Petra Němcová, photo: CTK

Model Petra Němcová presents a million-dollar golf ball at the Czech Republic’s biggest golf tournament; an earthy cartoonist illustrates short stories by Jan Neruda; Markéta Irglová and her younger sister record a track for a compilation from their hometown; both the “heparin killer” and the country’s best known prisoner inspire new movies; and a “duck” festival attracts enthusiasts from around Europe.

Petra Němcová,  photo: CTK
The world famous Czech model Petra Němcová introduced an unusual item when she appeared as a special guest at the Czech Republic’s biggest golf tournament, the Moravia Silesia Open, a few days ago. Němcová, who admitted she had no interest in the sport, took part in the first public presentation of a diamond-encrusted golf ball at the club house at Čeladná in Moravia. It was especially made for the European PGA Tour. It’s very light, the girl from Karviná said of the golf ball, which features over 400 diamonds and is apparently worth CZK 20 million (over USD 1 million). So not everyone’s feeling the effects of the financial crisis then.

Petr Urban is hugely popular in the Czech Republic for often crude cartoons that tend to revolve around beer and sex. A year ago a few eyebrows were raised when the cartoonist was commissioned to illustrate a new version of Jaroslav Hašek’s classic book The Good Soldier Švejk and His Fortunes in the World War. Now, Urban is taking on another great Czech author: he is doing the illustrations for a new edition of Jan Neruda’s Tales of the Little Quarter, a collection of short stories published in 1878. The cartoonist told Lidové noviny that he had been helped by Neruda’s great attention to detail, adding that he used pictures of the Malá Strana of the 19th century to recreate the writer’s milieu as faithfully as possible.

The first ever Czech woman to win an Oscar, Markéta Irglová, has kept a rather low profile in the Czech Republic since she and her now ex-boyfriend Glen Hansard took the statuette for best song last year for Falling Slowly. Recently, however, she released a track on an album of songs from her hometown of Valašské Meziříčí; the CD is called Valmez 09 after the town’s common abbreviation. The composition is not a solo effort, though: Markéta and her younger sister Zuzana, who is 19 and also a great singer, recorded under the name New Partner, no doubt after a cover version she and Hansard have often performed together.

'Hodinu nevíš'
One of the most horrific crimes uncovered in the Czech Republic in recent years was the murder by a male nurse of seven hospital patients, whom he injected with a drug called heparin. Petr Zelenka will spend the rest of his life in prison for the killings, after being sentenced last year. Czech film director Dan Svátek was quick off the mark in taking inspiration from the story of the “heparin killer”, the news website reported this week. His movie Hodinu nevíš (very loosely, You Never Know When) is not a straight retelling of the story of Petr Zelenka, and the main character does not bear that name. Nevertheless, Svátek said it had been made in consultation with Zelenka’s lawyer, who relayed what the notorious murderer did or did not want to feature in the picture.

Another of the Czech Republic’s best known prisoners, probably the best known, has also provided inspiration for film makers. Jiří Kajínek achieved a certain notoriety – or cult status, for some – after he escaped from jail twice in the 1990s. Director F.A. Brabec is helming a bio-pic of Kajínek, who is said to do 200 push-ups a day and has the barrel chest to support that assertion. Russian actor Konstantin Lavronenko, a previous recipient of the best actor prize at Cannes, has taken the main role. Some believe Jiří Kajínek is an innocent man who should never have been imprisoned for killing two people in the first place; the film’s producer told the news website that their version of the story leaves enough room for various interpretations.

There’s gold in them there hory. Or at least there’s enough gold in Zlaté hory – the Gold/Golden Mountains – in the north of the country to make it the venue for an annual gold panning competition. Around 200 prospectors took part in this year’s contest, the 16th, which was won by Ján Hrabovský from Slovakia. The trophy he took home last weekend is named the Mayor’s Golden Pan. That said, neither he nor the other competitors actually found that much gold – between them their tally was 20 grams.

Vesmírenka is a word rarely used in Czech. In fact, a Google search turned up only four examples. That is because the concept of a vesmírenka – which means ticket to space – is so new. The Czech News Agency used it recently in a report about the fact that a Prague company has sold four tickets for sub-orbital flights some time in the future on a planned Virgin Galactic spacecraft. The firm, called Typ Agency, says the tickets have been bought by people based in the Czech Republic and Slovakia, but refuses to break the figures down. Whoever the buyers are, they must have relatively deep pockets: one vesmírenka costs CZK 3.6 million (USD 200,000).

Photo: CTK
The iconic French car the Citroen 2CV, which was produced from 1949 to 1990, has different nicknames in different countries. The Dutch call it the duck, while the Flemish call it the goat, for Danes it is the rocking horse and in former Yugoslav states it is (according to the font of all knowledge, Wikipedia) the little freak. In any case, Czechs go Dutch in this respect, referring to the 2CV as kachna, or duck. This I know because over the last few days the Czech Republic has been the centre of kachna enthusiasts’ attention, with 3,000 of the vehicles from three dozen countries descending on a racecourse in the north Bohemian town of Most for the 18th “international meeting of 2CV friends”. Among the attractions: a broad range of accompanying events including live music and, apparently, amateur and professional spare parts markets.