Zdeněk Blažek, photo: CTK

Czechs have been asked to select the seven wonders of the Czech Republic. A new brain-teaser in the shape of a football has hit market shelves, and Nature turns a millstone into a landmine. Find out more in magazine with Daniela Lazarová.

Český Krumlov
Czech public television has launched a highly publicized show asking citizens to decide on the seven wonders of the Czech Republic. People are choosing from 50 nominees in several categories – such as towns and places, inventions and discoveries, art and culture and sports achievements. Among the hot nominees for a place in the top seven wonders are Prague Castle, Charles Bridge, and the historic town of Český Krumlov which is on the list of UNESCO cultural heritage sites. Antonín Dvořák’s New World Symphony tops the art section while Czech hockey features first in sports achievements. People have until the end of May to vote either via SMS messages or over the internet.

Tourists to Prague may find it hard to understand why so many couples head for Petřín Hill on May 1 and leave the marked paths to kiss under trees in bloom. May 1st is actually a Czech version of Valentine’s Day so ordained by the country’s great Romantic poet Karel Hynek Mácha. On that day couples pay a visit to his statue in Petřín Park to lay flowers (possibly in the hope of securing his blessing) and kiss under a cherry tree which – according to pagan tradition should ensure that the woman stays fresh and attractive all through the next year. The tradition of getting a kiss under an apple or cherry tree in bloom is so widespread that towns around the country now compete in setting a record in the number of couples who do so at a given time in a given place. The current record holder is the town of Šumperk where 390 couples performed this ritual four years ago.

Karel Hynek Mácha: Máj (May)
translation by Edith Pargeter Byl pozdní večer - první máj -
večerní máj - byl lásky čas.
Hrdliččin zval ku lásce hlas,
kde borový zaváněl háj.
O lásce šeptal tichý mech;
květoucí strom lhal lásky žel,
svou lásku slavík růži pěl,
růžinu jevil vonný vzdech.
Jezero hladké v křovích stinných
zvučelo temně tajný bol,
břeh objímal je kol a kol;
a slunce jasná světů jiných
bloudila blankytnými pásky,
planoucí tam co slzy lásky. Late evening, on the first of May -
The twilit May - the time of love.
Meltingly called the turtle-dove,
Where rich and sweet pinewoods lay.
Whispered of love the mosses trail,
The flowering tree as sweetly lied,
The rose's fragrant sigh replied
To love-songs of the nightingale.
In shadowy woods the burnished lake
Darkly complained a secret pain,
By circling shores embraced again;
And heaven's clear sun leaned down to take
A road astray in azure deeps,
Like burning tears the lover weeps.

Karel Hynek Mácha statue in Prague

Zdeněk Blažek,  photo: CTK
A new Czech-made brain teaser arrived on the market this week in the shape of a football. Its author Zdeněk Blažek said he was inspired by Rubik’s cube and wanted to create something along the same principle, but far more complicated. The football is made up of 50 pentagonal and hexagonal facets that allow a huge number of combinations. There are four versions of the Tom Ball on sale of various levels of complexity. A million crown award waits the first person to solve the most advanced.

Photo: Czech Police
Last week a forestry worker alerted the police to a landmine lying in a brook near the town of Beroun. Explosive demolition experts who arrived on the scene handled the find with the utmost care until a closer inspection revealed they were holding an old mill-stone which nature had reshaped into a perfect copy of a landmine. The stone landmine now has pride of place in the offices of the weapons’ demolition unit.

Photo: CTK
Gorilla Kijivu at Prague’s Troja zoo gave birth to her third young last Saturday. Although the gorilla pavilion was closed to visitors to give the mom-to-be peace and quiet anyone interested could watch the birth online. The whole gorilla troupe appeared to sense the approaching birth drawing close to the pregnant gorilla and watching her carefully. The baby was out in minutes and life in the pavilion went back to normal. As after every birth there is no direct contact with humans – not even the keeper enters the pavilion in order to avoid a possible defensive reaction. Kijivu, who came to Prague zoo has already given birth to three young – Tatu, Moja and the new baby whose gender is as yet uncertain. The proud father –Richard – came to Prague from a British zoo within a breeding exchange program.

Illustrative photo
The hospital in the town of Česká Lípa has come under fire after a twenty-three-year-old mother-to-be who was admitted with stomach pains gave birth to her baby in the toilet. A first-time mother, the young woman says she mistook the onset of labour for an upset stomach and went off to the toilet where her newborn baby was born straight into the toilet bowl, getting a nasty bump on the head in the process. Mother and baby are now doing well, but the father has filed charges against the hospital for negligence.

The Labour and Social Affairs Ministry has launched a campaign to make it easier for Czech fathers to devote more time to their young children. A survey of over 1,000 fathers revealed that 61 percent would like to spend more time with their children but get little sympathy from their employers. Although only 2 percent of Czech men have availed themselves of the right to go on paternity leave, a great many fathers said they would like to spend more time with their kids even if it prevents them from furthering their immediate career goals. Especially first-time fathers said they would appreciate being able to work part-time for a certain period not just to see their child growing up, but to share the responsibilities of parenthood with their wives. At present fathers tend to pick the easier tasks linked to fatherhood –such as taking the baby out for a walk, playing with them or watching DVDs. Very few take them to the doctor when they are ill, clean up after them or shop for what they need. The campaign aims to change the preconception that a man who stays at home to look after the baby is in some way inadequate, and also the widespread belief that most men are simply incapable of looking after a child properly. Rut Kolínská, the head of Prague’s network of maternity centres says that not just employers but mothers will also have to change their attitude, since when it comes to childcare they are firmly in control and find it hard to let go of the reigns and trust a man to do the job equally well.