Photo: CTK

Parents brave the cold to enrol their children in a prestigious language school, standing in line all night long in sub-degree temperatures. The New York Times goofs - those three fat ladies are not Brazilian, they are Czech ! And "drink less so you can drink longer" - the ground rule when you are tasting brandy all day. Find out more in Magazine with Daniela Lazarova.

Krakonos is a well known Czech story-book figure - a legendary giant who guards the mountains, who is all-powerful and just and who protects the trees, birds or animals. Many Czech generations have grown up on Krakonos bedtime stories and Krakonoc books. Some mountain villages have him as a mascot. For instance in the town of Jilemnice three generations of artists -grandfather, father and son have created snow sculptures of him ever since 1941. Usually the snow statue appears with the start of the new year - but since the first snowfall came late this year Josef Dufek despaired of putting the monumental guardian of the mountains together. In the end fifty lorries of snow helped and Krakonos is once more in his place - facing his kingdom - the Krkonose mountains. The statue sculpted in snow is eight metres tall and is a major tourist attraction.

The Pilsen maternity ward recently experienced a major upheaval - a bat somehow got into the department where several young mothers were waiting to give birth and circled desperately around in an effort to find its way out. It gave the patients a bit of a scare but luckily one of the nurses faced up to this unexpected challenge and trapped the intruder in a cardboard box. She got the privilege of having her picture taken with it when the media arrived along with the pest control team. "We're very grateful for such a practical approach," the head of the team said, "most people get so panicked by being in a closed space with a bat they just beat it to death with anything within reach".

Czechs have pretty much forgotten what it is like to have to queue up for something for hours. Now the parents of first graders in Ostrava got a taste of déjà vu - when some seventy families queued up overnight in the freezing cold weather in order to enrol their kids in a prestigious language school. People started forming a line at around nine pm on Sunday and stood in line all night in sub degree temperatures - without even a guarantee that their child would get on the list since the number of places was limited. Whole families took part, with grandmothers and granddads taking their turn to keep the family's place in the queue, drinking hot tea or something more warming straight out of the bottle. One parent actually arrived with a caravan which he parked close to the queue so that "his lot" could take turns to warm up. In a show of solidarity he let others use it as well -but it was far too small -so people had to rely on hot drinks and hopping up and down in the cold. Clearly Czech parents are beginning to realize just how important language skills are for their children.

Three Czech ladies are very angry! They got their picture taken -cellulite and all - as they were relaxing on Rio de Janeiro's Ipanema beach. Not only did the photographer fail to obtain their permission, but the photo later appeared in an article in the New York Times, illustrating a story on obesity in Brazil. The article was based on a government study that said more than 40 percent of Brazilians were overweight and played up Brazil's self image as a haven of sunny sexiness. It is not clear whether the paper's photographer failed to find any fat Brazilian ladies on the beach - but the fact is that he took a picture of three Czech ones and passed them off for Brazilian girls. "Certainly I am not a girl from Ipanema - I am a woman of a certain age" said 59 year old Milena Suchoparkova in an interview for one of Brazil's biggest dailies Globo. According to Reuters which picked up the story, the Brazilian media are equally affronted - running the story under the title "New York Times Screw up" and questioning the paper's ethics and credibility.

A new boarding school near Ricany is due to open next year and what makes it special is that it will be the only boarding school in the Czech Republic, moreover the only school which has a prescribed school uniform. A boarding school of this type existed in post war Czechoslovakia briefly but was later closed down by the communist regime. The old school took in both talented war orphans who studied on grants - and children from well off families. Among its graduates are the former Czech president Vaclav Havel and the famous Czech-born film director Milos Forman. The present-day school wants to operate on a similar system - the fees from those who can afford them paying for the education of those who cannot and deserve the chance.

Plenty of Czechs make their own home made brandy - or slivovice - and when they get together the main topic of conversation is whose brandy is better. Richard Jaronek from Vizovice says that after a few years of listening to these disputes in the pub he'd had enough. So, eleven years ago, he organized a contest for the best home made brandy and launched a popular tradition. We take it quite seriously, he says and there are side competitions for The Worst Brandy and Jerk of the Year. A team of local "brandy experts" make up the jury who taste all the samples on an anonymous basis and grade them 1 to 5. The winner gets a trophy - the loser a special brew concocted from the remains of all the brandies sampled, a deadly mixture according to those in the know. The annual competition has become so popular that people from other parts of the country asked to be allowed to take part - and it is now open to all. Once the jury is done everyone gets to taste all the brandies and the ground rule on slivovice tasting day is: drink less so you can drink longer.

If you don't make your own brandy and much prefer white wine - you can do a bit of sampling yourself - all in the interest of medical research. The Pilsen Faculty Hospital is looking for a group of 100 volunteers on whom it would test the effect of white wine consumption - daily consumption, I should add. The conditions are that you need to be over age 40 and that while the experiment is underway - you must not drink any other kind of alcohol. Both male and female volunteers are welcome. You will find more information at