Petr Vabroušek, photo: Facebook profile of Petr Vabroušek

In Magazine: President Zeman’s critics offer him as a gift to Russian President Putin, the Czech winner of the North Pole Marathon trained in a cold store; Brno’s Hotel International goes for urban beekeeping and a group of enthusiasts jazz up a former Soviet warehouse for nuclear warheads.

Miloš Zeman,  photo: Khalil Baalbaki
A group of Czech artists and people critical of President Miloš Zeman have found a way of expressing their disagreement with the Czech president’s position on the Russian-Ukrainian conflict. Reacting to the news that the Czech president would be attending the end-of-war celebrations in Moscow and meeting with President Vladimir Putin, the group wrote an open letter to the Russian leader in which they beseech him to accept President Zeman as a gift from the Czech people as a show of gratitude for the liberation of their country from Nazi rule. ”We are a small country and we have nothing more precious to offer than our president, we hope that you will accept this exceptional gift from the Czech people” says the letter which was signed by dozens of Mr. Zeman’s critics. The organizer of the petition Jaroslav Rudiš told the ctk news agency that the letter reflected the nature of Czechs who have always used humour as a form of defense.

Sněžka,  photo: Ivo Lukačovič / CC 2.5 Generic
A young Czech driver wanting to wow his friends made the mistake of trying to conquer the country’s highest mountain Snežka by car. By-passing the no-entry signs for vehicles, he drove his car up a steep stone alley for hikers but only covered around 100 meters before getting stuck. He had to call the mountain service for help and now faces a hefty fine. A breathalyzer test confirmed that, contrary to expectations, he was not drunk.

Illustrative photo: Kristýna Maková
Urban beekeeping is in fashion and Brno’s Hotel International has jumped on the bandwagon. It has placed three custom-built hives on its roof and now has a 200,000 strong colony of bees on its premises. The honey will be for the hotel’s own use and it plans to hold a honey-harvesting festival in June.

The hotel maintains that its latest venture will not be a health risk for guests since the bees generally fly at a height of 40 m. However the wealthier or more important you are the higher up you go and these beehives are located right over Hotel International’s presidential suite.

Petr Vabroušek,  photo: Facebook profile of Petr Vabroušek
Temperatures in the Czech Republic hit 29 degrees Celsius this week but the country has no shortage of hardy men and women. Ironman Petr Vabroušek, 2011 ITU Long Distance Triathlon World Cup winner and a veteran of 150+ Ironman triathlons won the North Pole Marathon, the world’s coldest race, in mid-April. Held at the drifting Russian Barneo ice base at the Geographic North Pole, the event is run on the waters of the frozen Arctic sea ice, in temperatures at around -40 degrees Celsius. On one occasion they even dropped to -60 degrees.

This year Vabroušek covered the 42 km race in an impressive 4 hours, 22 minutes and 24 seconds. So how does the Czech triathlete train for these harsh conditions back home? The answer is simple: he runs in a cold store run by an ice-cream company, training among packs of vanilla and chocolate ice-cream. “These are the worst conditions I could find. I would like a bit more frost and wind but this is as close as you can get to the North Pole at home, he told reporters ahead of the race. At -22 degrees and no wind training here is really a breeze, he added. Sometimes the simplest things work. After all Czech world champ speed-skater Martina Sáblikova got to the top by training on a frozen pond in her home town.

Illustrative photo: archive of Radio Prague
Sometimes organizing events for “big” historical anniversaries can prove harder than it might seem –simply because of the competition. One of the most popular reconstructions of historic events is the last WWII battle on European territory – the Battle at Slivice –in south Bohemia –where Nazi forces who were desperate to get to the Western front in order to capitulate to US forces rather than Soviet ones marching from the east found themselves cut off and had to fight the Soviets. Hundreds of soldiers died in the fierce fighting on May 11tha and 12th. This battle has been annually reconstructed since the year 2,000 but on the 70th anniversary of the end of the war the organizers found they had a problem. Some of their Soviet and German soldiers went off to present their acting skills at war events in Prague which had the organizers scrambling to put together an alternative program. “This year our soldiers will be firing against a fictitious enemy, but we promise that the fighting will be fierce and the show well worth seeing, the organizers said.” Well, hopefully, there will be fewer dead as well, and visitors have been promised rides in historic vehicles and a fireworks show to make up for it.

Illustrative photo: archive of Radio Prague
It is not often that birds need a helping hand with nest-building but a pair of storks in Vstiš in the Plzen region got a bit of assistance from local ornithologists after several failed attempts at building a nest on the top of an unused siren at the local fire-station. Since the tower had a little round roof that was scaled down parts of the painstakingly constructed nest repeatedly fell away and after several weeks of this ornithologists could take it no longer and set about building an even iron base at the top of the tower and proceeded to create a perfect stork’s nest on top. Since they annually repair or relocate storks nests where they are at risk ornithologists are exceptionally skilled at the task and the nest now awaits its new inhabitants. Surprisingly enough storks do not mind interference from humans in this respect and seem happy enough to accept a helping hand. If they are not careful ornithologists may soon find themselves doing all the work.

A group of enthusiasts recently organized a swing concert at a most unusual venue – a former Soviet warehouse for nuclear warheads code-named Maple 21 –in Míšov, west Bohemia. The underground warehouse resounded with American swing and Frank Sinatra hits. We want to send a message to the world that it would be good if nuclear storage facilities never served the purpose for which they were built, Václav Vítovec from the Iron Curtain Foundation told reporters. Although the event received a minimum publicity it attracted 250 visitors who had to trek through a woodland area in a military zone to get there. The organizers say that if the army is willing to rent the place out again such concerts could take place every month.