Magazine

16-08-2003

How much beer do Czechs actually drink, what's a "beer barrel race", and where do you go to meet the winner of the Miss Garlic contest? That and more in this week's Magazine with Daniela Lazarova.

People usually consider Czechs to be restrained in showing their emotions but sometimes you see an unexpected show of temperament. A traffic police warden in Prague had a shocking experience last week when a car driver he stopped not only verbally attacked him but tore his uniform and nearly bit off his index finger. Clearly the heat-wave must be affecting people's brains and the culprit can now expect to pay a lot more than a parking fine.

 

Central Europe rarely has so many weeks of tropical weather in succession. This summer has been exceptionally hot and drink manufacturers are delighted with their profit margins. Czechs -who are the world's biggest beer drinkers - are consuming their favourite drink so fast that breweries have to work overtime to get it to their customers. We have nothing in storage everything goes out the minute it's packaged, brewers report. Last year beer consumption per head was 159 litres of beer - the most recent figure -for the first 6 months of the year -is already at 156 litres. Just for comparison, the consumption of beer per head elsewhere in the world is: Ireland: 125 litres per head, Germany 123, Austrian 107. And some of that is Czech beer: because even though they drink more than any other nation Czechs still make enough to send some abroad. Last year Czech brewers exported 1, 9 million litres of beer to countries around the world.

 

Speaking of beer, not all beer lovers are couch potatoes with beer bellies. Five beer lovers from Adamov in Moravia, decided to work off the beer calories by touring the country on a scooter of their own design. The scooter can carry 5 grown men and -after a good lunch -it can speed along at 83km per hour. The scooter gets plenty of admiring glances on tour.It is 4,5 metres long and weighs 190 kilograms. This is better than sitting in the pub, the chief engineer Pavel Synek told reporters as the scooter left the wrought iron gates of Prague Castle. The scooter team will tour a number of Czech towns and aim to make it to their home town Adamov by August 4th - before the local pub closes - in order to boost their depleted energy reserves. Well, good luck to them, but I'm sure that the pub owner will be there waiting with a full pub and all their friends - no matter what time they make it home.

 

There are lots of beer festivities here throughout the summer.One that has a long tradition is the annual beer barrel race in Bosonohy, near Brno. For the first time this year it got an international flair when a group of visiting Italians joined in the race. Contestants roll beer barrels along an 80 metre long track. Jan Bezvoda - last year's winner -successfully defended his title of local strongman, having covered the track in just 18 seconds. Thousands of spectators cheered the contestants on and much to the delight of the Italian visitors one of their own came in second. The Italian team not only contributed their unique temperament to their show - in the cart tandem race - where Czech women usually ride in the cart while the man pushes them uphill - they wowed the Czech audience by setting up the exact opposite tandem. A temperamental Italian lady loaded her husband onto the cart and they were off. The winner of that particular race always gets their weight in beer -so the heavier the better. But it's an uphill climb...

 

One negative side effect of the hot and dry summer is the fact that there are very few mushrooms to be found in our woods and forests. Mushroom hunting -or mushroom picking - if you are lucky enough to find something - is a popular national pastime in the Czech Republic. From early spring to late autumn families head to the nearest forest on bicycle, on foot or in their cars and emerge several hours later, refreshed and carrying baskets overflowing with all kinds of wild mushrooms. Even very small children recognize a great variety of mushrooms and know how to prepare them. What is not consumed immediately is dried for the winter months -to go into the making of delicious soups and sauces or pickled in vinegar. Now mushrooms can be bought on the market all year round and although people welcome the possibility of buying them fresh in the winter months they would not think of missing the pleasure of a mushroom hunting expedition. Now many mushroom pickers are getting desperate.No matter how many hours they wonder around their baskets are nearly empty. And when someone does find an oversize mushroom to boast about they make the prime time evening news.

 

Although the weather has been exceptionally dry over the past three months there have been some pretty scary windstorms and hail storms here in Central Europe. The citizens of Havlickuv Brod ran for cover recently when a 15 minute hailstorm devastated roofs, greenhouses and garden furniture. "There was no question of saving anything -we ran for our lives," a woman told reporters later, showing them hailstones the size of tennis balls which she had put in the freezer, because -as she said- no one would have believed her. Even if she hadn't it was clear that this was no normal hailstorm.Plastic garden tables had holes the size of tennis balls through them as if they had passed through butter and the roofs of 200 houses looked more like sieves. There were some injuries, mostly children and elderly people who failed to take cover quickly and one woman was taken to hospital with concussion after receiving several hits to the head while she attempted to cover her car.

 

Garlic rarely leaves people impartial: they either love it or hate it. Those who hate it kept well away from the Buchlovice chateau last weekend - and those who love it couldn't stay away. The first ever Garlic celebrations at the chateau included a garlic anthem, a contest for the best garlic recipe, a variety of garlic games and a Miss Garlic contest!

 

The Czech Republic may be a landlocked country but it does have its own underwater world and coral reef caves. Visitors who miss the sea or Czechs who do not want to travel far have the option of visiting Prague's main exposition grounds Vystaviste. The Under-Water World expo is computer orchestrated, including the simulation of tides. And there are over 150 species of fish to be admired.

 

The vast majority of Czech women work full time, although public opinion polls show that many of them would prefer to hold part-time jobs only. A third of Czech women and, surprisingly, quite a few men said they would prefer a shorter work-day. However only a third of employers in the Czech Republic offer part time jobs and in any case most people said that they needed a full time income in order to pay the bills.

 
16-08-2003