Magazine

23-08-2003

How big is the biggest baby ever born in the Czech Republic? Where can you enjoy an international train ride that lasts just 24 seconds and why have the locals on the Berounka river unveiled a two metre tall statue of a water sprite? Find out more in this week's Magazine with Daniela Lazarova

The country is suffering the effects of a hot, dry summer - which made the unveiling of a water sprite statue on the river Berounka something of a paradox. Actually the statue was unveiled in memory of last years' devastating floods and although the memory itself is not a good one -the two metre statue of the water sprite -or Vodnik -has enchanted children in the vicinity. The statue stands on the river bank near a badly damaged water mill dating back to 1698. The mill survived numerous floods in the course of its history and every flood was recorded with a water mark to show how high the waters had risen that year. The last floods however were the worst in 500 years and there was no place to make the mark - the mill disappeared entirely underwater. It is the sprite which now bears the water mark of last year's floods -a metal button just bellow his neckline shows how high the waters rose in 2002.

A number of Czech towns have declared war on people who spit in public places. Karvine, Prerov and Karlovy Vary have decided to fine anyone caught spitting, spitting chewing gum or urinating in a public place. The local town halls say this is a last ditch effort to keep the streets clean particularly from hundreds of old chewing gums stuck firmly onto pavements. Allegedly most of the locals approve of this initiative. The fine is 200 crowns.

Czechs are known to be fond of records and some set them the minute they come into the world. Baby Zuzanka born in Karlovy Vary a couple of weeks ago is the biggest baby ever born in the Czech Republic. She came into the world weighing over 6 kilos and showing a healthy appetite. Only a few hours old and she commanded the attention of the media -the TV crews and newspaper reporters jostling to get a good picture over her hospital crib. She's happy now but think of all that dieting ahead...

If you want to enjoy the shortest train ride ever -the place to go is Stozec- Heidmuhle on the Czech-German border. Not only is it the shortest train ride - it is practically an international express. Amateurs reconstructed an old rail line from the Czech Republic to Germany for an unforgettable joy ride. The track is 105 metres long and the trip from the Czech Republic to Germany takes just 24 seconds. You need to keep your eyes wide open -in case you miss it!

How do you like the idea of a gypsy life style for the summer? Horse drawn carriages rumbling slowly from one village to the next, camp fires and tents to sleep in. Kids from the amateur theatre ensemble Ty-ja-tr in Prague spend a few weeks of the summer living rough -and giving theatre performances in every village they visit. Not too much hygiene, horses, dressing up for the evening plays - sometimes Indian, sometimes Gypsy folk tales - that is the latest summer hit among 11 to 14 year old from Prague who vie for the privilege to be part of the travelling show. They come home happy, tanned and none too clean but insist it was the best summer holiday ever.

What are the most typical Czech dishes? The Public Opinion Research Institute asked Czechs what first came to mind when they though of traditional Czech food - and the answer was as follows: vepro-knedlo-zelo or pork, dumplings and sauerkraut placed first, beef in cream sauce with cranberries second, then wienerschnitzel with potatoes and, last but not least, fruit dumplings. Most people said these were staples in their diet but Czechs have also opened up to foreign influences in the kitchen. Over the past decade Czechs have become increasingly fond of Chinese, Italian, Greek and Mexican food.

As every year, this August Czech chefs gathered at the Vystaviste expo grounds for a celebration of good food and to flaunt their own skills. The gourmet food festival is held on August 8th, St. Antonin's name day -St Antonin being the patron of all cooks. There's lots of singing, dancing and brass band music - but of course the main activity is eating and drinking. The food festival attracts some 10,000 visitors every year and it's a mouth watering feast!

The town of Milkovice has a soft spot for goats - it has just held its traditional summer goat festival -which lasts an unbelievable 8 days - and focuses on anything to do with goats. Amateur singers, actors and poets sing its praises and there are films and lectures about goat breeding in the area. Apparently before the SWW goat breeding was fairly widespread and the country had roughly 1.5 million goats. The goat festival also includes photo, ceramics and painting exhibitions - all depicting goats. Too much of a goat thing? Apparently not. The festival is annually attended by some 5,000 people and the local Association of Goat Lovers encourages them to bring along and donate any object to do with goats - because the town is planning to open a goat museum in the near future. The most bizarre thing about this plan is that they want to open the goat museum in Prague - a city befitting this friendly and smart animal.

If you like fun and sailing down a river - the place to go is the west Bohemian city of Plzen which annually hosts a bizarre boat show. Last year it attracted 131 contestants and over 7,000 onlookers. The show is scheduled for September 6th., so it is high time to get to work. The boats or rafts can be made pretty much out of anything that will float -and although they can be as long as you want to make them they shouldn't be wider than three metres or heavier than 600 kilograms. And they must not be engine powered. And of course - don't forget to give her a name. Although many of the boats end up overturning the worst people have suffered in recent years is a bad cold. The event ends with big marine party on the town.

And finally, statistics show that an increasing number of Czechs are putting off marriage -in favour of just living together. Only 50% of couples who are serious about each other feel the need to tie the knot although three quarters of them say they would get married if there were a baby on the way. People are also marrying much later in life. While in 1990 the average age at which women entered into marriage was 21, now it is 26. While men used to marry in their twenty third year now it is close to thirty. People want more freedom, time to travel, enjoy themselves and work on a career, but most young couples do not rule out marriage altogether. The common practice now is to marry in your late twenties or early thirties and - ideally - have two children. Another reason which people gave for staying single is financial independence - Married couples usually consult each other on spending - and according to women respondents -men allegedly help with the household chores much more as sweethearts than as husbands.

23-08-2003