26-01-2008

Dancing is said to be a good way to beat the February blues – whether you choose to join the 2008 Bohemian Carnevale in the streets of Prague or attend the third annual Czechoslovak ball. But whatever you do –don’t take the lift! Find out more in Magazine with Daniela Lazarova.

Preparations are in full swing for the third Czechoslovak ball which is to take place at Prague’s Obecný Dům on February 2. Fifteen years after their amicable divorce Czechs and Slovaks still have much in common and the February ball – attended by politicians, entrepreneurs and people from the arts world has become an extremely popular social event. Over 1,600 people have accepted the invitation to attend this year. The Czechs speak Czech, the Slovaks speak Slovak and no one has the least trouble communicating. The evening is far from formal – although Czechs and Slovaks are not adverse to dancing a Viennese waltz, the evening is a medley of opera melodies, pop, swing, country and jazz. The dance hall is decorated in the Czech and Slovak national colours – red, white and blue and the food – Czech and Slovak dishes – is served with little Czech and Slovak flags. The motto of this year’s Czechoslovak ball is “Dancing to the same rhythm”. One really can’t help thinking that if all divorces were as amicable as ours the world would be a much nicer place.

 

If you think February is a dull month you should come to Prague – where the month starts with a wild carnival in the streets of Prague. The 2008 Bohemian Carnevale – due to start on January 31 - promises six days of dancing, gastronomy and fun with masked processions and allegorical floats in the streets of Prague. The Grand opening is at the Clam-Gallas Palace, but you should not miss the Smorgesbord theatre performance by a visiting group of actors from the National Theatre in Brno – called A tragedy in three courses, “Divertimento furioso” – the carnival’s main event and the torch-lit parade through Prague marking the end of the festival. According to historian Jan Nepomuk Assmann the Prague carnival tradition dates back to the 14th century, but the present-day festivities draw on Prague carnivals in the 18 century when Prague may have been a provincial city but it was a rich one – in those days the pre-Lent celebrations were wild and ostentatious. Unlike today when anything goes and people are invited to come in whatever guise they care to – in the 18th century there were magazines dictating the carnival fashion of the day. The ladies planned their masks for weeks ahead and then threw decorum to the winds dancing the night away in the streets of Prague, and unless their dress was in sheds the next morning they didn’t feel they’d really enjoyed the festival.

 

Forty nine year old Jirí Janda from the town of Pávov near Jihlava likes miniature trees – but not the usual bonsai trees you’d expect. His miniature trees make the eighteen centimeter bonsai trees look like giants. The secret to growing a really small tree, he says, is to place the seed in the crevice of a stone. You put just a tiny bit of earth in the crevice and spray the seedling instead of watering it. With very little “plant food” the trees stay tiny and you can even shape them with the help of tweezers and nail-scissors. Janda’s collection has got him a place in the Czech Book of Records and he is believed to have the smallest tree in the world – an eighteen millimeter Monanthes Muralis which he grew from a seed found on the Canary Islands.

 

Photo: CTKPhoto: CTK Young people in the town of Tichá attempted to establish a new tradition this week – a winter sport performed in the nude, which they say is only for the fittest. Some two dozen young people stripped off in the freezing cold weather to try and cross the local river on a slippery, wooden pole. Most of them ended up in the water coming back to give it a second and third attempt, while a crowd of onlookers cheered them on. After a bracing hour in the water the contestants ended up at the local pub for hot tea laced with rum and plum brandy in order to raise their body temperature back to normal.

 

A man in the town of Litvínov miraculously escaped death in a freak accident last Sunday when the lift in his building gave way and crashed five floors down to the basement. The man, who was in the elevator with his dog when the lift collapsed, suffered a broken leg. The dog was unharmed. The story sparked a lively debate on how some people manage to survive impossible situations but Czechs were in for a shock. The media followed up the story with a look into the state of Czech lifts and according to Jan Dvorak – general secretary of the Czech Association of Lift Producers – of the total 85, 000 passenger lifts in the country about 50,000 show up to three quarters of the monitored safety risks. “They can be used but they are dangerous” Dvorak told the media. Ever since that report was aired many people have been taking the stairs.

 

Their native country is Africa but the only home they have ever known is the Czech Republic. Lili, Demi and Mek - three female roan antelopes are currently the pride of the Dvůr Kralové Safari Park where they were born in captivity. But they are soon to undertake a long journey in order to be set free in Swaziland under an international programme to re-introduce endangered species to their African homeland. Swaziland’s last living example of the roan or “horse” antelope was killed in a trap set by poachers in 1961. The endangered species still survives in a few South African, Kenyan and Rwandan reserves and there are several dozen animals in captivity in various European Zoos who are cooperating to re-introduce the species into its natural environment. The young Czech antelopes, born in 2005 and 2006 now face a two and a half day journey half-way around the world, first with a specially adopted lorry to Luxembourg, then a nigh flight to Pretoria and then another six hour drive before they can start to smell the bush in their African homeland. Meanwhile the Dvůr Kralové Zoo is now considering ways to broaden the re-introduction programme to other endangered species – such as rhinos.

26-01-2008