Is Charles Bridge falling down? Mardi Gras celebrations that make you go ballistic! Dirty Dancing will help you win the dance contest - even if you are a dog. And, do you have guests coming around? We'll give you the recipe for a really huge hunk of head cheese! Find out more in Magazine with DL.

The past week was marked by Mardi Gras celebrations: the annual festivities that precede a 40 day fast starting on Ash Wednesday. Although few Czechs actually observe the fast the Mardi Gras festivities are always boisterous. Towns and villages -as well as individual Prague districts -vie whose carnival will be better. And at the end of it there's always a huge pork feast, barrels of beer and live bands. The message is: eat and drink your fill before the forty day fast.

Photo: CTK
In many of the smaller towns and villages the Mardi Gras celebrations go on for several days. They start with the slaughter of pigs for the pork feast and the whole village helps in making sausages, meat pies and local meat specialties. The traditional zabijacka is followed by three days of eating, drinking and dancing. Many of the locals don traditional dress for the occasion. Huge hunks of pork are roasted out in the open, anyone who can play a musical instrument is out there entertaining the crowd and farmers bring out their best plum brandy.

In the town of Kamenice the Mardi Gras carnivals have a different theme every year - and this year it was inspired by NASA's recent success and called A trip to Mars. The planet Mars led the procession, perched precariously on a horse drawn carriage and dancing around it was a wild looking crowd of ETs. "Come and join us - we'll make you go ballistic" - the organizers promised. They did - not with a rocket but with numerous shots of vodka, fernet and plum brandy.

Stanislav Machac from Morkov set a Czech and possibly even a world record last weekend when he made the biggest ever head cheese. He did so on the occasion of his home town's 730th birthday - and his masterpiece was definitely too heavy to go on the table. It was 75 metres long and weighed 600 kilograms. I say "was" because the town's two and a half thousand inhabitants had no trouble at all polishing it off. In fact it was gone within half an hour - says Mr. Machac with pride. As the local butcher - he's done his advertising for months ahead. Oh and -if you are expecting company - here's the recipe for a 600 kg hunk of excellent head cheese. You need 590 kg of pork, over 200 litres of stock, 4 kg of garlic, 10 kilograms of salt and 1 kilo of pepper. And, a few dozen helpers, if you can find them. Good luck!

Photo: CTK
Dog lovers from across the Czech Republic put their beloved pets through their paces last week at the Dog Dancing Show Prague 2004 - or maybe it was the other way round. Over 30 dogs of various breeds, shapes and sizes competed for the gold - with complicated dance creations ranging from a Viennese waltz to dynamic disco dancing. The champion wowed the crowd gyrating to the soundtrack of Dirty Dancing, the runners up had chosen something from Cher and Queen. A dog's life is sometimes just grand!

Charles Bridge
Is Charles Bridge falling down? Not right away. But things are pretty serious, according to the experts. A recent underwater inspection of the bridge's pillars revealed that the devastating floods of 2002 had done more damage than originally thought. The water is reported to have eaten away huge holes in the stone pillars. "I remember that there were some small holes there when went down five or six years ago - one of the divers said - but now the holes are much bigger -the biggest is three meters wide." Experts say that although there is no immediate danger the bridge might not withstand another devastating flood such as that of two years ago. Repair work should therefore begin as soon as possible. It is expected to cost approximately 90 million crowns and will take up several months. The last big repair job on Charles Bridge took place in 1975.

The results of a recent study on the work of administrative personnel in Prague's ten town halls has shocked mayors. Town halls have now arranged for their employees to undergo a number of training courses in communication skills, how to dress and how to behave. In the future administrative workers should always introduce themselves, tell you which department you have reached and wish you a nice day, says the mayor of Prague 10. We have also introduced name tags so that in direct contact people know who they are doing business with, he added. And - probably the most appreciated change of all is that some town halls have ordered their employees to take turns to go out to lunch so that there will always be someone present in each department to pick up the phone. We all know the sound of that endless ringing tone all too well......

A Czech psychologist claims that mental health and beer go hand in hand! And what the lady means is that beer is good for you! Beer is chock full of B vitamins, minerals and trace elements and a pint of beer gives you an instant energy boost, says Vera Husakova. The psychologist claims that a pint of beer a day should keep the shrink away -only you must know when to stop. You'd almost believe her wouldn't you - if you didn't know that this particular psychologist is a member of the Czech Beer Friends Club!

Fancy a ride on Jungle River? A twist on the Booster? Or a roller coaster ride of your life? The experience is waiting for you at Matejska Fairgrounds in Prague which has just opened boasting over 130 of the best fairground attractions that Holland, France, Italy and Spain have to offer. The price of a ride ranges from 50 to 150 crowns and the entrance fee to the fairgrounds is 25 crowns on weekends, half that on workdays. Disabled children get to go free of charge.