Petr Huss (left), photo: CTK

How old is the oldest woman living in the Czech Republic and how tall is the tallest man? How is it possible to steal an entire garden overnight? And whose wedding did the Prime Minister attend last week? Find out more in this week's Magazine with Daniela Lazarova.

How much damage can dumplings do to your figure? French and Czech scientists may be on the way to finding out. The first obesity research laboratory in Eastern Europe opened in Prague last week - with French and Czech experts determined to find out why an increasing number of people in this part of the world are fast gaining weight. A recent survey found that three quarters of Czech men and half of Czech women between 40 and 60 years were either clinically obese or dangerously overweight. Since the fall of the Iron Curtain obesity has spread across all of Eastern Europe, but the problem is said to be most pressing among former east Germans and Czechs. Which is not to say that Western Europe is any better off - obesity has climbed rapidly in France, Britain and other West European states. The Franco-Czech laboratory for Clinical Research of Obesity is the third facility of its kind in Europe and will tackle the problem of how genetics and nutrition interact in ways that contribute to weight gain. It seems quite proper that this task should go to the two European nations who share a love of cream sauces and a calorie packed cuisine...

Milada Novakova, photo: CTK
Currently the oldest woman living in the Czech Republic - Milada Novakova from Prague - on Friday celebrated her 108th birthday with folk music, her favourite chocolates and a visit from the mayor. Miss Novakova, who is still single at 108 loves historical novels, chocolate and folk music, which now fill most of her days. The staff at the old peoples' home which she joined at the grand age of 100 because the household chores were becoming a bit of a burden says she can still be persuaded to sing a folk song herself or talk about the old days when she started her career as a schoolteacher in 1918. According to statistics there are currently over 238 Czechs aged over 100 years -203 women, 35 men.

The Czech Republic boasts one of the best stuntmen in the world. Petr Fiedor performs a feat that has got him a place in the Guinness Book of Records. He lies down on a bed of broken glass, pins and razors and has people walk over him. In the Guiness book of Records it says he withstood a weight of 560 kg in this position but last weekend in Chlumec he easily carried 700 kg. He always goes that extra mile to please the crowd - even if there wasn't an official jury present, he's a born performer, a friend said. His audiences certainly get a treat - Petr eats fire and cooks a steak in sizzling hot oil turning it with his bare hands.

Petr Huss (left), photo: CTK
The winner of this year's Tallest Man Contest which took place in the town of Olomouc last weekend is Petr Huss from Zbysov who is precisely 2 metres 18,5 cm tall. Petr defended his title from the previous year, saying that it was a relief to have it officially confirmed that he had definitely stopped growing.

And what does the tallest Czech man do all day - he's on paternity leave looking after his five year old son and two year old daughter. The tallest woman in the Czech Republic is twenty nine year old Lenka Juroskova who measures 1 metre 98cm.

A forty year old woman from the west Bohemian town of Pilsen was shocked recently to find that thieves had stolen her garden. It is the first case of garden theft reported in the country and the police are somewhat dumbfounded over it.

The woman reported that when she opened her front door early in the morning the garden was gone - shrubs, flowers and earth - and there was a gaping hole -50 x 10 metres in its place. Someone had actually dug it up with a bulldozer overnight. Thieves get bolder with every passing day, a police spokesman said of the incident. Makes one wonder though what some people can sleep through - if they worked with a bulldozer in the middle of the night and went unnoticed - it's a wonder they didn't take the house as well!

It may be a hectic time for Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla but he still found the time to attend a wedding last Friday at which he and his wife Victoria acted as witnesses. The bride and groom are well known to Mr. Spidla, the bride being the government's spokesperson Anna Starkova and the groom none other than the prime minister's body guard Stanislav Veverka. In their professions they inevitably got thrown together a lot - but rumour has it that they were so professional no one had an inkling of the relationship until they decided to tie the knot - not even the Prime Minister.

Some of the inhabitants of Prague nine are waging a war with the local authorities over the dismantling of public clothes lines and public carpet beaters - iron bar constructions on which you can hang a heavy carpet to thrash the dust from it. You can still find them in many Prague districts -especially in the vicinity of blocks of flats -and they are all relics of the past. A reminder of socialist realism and architecture, the local town hall officials said and gave an order for them to be scrapped. However it seems that not everyone has taken to vacuum cleaners. Some people still hang their washing out to dry and -apparently use carpet beaters as well. So there's been a hue and cry over their disappearance. The town hall authorities said the constructions were rusty and ugly and did the district no credit but since some people want them back so badly - they would erect nicer looking new ones. Carpet beaters it seems are not on the way out even in 2003 - they will only be given a new face.

The tropical summer we've just had has pleased many a Czech gardener. As in many other parts of the world there are autumn exhibitions of fruits and vegetables - and contests to see who has the biggest and best looking product. The warm temperatures have greatly expanded the range of products on display. Jiri Vrzal from Prague showed off a most unexpected harvest for this part of the world - he boasted 60 ripe melons, weighing 14 kg apiece, garden grown almonds, figs, kiwi fruit, Cuban strawberries and two metre long Indian cucumbers - all grown in his garden on the suburbs of Prague.

Our summer this year was comparable to that in southern Spain - and I thought it was time to experiment, the 61 year old gardener said. Who knows - maybe in a couple of years time these exotic fruits will be right at home here in Central Europe.