With EU accession just weeks away, the EC's headquarters in Brussels gets a taste of things Czech - beer, fruit dumplings and films - as well as a crash course in Czech for free! Birds of a feather flock together -and they are all flocking to the Jihlava Zoo for the annual human-bird jamboree! And, the garbage truck that smells of Chanel. Find out more in Magazine with Daniela Lazarova.

The European Commission in Brussels has just been treated to the best that Czech cuisine has to offer. Throughout this week the commission's restaurants offered Czech beer, Moravian wines, Czech apple pie, fruit dumplings and the popular svickova -beef in cream sauce with cranberries...among other things. Four chefs from Karlovy Vary have been overseeing the preparation of Czech food in the kitchens to make sure that everything is just perfect. All this is happening within the week of Czech culture -an effort by the EC to get acquainted with the EU newcomers. There were screenings of the best Czech films, free language courses for the commission's employees and seminars and lectures about the Czech Republic. The response has been marvellous, the head of the Czech cultural centre in Brussls said. All Czech language courses were fully booked - but of course the biggest hit is Czech beer. That really draws a crowd every time and THEN you can start telling them what a wonderful country the Czech Republic is!


The Czech Superstar contest is in full swing - with millions of people glued to their TV screens on Sunday nights. Although it will be some weeks yet before Czech viewers pick their pop idol the contest already has its anti-star - who is currently getting more publicity than her successful rivals. The 17 year old drop-out has been dubbed the Czech Dido and despite -or rather due to- her awful rendition of Dido's Thank You is receiving offers from radio stations, music companies and advertising firms. Her face has already appeared on billboards across Prague. What made the audience sit up and take notice was her incredible composure and assertiveness when faced with a merciless jury. Told that she couldn't sing to save her life and that her English was atrocious Anna responded - well, that's your opinion and it is not worth much! Clearly spunk is something that Czechs appreciate because the 17 year old supermarket salesgirl now gets loads of fan mail saying Ann -we love you!


Young people across the Czech Republic take part in an annual ritual of welcoming in the spring. On the first day of spring they dress up a straw figurine representing death and carry it at the head of a procession to the nearest river. After much singling and dancing - not to mention many shots of plum brandy - the straw figure is thrown into the water and swept away by the tide. This old tradition representing the cycle of life and death is not only practiced in towns and villages but also in the Czech capital Prague where the event is annually organized by the nations' TV weather forecasters. On that day all rivalry is cast aside and the forecasters of the three leading television stations in the Czech Republic -Czech public television and the two private stations Nova and Prima - get together to bid winter farewell.


ParrotsParrots The zoo in the town of Jihlava, south east of Prague, has a popular annual event. Every year on Bird Day it opens its doors -at half price- to all visitors who have a bird name - and there are plenty of those in the Czech Republic. Around 350 of them turn up annually and the zoo is crammed with Mrs and Mrs Pigeons, Pelicans, Nightingales, Swallows, Crows and even Parrots. Well, birds of a feather flock together - not because they want to save on the entrance fee - but because meeting so many bird named people in one place has turned out to be enormous fun. The zoo has a gift for each bird named visitor and they have a lot of contests and competitions planned including a main prize for the Bird of the Year, which happens to be the swift this year. The annual event is so popular that it is only a question of time before the zoo organizes something for people with animal names as well. The only thing that is not clear is what exactly the animals make of this annual human-bird jamboree!


Easter egg tree, photo: CTKEaster egg tree, photo: CTK The town of Miroslav aims to get into the Guinness book of Records this Easter with its Easter egg tree. The tree that graces the town's square is not a fir but a birch and it is covered with brightly decorated Easter eggs shells. The tree was decorated by kids from the local school who hung up 3,200 of them. "I hope they make the Guinness Book this year - our hens are exhausted!" one of the locals quipped. Since the yolks and whites are carefully blown out of the egg before it is decorated - the locals have probably had enough egg meals to last them for a lifetime!


The winner of this year's Most Popular Teacher contest is thirty-two year old primary school teacher Jiri Luka from Prague. Luka won hands down -having been nominated by several classes of kids. In a school system that is still fairly authoritarian, Luka collected his winning points for two outstanding qualities - an innovative approach to teaching and a sense of humour. Luka is known to pick up a guitar and sing lessons to the younger children, having versed the subject matter to make it easier for them to memorize, and his pranks are well known throughout the school. Luka was crowned Teacher of the Year at the annual Teachers Ball and presented with the main prize - a few weeks at a wellbeing spa in the Czech Republic. The annual contest also brings out some bad blood between students and teachers - asked to voice general reservations students said many lessons were plain boring, while teachers complained that students were increasingly difficult to control and increasingly aggressive in class.


The crowd that attended the opening of a new sports arena, which is to host the world ice hockey championships in Prague later this year, got its first taste of the strict anti-terrorist measures that will surround the event. Many people failed to pay proper heed to the notices about what was and what was not permitted at the opening and were in for a nasty surprise at the entrance. Security staff were uncompromising and everything on the banned list was tossed into huge containers -cameras, any kind of food and drink and even bottles of expensive perfume. But why- demanded a woman clutching her bottle of Chanel - I paid two thousand crowns for this! We have no idea what that substance is - only 20 millilitre perfume bottles allowed, the security man said pointing to the container. Faced with the choice of leaving with their perfume or staying for the opening night the vast majority of people tossed their perfume away. Of course they were free to come back and rummage for them in the huge containers after the show -but not everyone did. And so on the following day garbage trucks were in for a brand new experience - the garbage they picked up smelled sensational!