In Magazine: a football field cut in half by the Czech-Austrian border, Czech politicians get invites to a session on moral reform, a Czech chef gives the country’s troops in Afghanistan a treat!
It was one of central Europe’s major curiosities–a football field cut in half by the Czech-Austrian border. The field located in the vicinity of Leopoldschlag in Austria and Dolní Dvořiště in the Czech Republic hosted local football competitions. A player kicked the ball from one corner in the Czech Republic to the mid-fielder in Austria. The benches for spectators were also partly on Czech partly on Austrian territory. What happened was that in 1973 changes were made to the basin of the river Malše which formed a natural border line and the basin was moved deeper into Czech territory. The two countries government’s agreed that once this was done they would sign an agreement on a small change to the common border. However the agreement was forgotten and the Leopoldschlag football club which needed a new site for a football field built it on the empty plot of land which was formerly the Malše riverbed. Although technically they were partly on Czech territory nobody complained and the football field was put to good use. During the communist years Austrian spectators moved illegally across the Iron Curtain as they went from one end of the field to the other. Players played on the territory of two states, elsewhere separated by barbed wire.
But these were technicalities. In practice the border guards were on the other side of the river and did not attempt to interfere. “It was only when the ball was kicked over the river that one of us would experience 10 minutes of fear as they went over to get it,” a player recalled later. “We could see there were armed border guards patrolling the opposite side of the riverbank, but nothing ever happened. They never made a move against us.” After the fall of communism getting a lost ball back was no longer such an adventure. But it was not until 20 years later that the two countries moved to remedy the situation. The Czech Republic ceded that small party of territory to Austria – and central Europe lost another curiosity.
ČSSR – the abbreviation of communist Czechoslovakia –or to be precise the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic as it was known – has come back to life as the name of a new party that Czech farmers are setting up. The party is to be registered as Česka Strana Selskeho Rozumu – meaning the Czech Party of Common Sense. Clearly they are hoping to attract party members and voters with an attribute that is scarce in Czech politics these days.
The controversial art group Stohoven made headlines once again when on the day of a Parliament session at which an MP defended himself against the corruption charges levied against him, they managed to violate an SMS gateway and send ministers, MPs and even President Klaus fake SMS messages which appeared to have been sent by their colleagues and political rivals. MPs thus received messages from their party leaders inviting them to attend a session on moral reform, and messages from rivals saying “we have both behaved shamefully. I entreat you to be there.” A communist MP said he had received a message saying “there are funny things going on upstairs –who is taking care of it?” from a colleague and President Klaus received one from his close aid saying “you have done much harm with your rhetoric - enough of stubborn demagogy –please attend the session on moral reform.” It must be said that most politicians took the joke with good grace and even smiled for the cameras as they read out their own message to journalists.
Ludovit Bari – an artist who specializes in violin-making, wood-carving and painting is showing a collection of his work at Emausy cloister in Prague. Among them are twenty fantastic-looking violins which are as beautiful to the eye as they are to the ear. Bari learned the art of violin making on his own and his unique pieces are inspires by nature, the female body, the wings of a fly and even Star Track. Occasionally they are used by the Talich Quartet but none of them are for sale and Bari has even resisted an offer from Vanessa Mae. He does sell his woodcarvings and paintings though and there is considerable interest in his works. You can see some of his creations in a book called Works Created by Love, written by the artist himself.
Czech troops serving in Afghanistan were in for a pleasant surprise from the army chief of staff general Vlastimil Picek earlier this month. The general arrived at their base in Logar with a visitor – chef and TV personality Jiří Babica whose job it was to cheer up the troops with a few specialties from home. Despite an initial security scare, when the chef was rushed to a bomb shelter in a Taliban attack, the barbecue was a huge success. Babica said later that although he had pulled all the stops with his grilled specialties the troops were more delighted with two basic products they missed from home – Czech bread and Czech mustard.
The inhabitants of Děčín are taking the local library by storm. Instead of the usual two or three books people borrow they are now coming in for ten or twenty. The reason is not a mass conversion to books as a sole source of entertainment and information but a generous response to an appeal from the local library which is moving house over the summer and has limited capacities with which to transport over 2,000 publications. It has therefore appealed to the public to take out as many books as they can over the summer and return them to the new library. Someone calculated that if every inhabitant of Děčín were to borrow 57 books the library would empty out and the librarians could just walk over to the new building and wait for the shelves to fill.
Finally, Roman Týc the controversial artist who recently served a month-long jail sentence for “defacing” fifty traffic lights in Prague is back in the headlines. The artist swapped the lights for his own creations showing the standard red and green figures drinking, urinating, hanging or walking a dog. The AMoYA gallery in Prague is now showing some of those glass coverings as art and is even negotiating with different Prague town halls as to whether they could not be installed legally. So far the negotiations in the Czech capital have been unsuccessful despite the fact that many of the city’s inhabitants would welcome livelier images than the standard stationary and walking figures. Officials have suggested the possibility of showing them in parks or public places where they are not functional as traffic lights but the artist would prefer to see them in their proper environment. The gallery says that if all else fails it would contact smaller towns to see if they are not more liberal in the matter.