In Magazine: the country’s largest insurance company sets a trap for bike thieves around the country, a four-year-old Alsatian wounded in Afghanistan has been decorated for bravery by the Czech defense minister and an 85-year-old lady decides to reward police officers for their good work.

Photo: archive of Česká pojišťovna
The country’s largest insurance company conducted an interesting experiment last year, placing bicycles in 14 Czech cities to see how long they would remain in place before they got stolen. All but three of the bicycles disappeared within hours – the cities of Jihlava, Pardubice and České Budějovice passed the test with flying colours. The bicycles were all under camera surveillance and the insurance company passed on the tapes to the police. Officers have now arrested five of the 11 thieves who fell into the trap –including the quickest of them who stole the bike in Hradec Kralove in four minutes flat. They have however failed to find the bike he stole. In all, only two of the stolen bikes were found and returned to the insurance company which will now donate the five bikes left to a children’s home.

'Stork Woman', photo: CTK
It seems that art in the Czech Republic is often inspired by politics. The winner of the 16th Ice Sculpting Festival in Pustevny in the Beskydy Mountains is Petr Fridrich from southern Bohemia whose work was inspired by the incoming finance minister and ANO leader Andrej Babiš. According to the author the statue, called Stork Woman, represents power. “The stork is quite a large bird, held up on very thin legs, which can sometimes present a problem, that’s just an idea and was intended as food for thought, Petr Fridrich said of his work. Second and third place at this year’s competition went to Polish ice sculptors for statues called He/She and Suppressed Feelings. As every year the ice-sculpture festival attracted thousands of people.

Rostislav Bartončík and Athos, photo: CTK
A four-year-old Alsatian who was seriously wounded during the Czech mission in Afghanistan in 2012 has been decorated by the country’s defence minister. Athos suffered serious injuries in a missile attack at an allied base in Logar province and U.S. doctors managed to save his life although they gave him little chance of survival at the outset. The U.S. military also gave Athos a blanket specially made forAmerican war heroes. Back in the Czech Republic Athos is getting plenty of VIP treatment, with Defense Minister Vlastimil Picek highlighting the importance of dogs in the military as helpers that no state-of-the-art technology can possibly replace. From the Czech military Athos received a plaque with a big buffalo bone and a leather collar with a text praising his courage.

Athos’ dog handler Rostislav Bartončík expressed his gratitude to doctors at the US clinic in Ramstein saying his dog had been treated like a wounded soldier and American dog handlers had generously brought their own dogs in so that Athos could be given all the blood transfusions he needed. He has been granted veteran war status because of his injury but he has another check-up coming at the end of January and if he is without permanent damage he could return to full service.

Photo: archive of Radio Prague
Getting a bottle of 2014 ice wine will not be easy. With a very mild winter into mid-January, some wine growers lost patience and harvested their grapes early. Those who bided their time could cheer last week when temperatures finally dropped to seven degrees below zero. However they are far and few between since in some locations the frost was not enough to allow harvesting. Wine specialists say that while there is enough ice wine on the market from previous years getting a 2014 bottle is likely to be a rare treat.

Photo: CTK
The cancelling of the popular Jizerská 50 cross-country skiing event due to a lack of snow was a huge disappointment for thousands of fans. Several dozen enthusiasts decided to cover the route anyway, setting out on foot, on bicycles, scooters and old skis. Paradoxically as soon as the procession of Jizerka enthusiasts set out it started snowing. The race was established in 1968 and has had to be cancelled five times in its history due to a lack of snow.

Photo: Kristýna Maková
People generally don’t have a great deal of praise for the country’s police force, but police in the town of Nový Jičín were amazed to find that an 85-year old woman had sent them 10,000 crowns to thank them for their excellent work. The old lady had had her handbag stolen in the street and after giving the police a detailed description of the thief got her bag returned within a matter of hours. She said the boys deserved a reward for their good work. The officers came back to return the money and thank her in person for her generosity.