13-09-2008

In this week’s edition of Magazine: a Czech student becomes a big hit on the internet with a video in which he throws himself against a wall; people are stealing plastic cut-outs of police officers intended to keep drivers in check; Olympic champion Barbora Špotáková gets a rock song in her honour; and the Czech Republic’s impressive network of marked hiking trails is under threat.

The bizarre antics of a young Czech IT student have become a huge hit on the internet. Since it was posted in June 2007, nearly two and a half million people have viewed a nutty, seven-second video of Otakar Křížek on youtube. Entitled “šílený ota” (“crazy ota”), it shows him running straight towards the wood-lined wall of a sports hall and launching himself, stretched out, against it. Naturally, not having the super-hero powers of Spiderman, Ota succumbs to the laws of gravity and falls straight to the ground within a split second of splatting against the wall. The short clip has even inspired copycat videos from the around the world, including a particularly painful looking one from Italy in which boys throw themselves against a brick wall while a girl in the background shouts “Sileny Ota!”. Šílený!

 

Understaffed police services in the Czech Republic have been employing an unusual approach to trying to keep order on the country’s motorways – placing life-sized plastic cut-outs of police officers by the side of the road. They are meant to work like scarecrows, deterring drivers from breaking the rules of the road. The idea is novel, although not altogether successful, as members of the public have been stealing them. Police in Kladno, for instance, said all of their cut-out cops had been pinched. Recently eight were erected on a Friday and every one of them had disappeared by the Sunday, Právo reported. Other dummy “officers” in the Central Bohemia region were simply lost, or damaged by the weather, the paper said.

 

Barbora Špotáková and Lou Fanánek HagenBarbora Špotáková and Lou Fanánek Hagen Barbora Špotáková won a legion of fans here in the Czech Republic when she came first in the javelin in dramatic style at the recent Olympics in Beijing. As well as a gold medal, the sympatická athlete has been rewarded with a song in her honour, courtesy of the popular Czech rock group Tři Sestry (Three Sisters). It seems the band’s leader, Lou Fanánek Hagen, drinks at the same Prague centre pub as the athlete, U Pinkasů. Prior to Beijing, Hagen pledged to compose a tribute if Špotáková won, quickly coming good on his promise with a ditty entitled Čtvrtá sestra (Fourth Sister) which is easy to find on the internet. The owners of U Pinkasů (incidentally the first pub in Prague ever to serve Pilsner Urquell) have also rewarded their most illustrious regular, promising Barbora Špotáková and her fireman boyfriend free meals for a year.

 

The Czech Republic has one of the densest and best maintained systems of hiking routes in Europe, routes which have been looked after with care by the Klub českých turistů (Czech hikers club) for nearly 120 years. The paths – designated red, yellow, blue or green – are marked by signs on trees or posts, and will be familiar to anybody who has spent time in the Czech countryside. But now, Právo reported recently, that network is under threat, as fewer and fewer young people are joining the hiking organisation. One of the club’s officials told the newspaper that it was mainly middle-aged and older people who signed up to look after the marked routes – for the token payment of 100 crowns a day. And not just anybody can do the job: you have to be trained by experienced route-markers and pass an exam before being allowed to work on the routes, which need to be spruced up every three years.

 

Filming of Protektor, photo: CTKFilming of Protektor, photo: CTK It is not long since the Czech Radio building in Prague was the centre of events marking the 40th anniversary of the Soviet-led invasion of 1968. But last weekend the station’s building on Vinohradská Street travelled a few more decades back in time, when it was used in the filming of a new Czech movie called Protektor, set in the days when Reinhard Heydrich was the Nazi governor of Bohemia and Moravia. Unhindered by the Radio building’s ongoing reconstruction, the film's makers created period shop fronts at street level; an old-style tram with the destination in both Czech and German was parked in front of the station.

 

Chateau in Černá na ŽďárskuChateau in Černá na Žďársku A chateau in south Moravia that has become an internationally renowned centre for devotees of sado-masochistic sex has gone on sale. Twelve years ago the 16th century chateau in the town of Černá na Žďársku, which had fallen into a state of disrepair, was converted into an S&M hotel entitled Other World Kingdom. That was quite a change, considering that under the communists it was a social and cultural centre run by the local agricultural co-operative. The newspaper Hospodářské noviny reported that villagers were unaware of who had moved into the chateau and its extensive grounds. Until, that is, they ran into some of the guests wearing, as the newspaper put it, unusual outfits. The sound of lashes being administered apparently carried as far as the local pub. Villagers were forced to build a new church, as they no longer had access to the chapel in the grounds of Other World Kingdom, whose website has reportedly had tens of millions of visits. However, the S&M centre is now preparing to shut its doors, with its owners willing to sell the property for 8 million crowns, which is about the price of a big flat in a nice part of Prague. The village mayor has ruled out the possibility of the local authorities buying it.

13-09-2008