Miloš Zeman, photo: CTK

In Magazine: Czech scientists get two Ig Nobel awards, President Zeman makes a faux pas in Zlin, a python finds refuge from the cold in an engine compartment and Prague prepares for a boisterous weekend of grape harvest celebrations.

Illustrative photo: Pavla Kopřivová
The highly popular Ig Nobel spoof awards were traditionally handed out at Harvard University last week and Czech scientists did not miss out this year. Jaroslav Flégr, of Charles University and his team won the Ig Nobel for Public Health for investigating whether it is mentally hazardous for a human being to own a cat. Vlastimil Hart of the Czech University of Life Sciences won the Ig for biology. He and his team arrived at the conclusion that when dogs defecate and urinate, they prefer to align their body axis with Earth's north-south geomagnetic field lines.

Miloš Zeman,  photo: CTK
President Zeman has been touring the eastern part of the country this week, meeting with mayors and members of the public, shaking hands, giving advice and accepting gifts. Knowing the presidents taste most mayors and company managers follow up the traditional welcome with bread and salt proffered by a pretty looking young girl in the regions’ traditional dress with offerings they know the president will appreciate – meat loaves and plum brandy that doctors have strictly forbidden the head of state for health reasons. On a trip to Zlín the president got a specially made salami according to an old recipe and in the Bata shoe company he was presented with a pair of hand-made prestige retro shoes. The company’s employees worked like mad to have them ready in time since they only learnt the president’s shoe size a few hours before he was due to arrive. However even the best-planned visits can take a wrong turn on occasion as happened this week at a meeting between the president and some 300 mayors in Zlín. Speaking to a group of mayors at his table the president took a swipe at a former Czech prime minister who is known to have been an engine driver before his sudden rise and equally sudden fall in politics. The president noted that when a man got off a train engine to drive a country, company or town things could not end well. This raised the hackles of one of the mayors present who huffily informed the head of state that he had himself had got off a train engine sixteen years ago and was now serving his fourth successful term as mayor.

Illustrative photo: Tigerpython,  CC 3.0
A driver who briefly left his car in a parking lot in the town of Horní Cerekev, in the Moravian Highlands, was shocked to find a metre and a half long python nestling in the engine compartment. The man initially tried to drive it away on his own but when the snake refused to budge he called the local fire-crew to help. The python was eventually prized out and taken away by the local pest control team. Experts said a python of that size was not dangerous and it was only looking for a warm place to survive on a cold day.

Photo: Barbora Kmentová
Although the summer is well and truly over there are still plenty of open air events to look forward to in the coming weeks. At this time of year Prague traditionally organises grape harvest festivals throughout the city, and they are especially popular at the vineyards in Troya, on Grébovka Hill and on Náměstí Míru which you can check out this weekend. The events include live music, a procession in period costume, dancing, good food and most importantly the sampling of young wine – the so called burčák – a beverage made from partially fermented white grapes. It is light and may taste like lemonade, but be careful it can give you a massive hangover. Apart from tasting it out in the open you can buy a bottle or two to take home. And if you manage to recover by the next weekend you can head for Plzen, west of Prague where the city famous world-wide for its golden brew will be hosting the traditional Pilsner Fest celebrations on October 4th marking 172 years since the first batch of Pilsner Urquell was brewed. Visitors will be given a tour of the Pilsner brewery, including the brewery museum and the brewery’s historic cellars, shown the traditional beer-making craft, and can take part in a mass beer toast with beer in cans. Professionals will compete for the title Pilsner Urquell Master Bartender and at the end of the day, drivers can take a free breathalyser test to make sure they are able to head home safely.

Illustrative photo: Štěpánka Budková
Jaroslav Káňa from the town of Veletice is not your usual next-door-neighbour. He used to work with bears at a circus and gradually collected a group of exotic pets. Together with his live-in-girlfriend Radka he now looks after four brown bears, two tigers a lion and a leopard. The neighbours have grown used to the fact that alongside dogs barking they will occasionally hear the roar of a lion or growl of a hungry bear. And the local kids come to visit whenever possible, peeping over the fence if they are not allowed in. Jaroslav says all his animals are tame and were reared from babies. He used to take tiger Bobo on visits to schools as a special treat for the children but now that Bobo weighs 150 kilos that is no longer possible and he only gets to walk freely around the garden. News of Jaroslav’s home zoo has spread and all the animals have worked appeared in films or tv ads. Fifteen year old Leon has made dozens of ads – most recently starring in an ad for mineral water. Jaroslav admits that while he shouldn’t have favourites Leon is his favourite pet. “We got him when he was new-born and still blind. He lived in the house with us for three years, slept in our bed and would walk with me to the pub when I wanted a pint,” he recalls.