The former Czech President Vaclav Havel celebrated his 67th birthday on October 5th - what was on the menu of his birthday dinner? A Czech farmer explains why lamas make good watchdogs. And a police surveillance camera is a great way to prevent theft - unless of course the camera itself gets stolen. Find out more in this week's Magazine with Daniela Lazarova.

Vaclav Havel celebrated his 67th birthday, photo: CTKVaclav Havel celebrated his 67th birthday, photo: CTK The former Czech President Vaclav Havel celebrated his 67th birthday on October 5th. He dined at Orloj Restaurant on the Old Town Square and the birthday menu was shrimps with avocado followed by a popular national dish called svickova - beef in cream sauce with cranberries and dumplings. Asked whether he had returned to writing - the former president said he had been unable to concentrate on writing so far because he was still very much a public figure. I seem to have retained a great many presidential duties without the privileges that accompany the post, Mr. Havel joked.

 

Join any Czech company and you can be almost certain to find a Vaclav among them. Vaclav is one of the most popular names in the Czech Republic -and it was only a matter of time before someone came up with the idea of getting as many of them together as possible and setting a new record. Last year 88 Vaclavs met in Cesky Krumlov which gained them a place in the Guinness Book of Records. An attempt to break that record on the last weekend of September failed miserably due to poor weather. Only about thirty Vaclavs arrived this year. Neither President Vaclav Klaus, nor his predecessor Vaclav Havel were among them.....

 

Of course it is easier if you don't insist on everyone having the same first name. Close to 5,000 people gathered in one of Pilsen's main squares, Namesti Republiky last weekend to break last year's record in the biggest number of people joining in a toast. To be precise : 4,956 people clinked beer glasses in a huge toast launching this year's three day Pilsnerfest.

The biggest number of people to raise their glasses in a toast is reported from the United States where close to 200,000 people in three different locations all joined in a toast at the same time.

 

People have different ways of settling their disputes. A fifty one year old man from Zlin expressed his dislike of a neighbour by emptying his garbage can in the man's garden every day. After months of futile efforts to find the culprit -the neighbour was finally rewarded. Amongst the rubbish he found a letter from the local police station urging someone to pay a parking fine without delay. The culprit, whose full name and address was on the letter, now has to pay more than a parking ticket. He faces a 30 thousand crown fine and has become the local black sheep.

 

Pneumatic Post, photo: CTKPneumatic Post, photo: CTK As the country's leading telecommunications company Telecom offers its clients ever new services it is working quietly underground to save the Old Lady of Czech telecommunications - The Prague Pneumatic Post - which is more than a hundred years old. It was functional up until last year when large parts of it were devastated by the floods. What we are talking about here is an underground system metal tubes - 60 kms of them- stretching from one end of town to the other. When you wanted to send a document fast in the old days you would take it to the post office and roll it up into a metal capsule. The clerk would then drop it down a hatch and press a button, sending it surfing on a wave of compressed air down a network of tubes buried under the pavement. In 1899 this was a major achievement and Prague was the fifth city in the world to receive a pneumatic post system -after London, Vienna, Berlin and Paris. The Pneumatic Post served long and well - even in the 1990s as many as 10,000 documents a day would whoosh up and down its tubes. For close to a hundred years it was used by the President's Office, the government, banks and the media. It was destined to become a fine museum one day but now its fate is uncertain. Telecom says reconstruction work is underway but it is not clear how long it will take, whether the Pneumatic Post can be restored fully and what its function will be in future years.

 

There aren't many Czech farms that breed lamas but you can find such a farm near St. Catherine's Mountain in the district of Most. Sixty five year old Petr Pakosta likes what he calls exotic animals - something you wouldn't expect to come across in central Europe, so people passing by often stop to take a picture of his herd of lamas, Cameroon goats or Slovenian wild boar with their huge tusks. Pakosta says he's not worried about people trespassing: the boars and the lamas make people think twice. The lamas make great watchdogs -Pakosta says. They let in the regular visitors but anyone they don't know is not made welcome. They don't actually bite they just chase them and push them out, spitting all the way. The farmer admits that he too has been a frequent target when the lamas are not in a good mood and want to show their displeasure.

 

The long summer draught is bringing to light long-forgotten sights and places.

Vltava, photo: CTKVltava, photo: CTK From Prague to south Bohemia the river Vltava is uncovering hidden sights - abandoned settlements, cemeteries, bunkers, churches and roads -all things that disappeared underwater in the 60s as a result of man-made dams.

In the vicinity of the Slapy dam near Prague, where the water-level has dropped by a dramatic 10 metres, people come to get a glimpse of a long buried settlement and military bunkers used in the Second World War. Near the Orlik dam, old settlers who were evacuated in the 60s, are returning for a glimpse of their former homes, of the places where they used to walk and even the remains of the local pub. One man has been going back to the riverside for days now - he believes that his grandmothers' house -where he spent many happy summers -is just below the water mark. Others hope to see the spire of a local church -one of the few buildings which remained whole as the murky waters of the Vltava closed over it. All those who are still hoping have just a few days - after that the water level is expected to rise up again and the Vltava river will re-claim its secrets.

 

A police surveillance camera on the roof of the National Museum of Technology significantly contributed to reducing crime in the area -until the camera itself got stolen that is. The police were there in 5 minutes from the unexpected blackout but whoever it was had already gone. The camera, worth 200 thousand crowns, must now be replaced and the police are laying the blame on the museum for failing to inform them about a scaffolding on the building which made the theft a very simple task indeed.