Erhard Falk from the German town of Pfaffenrod has built a monument to the Czech herbal liquor Becherovka in his garden, fans of mysticism are due meet at Kost castle this weekend for their fifth annual Witch Congress, and Prague gets its first coffee museum. Find out more in Magazine with Daniela Lazarova.
“Do not leave for tomorrow what you can do today” is a well known saying in many parts of the world – and for good reason– as the inhabitants of Lenešice, North Bohemia could tell you. They waited just a bit too long to repair the church of St. Simon and St. Jude - the tower of which had been leaning precariously to one side. The tower started leaning visibly a year ago and collapsed last Thursday –just three days before reconstruction work on it was due to begin. Although the church attained its current appearance in 1800 its tower dates back to the 13th century and its historical value was thus immeasurable. Architects are now assessing the damage to see what can be salvaged.
Most visitors to the Czech Republic are impressed by the country’s beer – but some prefer the traditional Becher Liquer – a herbal liquor produced in Karlovy Vary, West Bohemia. This popular beverage dates back to 1807, it is allegedly made from over 100 herbs and its recipe is kept top secret - at any given time only two people who know the rights ingredients and herbs used in production. Rumor has it that at the start of the 19th century a local pharmacist by the name of Josef Becher was experiencing some sexual dysfunction. He and a friend of his – a royal physician who was taking the waters at the famous spa town -went to work using their knowledge of herbs and combining them with the curative spring waters in an effort to produce a miracle cure. It is not certain whether the concoction they made was as effective as today’s Viagra but it is said that immediately upon perfecting the recipe Josef Becher closed his pharmacy and began producing it large-scale. Today most people drink it for its delicate flavour and digestive properties.
Becherovka has fans around the world but probably its biggest fan is Erhard Falk from the German town of Pfaffenrod, who spent much of last year building a monument to Becherovka in his garden. He says he was inspired by a house in Canada built almost entirely out of beer bottles. This was back in 1989 and over the next sixteen years Falk became a regular consumer of Becherovka – saving up not only the bottles that he and his family consumed but getting all his friends to collect Becherovka bottles for him. In 2007 he built his Becherovka monument - a giant bottle close to four metres tall, made out of 342 original Becherovka bottles.
The head of the country’s prison service may be about to inspect the work of his subordinates from a whole different perspective. He has been charged with abusing his position and mismanagement of funds which is said to have cost the state an estimated 120 million crowns. The man himself says he is innocent and was merely ill-advised with regard to financial decisions. If found guilty, he could face up to eight years in prison.
Fans of mysticism are due meet at Kost castle this weekend for their fifth annual Witch Congress. This 14th century castle, built high on a cliff and surrounded by the deep woods of Cesky Raj is the perfect setting for a get-together of astrologers, numerologists, faith healers, fortune tellers and others. They come together every year to keep in touch and show off their skills to the public – giving advice as to health problems, heartaches, telling people’s fortune and selling various herbal potions and good-luck charms. Those who just turn up to savour the medieval atmosphere will be able to enjoy the performances of fencers, fire-eaters and belly dancers, among others.
As of this week Prague has its own coffee museum. The museum is the work of Malgorzata Ebel, who has spent years collecting coffee related artefacts. Finding that her house was overflowing with her collection she decided to turn her hobby into a business and opened the very first coffee museum in the Czech Republic. Visitors will be able to learn the details of the art of coffee making “from the coffee bean to the coffee cup” – as Mrs Ebel explains. Her exhibits come from all over the world, reflecting the different ways of making and drinking coffee, and include a highly ornamental Turkish coffee set as well as old Italian coffee machines. The oldest exhibit dates back to 1830. Malgorzata Ebel says that in general Czechs know very little about coffee although they drink as much of it as any other nation. For years most Czechs and even the country’s restaurants only ever made what used to be called “turek” or Turkish coffee – although it had nothing to do with coffee as the Turks drink it. A turek was ground coffee poured-over with boiling water and stirred to make the dregs fall. It was only after the fall of communism that Czech families were able to acquire the luxury of a coffee machine and eventually espresso machines. Even so it took a while for everyone to make the transition and in the first years following the 1989 revolution even visiting royalty and heads of government would unexpectedly come face to face with a turek.
A hearty, long laugh is not something many people can do at will – certainly not without practice. At the International Laughing Contest in the Thai resort of Pattaya this week the Czech representative failed to produce the required measure of hilarity. Over 130 contestants from around the world pitted their skills in who could produce the longest, loudest and heartiest laugh which ideally should set off the jury and audience laughing as well. The victory went to a home representative – a 54-year-old woman who laughed for 12 minutes without a break –for no reason whatsoever – apart from the 300 dollar prize.