for a meal and smoke can take back 12 cartons of cigarettes thereby saving some 400 euros. Although Austrian smokers could have benefited in the same way pressure from local tobacconists led the Austrian government to introduce a restrictive measure: Austrians can take back four cartons of cigarettes per person only if the cartons carry German health warnings saying that smoking is a health risk. If the warning is in Czech then only one carton of cigarettes is permitted.
Vladimír Jindra is a man obsessed with pens and pencils. He has 5,600 of them in his collection which has won him a place in the Czech Book of Records. He collects pens and pencils in all shapes and sizes and is willing to pay as much as 2,000 crowns (over 100 US dollars) for a pencil if it is an old or rare specimen. His biggest pencil is two meters long and the smallest – which dates back to the 18th century - is 2.5 centimeters. He has pencils for writing on all kinds of surfaces – including meat, a vast variety of golf pencils and pencils with accessories. And the more he has the more he wants. Whenever he visits a pen and pencil auction somewhere he comes back with a few dozen more. Some of the rooms in his home have been turned into exhibition halls, but he says there’s always room for more. His estimate is that his family home can house some 100,000 pencils.
Churches, chapels and bell-towers are a frequent target of thieves and millions of crowns worth of priceless historic and religious artifacts have been stolen in the past twenty years or so. Many of these relics are smuggled out of the country, sold to private buyers and never seen again. Churches and chapels are usually located in the centre of towns and villages making theft more difficult but bell towers tend to be on the outskirts of town and are easy targets. At the present time the police are registering 19 stolen bells from bell towers around the country. Last week the police unexpectedly discovered one of these stolen bells at the Holešovice market-place in Prague. The bell was made in 1924 and was stolen from a tiny village called Nová Chřibská 16 years ago. The chances of catching the thieves after such a long time are slim and in any case charges could not be pressed because of a ten-year status of limitations on theft. The bell will now be returned to the village and put back where it belongs. The only problem is that the villagers had given up hoping they would get it back and – because they did not have money to pay for a new one – they had turned the bell tower into a mixed-goods store.