21-04-2007

This week, a Prague microbrewery makes a new beer from an unusual ingredient: potatoes. What's causing a commotion in Czech kitchens, if it isn't washing machines? Prague's woods can't cope with the number of people using them for recreation, while ramblers shouldn't be too surprised if they see hedgehogs with antennas sticking out of their backs. And the innovative 1960s "automatic cinema" is to be revived.

Potato beer, photo: CTKPotato beer, photo: CTK Legend has it that Irish Franciscan monks brought the potato to the Czech Lands in the 17th century. Since then the Czechs have developed a few local specialities based on the humble spud; the best known of these are probably potato dumplings and the greasy but tasty potato pancake known as bramborak. But now the inventive Czechs have come up with a new use for the potato, as an ingredient in...beer. Yes, the Pivovarsky klub micro brewery in Prague's Karlin district has just brought out its first ever potato pivo. It certainly doesn't sound the most appetising, though its makers claim that a casual drinker might not tell the difference from any Czech lager. They don't say if "there's both eating and drinking in it".

 

People around Europe are agreed that the kitchen is the noisiest room in the house, though there are considerable differences around the continent in terms of what causes that noise, according to a survey carried out by electronics manufacturer Electrolux. In the United Kingdom almost three quarters of respondents had a washing machine in their kitchen - that's why for them it's the noisiest room. But only 5.5 percent of Czechs have washing machines in theirs. So what is causing the commotion? Well, there is one area in which Czechs were above average in the survey: apparently 20 percent say they have sex in the kitchen at least once a week, an Electrolux spokesperson said. That's compared to 13 percent around Europe.

 

The Devil's Bible is not - as the name might suggest - some satanic text used by practitioners of black magic. It is in fact a regular Bible whose name was inspired by a rather striking illustration of the devil on its front cover. It was written at the beginning of the 13th century by Benedictine monks here in Bohemia but was later stolen by Swedish invaders during the Thirty Years War in the 17th century. That explains its the current whereabouts at Sweden's Royal Library in the capital Stockholm. It was announced this week, however, that the Devil's Bible is finally to return to Prague for the first time in 359 years. At least it's coming home temporarily, the Swedes have agreed to loan it to the Czech National Library, where the valuable medieval manuscript will be on show from September to January.

 

Prague may not be the greenest of cities but those who live on the outskirts of the capital will often tell you they can leave their flats and be surrounded by woodland within minutes. But now local officials are saying the wooded areas on the edges of the city are unable to cope with the sheer number of people who use them for recreation. Lidove noviny reported that the Hvezda park in Prague's Bila Hora has 7,500 visitors per hectare per year, an inconceivable number for a wood. By comparison, the beautiful Sumava mountainous area in south Bohemia experiences just a few dozen people per hectare per year.

 

American mink, photo: Mark Evans, Creative Commons 2.0American mink, photo: Mark Evans, Creative Commons 2.0 That's a problem facing green areas in the capital. In the Czech countryside, meanwhile, non-native species of wildlife are creating headaches, with American mink among the worst offenders, Lidove noviny reported this week. Mink are a time bomb which is just about to explode, a Czech hunting official told the paper. But the semi-aquatic mammals, which can cover up to 20 kilometres in a night, have not actually been in the wild in the Czech Republic for so long. In fact, it is just five years since breeders began releasing them, when it ceased to be economically viable to breed the animals. Part of the problem is that the little critters don't have any natural enemies. On top of that mink are a protected species, so shooting them isn't allowed.

 

Photo: Archives of ČRo7Photo: Archives of ČRo7 Staying in the countryside, we all know that hedgehogs have sharp spines, but Czech ramblers shouldn't be taken aback in the next few months if they come across hedgehogs with rather different 'spikes' sticking out of them. These are actually specially made metal antennas which have been affixed to their backs, as part of a new project by the Czech Union for the Protection of Nature. It is monitoring hedgehogs and birds such as owls, buzzards and kestrels which have been given medical treatment and are returning to the wild. The transmitters are very small; they must not exceed three percent of the body weight of the monitored creature. They stop working when their batteries run out after three months. All the animals and birds being tracked in the project have been given names and it will be possible to follow their progress on the internet.

 

One of the most memorable chapters of the New Wave of Czech film in the 1960s was the presentation of the world's first interactive film as Czechoslovakia's contribution to the 1967 Expo world fair in Montreal. Those who attended the "kinoautomat" screenings could vote, using buttons on their chairs, on what would happen next at key moments in the picture. It has just been reported that next month, exactly forty years later, the kinoautomat concept is being revived with a one-off screening at a Prague cinema. Alena Cincerova, whose father Raduz Cincera was behind the original idea, is involved in the anniversary screening and said she was curious how today's viewers would take to the idea. By the way, one interesting aspect of the original 1967 kinoautomat was that Miroslav Hornicek appeared on stage in Montreal as character Mr Novak to speak directly to viewers before they chose how they wanted the film to continue. The popular late actor couldn't speak English, but gamely learned all he needed to say phonetically.

 

Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek is one of the most recognisable faces in the Czech Republic, with his image appearing countless times in the print media and on the internet every day. Now Mr Topolanek's countenance has appeared - bearing a broad grin - on special toilet paper, which will no doubt appeal to those who don't support his Civic Democratic Party. The joke loo roll is on sale at Prague's Kotva department store. A sales assistant told Blesk newspaper they had also stocked toilet paper bearing the visage of opposition leader Jiri Paroubek, but it quickly sold out.

21-04-2007