Magazine

12-02-2005

Wintering in Bohemia: thousands of Bohemian waxwings have descended on the Czech Republic. The adrenalin road race Gumbell 3000 will pass through Prague this year. And the 15 year old Czech who became world hacky sack champion just two years after taking it up. Find out more in Magazine with Daniela Lazarova.

Photo: CTKPhoto: CTK Lent, the 40 day period of fasting before Easter is supposed to be a time of soul searching and repentance but you wouldn't guess that from the carnivals taking place here in the Czech Republic. The Masopust celebrations are a time of eating, drinking and merrymaking. And despite the sub degree temperatures Czechs are taking to the streets to enjoy themselves. Towns and villages, as well as individual Prague districts, organize carnival processions and parties out in the open with live bands, pork feasts and barrels of beer and plum brandy to keep people warm.

 

The Gumball 3000 road rally -known as the adrenalin road race -will pass through Czech territory this year, with part of the track leading from Brussels to Prague and onto Vienna. This particular car race is known for its participants disregard for speed limits, although the organizers claim that they do not encourage such behaviour. Three years ago, traffic police in Finland caught participants speeding at 250 km per hour. "We'll be keeping an eye out for them" the head of the Czech traffic police told the ctk press agency. The Gumball track is over 5,000 km long and is covered in eight days. The race starts on May 14th.

 

You know how frustrating it can be to miss your train or plane. It can be even worse if you are a stork and miss the migration flight to southern Africa. At least one white stork got left behind this year and the inhabitants of Vlasim are keeping an eye out for him as he weathers the harsh local climate. We get phone calls several times a day, a worker at the local animal shelter said, we are ready to take him in if things get too tough. The deep snow and freezing temperatures make it difficult for the stork to find food and although its body is protected its long legs are vulnerable to frost bite. The chances that this particular stork will end up in a shelter or zoo are considerable since ornithologists say that if a stork does not leave with the migrating flock in the first year of its life the chances are it never will.

 

The first round of voting in the greatest Czech off all time has ended and the winner is: Jara Cimrman. The country's legendary genius was a genuine Jack of all trades, a playwright, opera composer, engineer and self-taught doctor. A paragon of virtues, Cimerman has just one tiny fault: he never existed. Like the Good Soldier Sweik, he is a fictitious figure, at home on the stage and on Czech radio, having been brought to life 38 years ago by Oscar winning film director Zdenek Sverak and his friend Jiri Sebankek. The Czechs, with their wry sense of humour, took this genius to their hearts and have now bestowed the ultimate reward on the man who amused them for close to 40 years. Cimrman has thus beaten the likes of composer Antonin Dvorak, Emperor Charles IV or presidents Tomas Garrigue Masaryk and Vaclav Havel. However Cimrman's triumph too is likely to remain fictitious. Czech Television, which is running the show has put its foot down -disqualifying the likely overall winner on the grounds that he never existed and urging Czechs to choose a "flesh and bones" hero. People don't like this one bit and true to form have started a petition demanding the recognition of Cimerman. Over 9,000 people have already signed the petition and -although Czech TV remains firm in its resolve - the fight for Cimrman is not over!

 

Marie Rendlova with her collection of Babicka, photo: CTKMarie Rendlova with her collection of Babicka, photo: CTK Most of us have a favourite book that we turn to again and again. Marie Rendlova from Usti nad Labem is passionately attached to Babicka, a famous Czech 19th century novel by Bozena Nemcova. Marie recalls that Babicka - or "Grandmother" - was the first "real" book that her mother read to her at bedtime. At 11 she got the book as a birthday present and ever since she has collected every single edition she can get her hands on. She now has 200 of them in all, taking up much of her library. Her favourite is the oldest of the lot, dating back to 1862.

 

Tens of thousands of Bohemian waxwings have descended on Prague - a rare phenomenon according to ornithologists. People keep ringing to tell us that their garden is full of small parrots, a Prague ornithologist says. The Bohemian waxwing with its conspicuous red cap and yellow tail is an exotic sight in this country although its name suggests that it is right at home here. Thousands of them, flying in huge flocks of over a hundred birds, can now be seen in many parts of the Czech Republic, having flown over from Scandinavia and northern Russia. Bohemian waxwings sometimes migrate south of their range and ornithologists say they don't really know what brought them in such numbers this year. The most widespread theory is that the longer daylight time further south gives them more time in which to search for food, in this case mainly fruits and berries ...or maybe they just wanted to return to their roots and see what Bohemia has to offer Bohemian waxwings.

 

Vaclav Klouda is 18 and he's world champion in hacky sack. He first saw hacky sack being played in the park four years ago and it immediately intrigued him. "At first I felt really clumsy but in about three months I knew I could do it, " Vasek says. I was practicing about four hours a day then and I could pick up new tricks right away. His first hacky sack filled with beans and rice cost him 250 crowns -about 10 dollars -and since getting it he has never looked back. Within the next four years he became Czech, European and World champion. His victory at the World Hacky Sack Championship in the USA in 2002 was a big surprise. He was regarded as an outsider "a kid from Europe who'd come to pick up a few tricks from the pros," Vasek says. But he won - beating the hot favourite Brian Mulroney - and at 15 he became the youngest world champion in the history of hacky sack. He does his own choreography to the music of Johan Sebastian Bach. An unexpected combination but it works, audiences love it. Vasek says he's happiest when he manages a brand new trick - one that he's thought of himself. "I used to do lots of sports ping-pong, tennis, teekwon-do, football, skating and snowboard and I was good at every one of them but it was only when I tried hacky sack that I really excelled," he says. As for his parents, they look at all this with fond indulgence. "Whenever they see me kicking around the hacky sack they say: C'mon you clown! Time to learn something that will earn you a living! "Vasek admitted in a recent interview.

12-02-2005