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A miniature copy of the wax heart made in remembrance of the late Vaclav Havel is to be donated to the Czech-American community in Chicago; a Czech police officer is caught smuggling turtles from Hong Kong to the Czech Republic and, somewhat unusual garden architecture with a Soviet armoured vehicle in the front line. Find out more in Magazine.

Illustrative photo
A 42-year-old police officer from Prague is in trouble with the authorities after getting caught smuggling 45 turtles from Hong Kong to the Czech Republic. The man landed at Vienna airport where a search of his luggage revealed one turtle after another – each stuffed into a sock. Most of the turtles were still alive but in very bad shape. The officer claimed that he had no idea the species was protected and had smuggled them out of Honk Kong to save them because a certain Chinese restaurant owner had acquired them for soup. His story failed to evoke sympathy and the police are pressing charges against him. The man claims to have bought the turtles for 1,500 dollars and their price on the black market is estimated at around 20,000 euros.

A parody of the Korean hit Gangnam Style on Prague’s Wenceslas Square ended in a fiasco this week after around two thousand young people who turned up for the dance blocked traffic at the upper end of the square. The flash mob event organized on Facebook ended just a few minutes after it began since its organizers had failed to get permission for the gathering from city hall and police turned up to clear the way for traffic.

Jan Famfulík,  photo: CTK/PR/Pivovar Ostravar
The inhabitants of Ostrava would tell you it is not a healthy place to live, but the size of the fish in local ponds is certainly encouraging. A maintenance worker from an Ostrava brewery who was allowed to fish in the company’s pond made headlines this week after catching a catfish bigger than himself. The pond is man-made and was established as part of the brewery sometime in 1897. Back then the brewery needed a lake for the production of ice which was cut up and large slabs were taken to the brewery’s cellars. In time this was no longer required and the pond was only used for fishing and as a back-up water reservoir in case of a fire. Long-time employees claim they’d suspected there was a big fish in the pond, but no one envisioned a catfish the size of a small shark. After a two hour struggle the fish was pulled out of the water with a lot of commotion and advise from by-standers and Jan Famfulík posed for photographers with his once-in-a-lifetime catch. The brewery decided the fish should not be allowed back in the pond in order to give the smaller fry a chance and so the giant will end up on a grill. The brewery is throwing a big party for employees, with free beer, of course.

An Italian military technology buff has acquired a Soviet made armoured vehicle from the Czech army. The man from the town of Osimo acquired a displaced BRDM-2 –an amphibious reconnaissance vehicle that now graces his front garden. It was put in place with the help of a crane and assistance from the local police department. Benedetto Barbalarga, aged 40, said he’d been making models of military technology since he was a boy but this was his first real military vehicle. In order to give it a proper welcome Benedeto draped Soviet red flags in his windows adding a hammer and sickle for good measure. The reports do not say what his neighbours think of this undertaking.

Photo: Czech Television
A miniature copy of the wax heart made in remembrance of the late Vaclav Havel is to be sent to the Czech-American community in Chicago. In the wake of the late ex-president’s death two young artists made a wax heart from the hundreds of thousands of candles people lit in his memory. That heart is large enough for a person to stand in, but the artists, who say they have wax left over from the collected candles, have been asked to make two miniature copies of this heart: each 40 times 40 centimeters in size to placed in glass cases. One will be donated to Chicago by the mayor of Prague so that the Czech-American community has something to remember the late president by and another will go to the National Museum in Prague. The big heart has been travelling around the country going from Prague to Litomyšl chateau and most recently Grabštejn castle. There have even been suggestions that people who value Vaclav Havel’s legacy could make their wedding vows inside it.

How long is it since you went into the next room for something and forgot what you were there for? This is not a feeling Michaela Karsten is familiar with. The young Czech woman has made the Guinness Book of World Records for her phenomenal memory. Michaela wowed Czechs with a performance for the public this week at Prague’s Burzovní palace. She had fifty people give her two digit numbers picked at random in quick succession and then promptly reeled them off by heart without making a single mistake. Michaela says a good memory is a matter of training and is giving lectures in Prague on how to go about it. The name of the workshop alone – Brilliant Brain – is enough to fill you with confidence.

Photo: archive of CRo 7 - Radio Prague
Czech is a difficult language to learn they say and what better proof than that even university-educated Czechs sometimes have a problem with the intricacies of the Czech language. A language test in which 18,000 people took part showed that the trickiest questions concerned the use of capital and small letters in Czech. Only 59 percent of those tested got them right. Paradoxically some of the simplest things tripped people up. Only 41 percent got Peace Square or náměstí Míru right, most of them making the common mistake of capitalizing the first word square. Despite this 86 percent of people taking part in the tests rejected the idea of simplifying the rules. Thankfully, teachers seem to know what they are doing since they got an average 81 points out of 100. The worst spellers are administrative workers and somewhat surprisingly lawyers who got an average 55 points. So if you are trying to master the Czech language, don’t be too hard on yourselves – even Czechs are not always sure what they are doing.