Magazine

15-11-2003

When you point to "a drowned man" on the menu in Prague what do you think the waiter will bring you? The police in Karvine are dead embarrassed: thieves got away with stealing the iron railing from the door to the local police headquarters. It's a hard case to investigate - none of the officers present noticed a thing! And -a referee's life is never easy: but to have to be locked up for your own safety because both teams want to beat you up is too much! Find out more in this week's Magazine with Daniela Lazarova.

The inhabitants of Olsovka, a town in east Moravia have set up an association to help preserve local culinary tradition. It is called - appropriately enough - The Patriot and its members meet regularly for bakes and to exchange recipes which have been handed down from generation to generation. Several times a year there are Patriot Food Festivals - at which club members - mainly middle aged and elderly women produce their family masterpieces which are handed round for sampling. "Under the communist regime there wasn't much variety in shops so it was up to us to pass around recipes and use our imagination" says Marta Pavelkova. "There are so many traditional recipes that taste delicious, but now that the shops are well stocked young people no longer take the trouble to bake their own cakes and cookies. We want to try and preserve them as part of our legacy". Well, the cakes are a great success and disappear in no time at all. But what young people would really like to see is a local pastry shop which would sell these Moravian specialties every day of the week. Maybe one day someone will do just that - before it is too late....

UtopenecUtopenec And taking about Czech specialties - there is the popular "utopenec" or "drowned man". Now the name might not inspire you to pick that particular item on the menu but pub goers swear there's nothing better with a pint of good beer. The utopenec is a pickled sausage, which sounds simple enough, but the art is in the marinade which usually contains onions, cabbage, red peppers and a variety of secret ingredients. This weekend there is a contest in Stary Plzenec, near Pilzen, in whose pickled sausages taste best. The winner is usually asked to share his recipe and tell the jury something about the family history of his gourmet dish.

Legend has it that the first pickled sausages appeared in a pub near the town of Beroun. The pub owner, who also had a mill, pickled sausages in vinegar and in order to surprise the regulars he would occasionally add some new ingredient. The pub soon became famous for its sausages but it was not until after the owner's death that they got their name. The man was trying to mend one of the wheels of his water mill when he fell into the water and drowned. Since then his sausages have been called "the sausages of the drowned man".

A home for the elderly in the town of Zdar nad Sazavou has organized an exhibition called Wedding Bells. The expo is a collection of wedding memorabilia from the twentieth century. There are over 100 wedding photographs, the latest dating back to 1902, dresses, rings and various wedding proprieties. The photographs trace the history of fashion and weddings in the twentieth century. In the thirties you can see the popularity of little hats in place of a veil and the kind of bouquets that brides carried. In the war years people clearly didn't have much to spend on weddings. In the 50s you see the onset of costumes. And then, once again, romantic dresses. Although the exhibition was originally intended to cheer up the inhabitants of the pension home - the public has shown an avid interest. The exhibits were all collected from the pensioners themselves, their families and friends.

Looking back at the history of electric household appliances is equally amusing. For instance, the first iron produced in the former Czechoslovakia was constructed under military secrecy befitting the production of weapons of mass destruction. The firm ETA -which produces household appliances to this day - put its first iron on the market in 1943 under the name ESA. Owning an electric iron then was a matter of enormous prestige and it was demonstrated to visitors with pride. Before the communists took power in 1948 the firm managed to acquire a Swiss licence for the production of coffee grinders and electric heaters. Over the past 60 years the firm has produced 44 different household appliances sold at home and abroad - among them the popular Remoska - a mobile baking oven which later became very popular in Great Britain in the 1980s and 90s. But ETA's single most popular export article remained the iron, which caused so much secrecy and excitement back in the 1940s.

When a storm uprooted a 350 year old lime tree in the Alley of Czech-German reconciliation in Vimperk people were devastated. Planting a new tree in its place would not have filled the void somehow and so the town decided it would get a fully grown tree in its place. Because Czech foresters do not offer such trees for replanting the town ordered a thirty year old lime tree from Holland. The tree weighed over 600 kilograms and it took dozens of forestry students to carry and plant it. They practiced with an 800-kilo load of bricks -but apparently carrying the lime tree was much more tricky - the terrain was uneven and the trees branched got stuck several times - but it got there in the end and now looks perfectly happy in its new surroundings.

A very bizarre theft took place in Karvine this week. Thieves managed to dismantle and spirit away an iron railing protecting the entrance to the local police headquarters, without the officers noticing anything out of the ordinary. Given the fact that there are similar railings in many other parts of town most people believe that the thief wanted to teach the police a public lesson. The officers in residence have now become a laughingstock and locals joke about whether they themselves will not be spirited away next now that there are no iron railings to protect them.

Czechs are believed to be reserved people not given to emotional outbursts in public but last week's football match in Jablonec nad Nisou was not the best example of this. The match was between two lower league teams with emotions bubbling dangerously near the surface right from the start but what happened in the 85th minute was unprecedented. A fierce fight broke out between the players and the referee in vain attempted to restore order.

He whistled for all he was worth and waved three red cards before the wrath of the players from both sides turned against him. He took a few blows and in the end the organizers of the sports event had to intervene and lock the poor man up in a locker room to protect him. Even so some football players followed him there, banging on the door and threatening to kill him. The police eventually managed to restore order and the incident is now being investigated by the local sports disciplinary commission.

15-11-2003