Thousands of Czechs are offering their couches to travelers within the international CouchSurfing Project. Is that a puffball or a truffle? And, the logo of the Czech police force is being used to help sell a variety of articles from knickers to beer glasses. Find out more in Magazine with Daniela Lazarova.

Thousands of Czechs are offering their couches to travelers within the international CouchSurfing Project – the largest hospitality exchange network in the world. The core activity of this organization is exchange of accommodation: you offer someone hospitality in your own home for free and in return someone else sets you up in a different part of the world. The agreement is entirely consensual between the host and surfer, and the duration, nature, and terms of the surfer's stay are generally worked out in advance to the convenience of both parties. A million people world-wide are currently involved in this –not just because it saves money but because it is a chance to make new friends and soak up the culture of a place by actually living with the locals rather than staying at a hotel. A quarter of the world’s couchsurfers are Americans, half are from the Old Continent – among them ten thousand Czechs.

Jaroslav Březina with the pieces produced by prisoners,  photo: CTK
Last weekend Mirov – the highest security jailhouse in the land – held a most unusual art exhibition. On show were pieces produced by prisoners in various work-therapy groups: word-carvings, paintings and ceramics. Many Mirov prisoners take part in this activity as a form of release and often it is here that they uncover hidden artistic talents. One of them, thirty-five year old Jaroslav Březina, is so good he has even had an exhibition of his work down town. The money he made from sold paintings went into buying new paints, canvases and guitars for prison mates. But, generally, the hand-carved toys and ceramics are donated to children’s homes.

František Valouch from the town of Rychnov made headlines this week with an unsurpassed mushroom find. He found a giant puffball the size of which had not been seen in the Czech Republic. The puffball not only appeared two months ahead of its season but, largely due to several weeks of heavy rain, it acquired monstrous proportions growing to the size of 1 metre 60 centimetres in diameter, 30 centimetres in height and a whopping 6,5 kilograms – more than twice the size of a newborn baby. For a while František thought he had found a huge truffle and dreamed it would make him a very rich man indeed. However his dreams of millions dissolved when a mushroom expert inspected the find and pronounced it to be a giant puffball. A bit of a come-down, but while František has not become any richer he did make the prime time news and thoroughly enjoyed his time in the spotlight. The neighbours all came over to admire his find and in the end helped him eat it. It is said to have been a puffball schnitzel party that will be remembered for years to come.

The logo of the Czech police force is being used, illegally, to help sell a variety of articles from knickers to beer glasses. Clearly logo of the police, whose new motto is “to help and protect”, is considered very sexy. In any case officers are now trying to trace the person or group of people who are doing a good business selling beer glasses with the police logo over the internet. Hundreds have been sold over the past year at 200 to 300 crowns apiece, depending on the type of glass. However, even if the culprits are caught they are unlikely to regret their actions since the fine for what is considered a misdemeanor could only reach 150,000 crowns. The profits from this business must be much higher, at least judging by the fact that the people who put the police logo on underwear paid the fine and went right back to doing it – merely changing the colour of the logo which meant that they were not doing anything illegal. Having said that, maybe the police should be pleased that their popularity is growing. Under communism nobody would have dreamed of putting the logo of the secret service on their beer glass, much less their underwear.