Martina Sáblíková, photo: CTK

Speed skater Martina Sáblíková gets a hero’s welcome home. Where do Czechs go on their first date –and who pays the bill? And, a Czech sculptor and woodcarver makes personalized chairs. Find out more in Magazine with Daniela Lazarová.

Martina Sáblíková, photo: CTK
Speed-skating champion Martina Sáblíková received a hero’s welcome at Prague’s Ruzyně airport on Tuesday with 300 fans turning out to welcome the golden girl home. Sáblíková, a normally shy and quiet young woman appeared to enjoy the attention, laughing when one of her fans unexpectedly asked for her hand in marriage during a televised press briefing. She joked about having helped land the CSA plane after being invited into the cockpit and downed a glass of beer with other members of the Olympics team courtesy of a Czech beer brewery which had a surprise in store for the winners. All medalists from the Winter Olympics are to receive free beer for a year, while those with more than one medal to their name will get free beer until the next Olympics. While Martina Sáblíková was winning medals in Vancouver sculptor Josef Nálepa was busy at work on a 70-centimetre bronze statuette of Sáblíková speed-skating which he presented her at Ruzyně Airport. And the Czech ice queen -as she has been dubbed - will soon find her name on Czech stamps as well. The Czech Post office has just issued a commemorative stamp of Sáblíková’s Olympics victory. And there was one more surprised in store for the 22-year old as she drove back home to see her family - someone had changed the nameplate of her home town to Sáblíkov.

Where do you think Czech couples go on their first date? According to a survey just out, the vast majority head for the pub, rather than the cinema or a restaurant. And unlike in other European states Czech girls are used to men picking up the tab even on a first date. The vast majority of Czech women expect it as a matter of course and – according to the survey results – 92 percent of Czech men say they expect to pay the bill. In Russia only half of the men surveyed said they’d pay for their date on a first night out and British and Dutch girls expect to pick up their own bill.

Tomáš Cidlík, photo: CTK
Czech sculptor and wood-carver Tomáš Cidlík from the town of Sviadnov has set up a nice business making personalized chairs. Originally Mr. Cidlík made furniture on request and then one day he decided to make a special gift for a friend celebrating a jubilee. He carved his friend’s face on the back-rest. The gift was a tremendous success and soon friends and relatives were begging for a personalized chair as well. News spread and Mr. Cidlík has since carved over three hundred “people-chairs” some of which are commissioned by clients in Poland, Germany and Austria. Maybe, he spent too much time making chairs for other people. In the middle of his atelier is a huge peace of oak-wood from which he wants to carve a statue of his ex-wife who left him for another man. “I’d like a statue to remember her by and at least this one won’t walk out on me,” he says.

Illustrative photo
The villagers of Nevězice, in southern Bohemia, recently organized a search for a baby puma which escaped from its owner in an unguarded moment. Men, women and children who had all stopped to pet the animal at one time or another when it was out walking on a leash all joined in the search for young Cleopatra, fearful that she would freeze to death during the night or die of hunger since at three months the baby is used to being fed and is as yet unable to hunt for food. The local police combed the surrounding fields and forests and the animal’s owner even paid for a helicopter to circle overhead in the hope of catching a glimpse of Cleopatra. After a day’s search the baby puma was finally found safe and sound.

A run-away coal wagon heading for the Czech-Polish border is reported to have caused a panic at Czech Railways last week with emergency phone lines ringing from one station to another. The wagon was not properly secured and gathered speed as it rolled back downhill. Heads of stations called their colleagues to alert them about the danger and get the track cleared and it seemed that nothing would stand in the way of the coal wagon crossing the border into neighbouring Poland. Luckily it came to a stop of its own accord as it reached another gradual incline. The incident is being investigated.

Chevrolet Impala, photo: CTK
Car-lovers who can afford an expensive hobby collect American veterans. Surprisingly the American-car craze started under communism when there was a hunger for anything American – from chewing gum to cars. Czech diplomats would buy old American cars second-hand to flaunt back home in Czechoslovakia and these cars eventually ended up in the hands of collectors who fine tuned and polished them to perfection. Ivo Kunětek from Ostrava has some great models in his collection. One is a 1967 Dodge Polara which belonged to the famous Czech writer and actor Jan Werich. When Werich brought it back from the States, the communists confiscated it and hid it in some Prague garage. After the Revolution the car was returned to Werich’s descendants and Kunetek made a successful bid for it. Another of his favourites is a car that belonged to US senator Joseph L. Galiber. The car was fine-tuned and personalized for him and has his name inscribed on the dashboard. But the collector’s personal favorite is a 1960’s Chevrolet Impala. Ivo Kunětek is not alone in this hobby – the Friends of American Cars Club has over 60 members who meet regularly to show off their latest acquisitions. Their next get-togethers are in Hradec nad Moravicí and Opava in May. For more info on the club go to