What are Czechs placing bets on this summer, how tolerant are Czech men and women of a partner who cheats on them, and where do you go to enjoy a Goulash Festival? Find out in this week's Magazine with Daniela Lazarova.
Has it ever occurred to you to place a bet on how long a politician or public figure will remain in office? Some Czechs are doing just that. A few months ago people placed bets on who would be the country's next president and now they are placing bets on how long the governing Prime Minister will remain in office. And it is no small sums of money that we are talking about. A certain Czech gambler stands to win a quarter of a million Czech crowns if Prime Minister Spidla survives as head of Cabinet until Xmas. Many others have placed bets that he won't - they expect the controversial budget reforms to topple this government from office. Others are placing bets on how long the new director of Czech public television will last. He is the sixth general director to be appointed to the post since 1992 and none of them have managed to remain in office for a full term.
An opinion survey has revealed that Czechs are more tolerant of their partners' flings than most other nations. 63 percent of men and 42 percent of women said they had cheated on their partner at some time during the relationship. And only 25 percent of men and 31 percent of women said it was something that they wouldn't be able to forgive. Sociologists say that this is largely due to the fact that Czechs are a nation of atheists. If respondents spoke the truth -then people here are unbelievably tolerant- a similar survey in Great Britain revealed that 79 percent of men and 84 percent of women strongly condemned such an act.
Czechs are known to be hazardous drivers - and it seems that some Czech roads are not much better. Some country roads are reported to be in a particularly bad condition after last year's floods. Regional finances are often stretched to the limit and so a slalom ride around various potholes is a challenge even for the locals. A German tourist unwittingly chose one of the trouble zones in the vicinity of Pilsen and managed to lose a wheel in the process. Much to his surprise the police were not very sympathetic when he turned up to report the incident. He was reprimanded for going too fast on a bad road -and when he countered that he was only driving at 30 km per hour - the police officer gave him a great piece of advice. In such cases he said, it was always better to walk in front of the car on foot first and investigate the terrain. Well, that's one tourist we are unlikely to see again.
There's a well known Czech saying that it is easier to survive three fires in your home than to have to move house. Moving is still something of a calamity for many Czechs and a recent survey has confirmed that they do not move unless they absolutely have to. Ten years ago the majority of Czechs would have told you they had moved house only once in their lives - when they moved out of their parent's house. Now things are slowly changing and Czechs are adopting their lifestyle to the western way of life - getting up later, bringing up their children in a more liberal fashion -but moving house is something that they still find difficult to accept. Sociological studies reveal that unemployment figures in some parts of the country would be lower if more Czechs were willing to move to where there are job opportunities. Even well paid work in western Europe is not considered sufficient reason for people to uproot themselves from family and friends. Only 20 to 30 thousand Czechs are currently working abroad and surveys indicate that this is unlikely to change when the country joins the EU in 2004. However, the young generation of Czechs is expected to be as mobile as today's west Europeans.
Adrenalin sports lovers in the Czech Republic - and there are an increasing number of them - have just received a fabulous present: the biggest adrenalin sports centre in central and eastern Europe. David Martinik, who is in charge of the new centre in Prague's Vysocany district, says the challenges there meet the highest expectations. Our slogan is "Touch the sky and discover yourself" and that's exactly how it is, he told newsmen, adding that everyone's knees shake at the first round. Policemen, firemen and emergency crews were reportedly among the centre's first clients - eager to put their stamina to the test.
The town of Dobrichovice, near Prague, is hosting a unique sculptors' workshop on the grounds of the local chateau. Called The Way of Marble, the workshop has attracted dozens of artists and a great many more spectators. The sculptures that are being produced are to remain in the town of Dobrichovice - where the best possible location will be found for each. Many of the locals reportedly go along to see the sculptors at work every day, to chat and admire the works of art as they take shape.
There are many who would tell you that cooking is also an art - even cooking something as simple as goulash - or in particular cooking something as simple as goulash. If you are fond of that dish -or if it is your speciality you would certainly enjoy the goulash festival in Vsetin, Moravia. The goulash festival took place on a July weekend and was such a success that the locals have decided to make it an annual event. Local gourmet cooks outdid themselves competing who would produce the best goulash in the kitchens of the local chateau. Ten goulashes all rated exceptionally good were sampled and devoured along with ten brews of the best beer made in the Czech Republic. The organizers are now thinking of making it a national goulash competition next year.
Prague, Budapest, Bratislava, Ljubljana and Zagreb are all cities which are involved a summer project aimed at promoting poetry. The idea is to bring poetry out into the streets -to people who would not otherwise read any. For the next few weeks short poems will vie for people's attention on street billboards and the public transport network. The idea has proved particularly effective on city transport where there is not much else to attract people's attention and most take the time to read a poem that's in front of them. The idea first emerged in the Austrian capital Vienna twenty years ago and was very well received. Each year the exhibited poems have a common theme - anti-violence poems, love poems, poems by émigrés and such. This year the theme is "meetings". The Czech Republic is represented by the poetry of Zdenek Rotrekl and the first poems have already appeared in the streets of the Czech capital.
And finally, this year ET visitors to the Czech Republic have opted for a change of location. Crop circles which were a frequent phenomenon in western Bohemia - around the vicinity of Pilsen -are no longer in evidence. On the other hand they have appeared in the southern and eastern parts of the country -where the locals have counted twenty mystery circles over the past month.