Ben Dowling

A British punk rock band which recently performed in the Czech Republic left the country with more than the usual souvenirs, the town of Nový Jičín takes some unorthodox anti-flood measures and, it turns out that the Czech poppy-seed pies are not so harmless after all. Find out more in Magazine with Daniela Lazarová.

It is not so long ago that Slovak authorizes caused a stir when they planted explosives on unwitting passengers at Bratislava airport within test-screening procedures for checked-in luggage. One of the packages was not retrieved in time and a 49-year-old tourist unwittingly arrived in Dublin with explosives in his suitcase, getting arrested at Dublin airport.

Now something similar has happened to a British punk rock band travelling from Prague. They were arrested for human trafficking after customs officers in Dover discovered four Vietnamese immigrants hiding inside their speakers.

Ben Dowling
It is believed that one of the two Czech drivers, who spoke little English, smuggled the immigrants into the van as the band made its way home after playing two gigs in the Czech Republic. The band’s bassist Ben Dowling later told the media “two hours after we left Brussels I leaned back in my seat and saw these spindly little fingers – then I felt a tap on the shoulder and saw this face in the darkness going shhhhh!” While Drummer Ben Waldock said the driver who spoke some English had given him a warning – saying there were people hiding in the speakers –but because they had been joking around all weekend he had not taken the statement seriously. After spending 9 hours in a cell in Dover the band are likely to go through all their possessions with a fine-toothcomb if they ever find themselves in the Czech Republic again.

A Czech sports daily recently capitalized on the Czech national hockey teams victory in the Ice World Hockey Championship in Germany. It offered sports fans a chance to pose for a snapshot holding the champions cup – on condition they would arrive at the daily’s offices with that day’s edition of the sports paper. It sold out within an hour of hitting the stands.

The Czech hockey team in Troubky,  photo: CTK
The hockey team itself pulled out all the stops for the village of Troubky – recently hit by flash floods. They arrived in town bearing the cup and a check for 1 million crowns and spent several hours boosting the locals’ morale and signing autographs. The village has a sad record when it comes to floods – the Bečva river has wrecked havoc many a time in recent years and in 1997 the worst floods in a century brought the village to its knees, damaging every single house and taking 9 lives.

The town of Nový Jičín is introducing what it hopes to be effective anti-flood measures in the form of a newly renovated statute of a saint on the town’s main square. Jan of Nepomuk, a saint who is believed to give protection from floods, had been getting more than a little worn and shabby – which some people said explained why he had failed to do his duty in protecting the town from a flash flood last June. Or it may have been because during the last reconstruction workmen replaced the statue the wrong way round – with his back turned to the river. Consequently he may not have seen the flood coming. Now Jan of Nepomuk has been properly renovated and is looking his best. But more importantly, he is keeping a close eye on the river. If that doesn’t do the trick, then nothing will.

Photo: CTK
Many people passing though Prague’s Lesser Town at the beginning of June stopped dead in their tracks at the sight of a spectacle reminiscent of the communist era. A number of veteran yellow and white communist police cars braked sharply next to the John Lennon wall and men in green uniforms jumped out to surround a group of young people gathered there. Truncheons came out as the police confiscated Beatles tapes and precious memorabilia that were being exchanged, hassled them about their hippie looks and even brought out scissors to forcibly cut the hair of boys who wore it long as a demonstration of their own free will in a totalitarian state. The most rebellious among them – were forced into the police cars and taken to an unknown destination. The spectacle played out in the Lesser Town was a happening organized on the eve of the opening in Prague of an exhibition on the Beatles and their impact on young people behind the Iron Curtain.

Doctors from Prague’s Motol hospital have issued an unexpected warning – the traditional Czech poppy-seed pies which you find in every bakery and many people have for breakfast can get you in trouble with the traffic police! A series of tests on volunteers –who were asked to eat six pies each – revealed the presence of morphine and codeine in their blood and urine samples. Doctors say they are surprised by the results, believing that it would be physically impossible for someone to consume enough pies to get a positive drugs test. So the message to drivers is if you are setting off on the road – go for apple or plum pies – until someone comes up with drug-free poppy seeds!