Jakub Vágner (left) with the biggest catch, photo: CTK

The Czech Republic’s most famous angler has caught a fish weighing 190 kilograms! A giant bomb shelter which was to have served as the operational headquarters of the Czechoslovak communist leadership in the event of a Third World War has become a public attraction. And, a cat is a better companion than you might think. Find out more in Magazine with Daniela Lazarová.

Photo: CTK
A giant bomb shelter which was to have served as the operational headquarters of the Czechoslovak communist leadership in the event of a Third World War has become a public attraction. The shelter was built by the communists in the days of the Cuban crisis and for decades it remained a well-kept secret, which was not so difficult since it was on military ground surrounded by an electric fence. It was hidden 50 meters below ground in the spectacular underworld of limestone caves in the Moravský kras region. The bomb shelter was designed to provide for 250 people with office space, private quarters, a kitchen and control room from which generals could conduct military operations. It was stocked up with basic necessities that would last for months. The shelter never got to serve its original purpose, though part of this secret underworld was used by the Nazis as a factory for plane engines. A few years ago the local authorities decided to make commercial use of the shelter pumping 13 million crowns into its renovation. It opened on March 10 and visitors were able to see for themselves what a bomb shelter for the communist elite looked like. The place had an air of having been recently abandoned with the works of Lenin, Marx and Czechoslovak president Gustav Husák still on the shelves. This unusual tourist site is expected to attract an average 50,000 visitors a year.

The smell of good strong coffee and cigar-smoke, the sound of music from a scratchy gramophone record and endless passionate debates between artists, journalists and writers – that was the atmosphere of Prague coffee houses a century ago. They were frequented by the likes of Jaroslav Seifert, the Čapek brothers, Egon Erwin Kisch and Jaroslav Hašek. Indeed it is said that Hašek often spent too freely and lacking cash he then wrote essays in the coffee house which he sent to various papers via a messenger who would come back with some money if the essay managed to sell. The long-lost world of Prague coffee-houses in the first half of the twentieth century has come alive in the Prague Museum, which has re-created one of the most popular coffee houses of the time – the Union. If you wish to get a taste of early 20th century Prague –from film footage, photographs and authentic recordings – then this is an exhibition not too be missed.

Most of us are still bundled up at this time of year looking forward to the time when we can leave our coats and jackets in the closet but not Pavel Poljanský. With several medals in winter swimming to his name and an ambition to conquer the Bolivian mountain lakes Pavel thrives on cold weather, walking around it a T-shirt and shorts and jumping into the freezing cold Becva river every morning for a grueling training session. Last April he became the first European to conquer Lake Titicaca located almost 4,000 meters above sea-level. He later told journalists “Titicaca was a milestone in my life – it took a big toll but it also made me stronger.” Now he has set his sights on Lake Glacial (located 5,100 meters above sea-level), Lake Sagrado(4,500 meters above sea-level) and Lake Poopo – approximately 3,000 meters above sea level. He says Lake Poopo will present a major challenge because of the extremely high concentration of salt both in the water and in the air.

Jakub Vágner  (left) with the biggest catch,  photo: CTK
Meanwhile, the country’s most famous angler, Jakub Vágner is leading an equally adventurous life – going from one record to another. Vágner who comes from a family of musicians started fishing at the age of five and has become one of Europe’s foremost fishing experts. With several amazing records under his belt, he recently returned from the Amazon rainforest boasting another prize catch a cat-fish weighing 190 kilos. He caught it in a river deep in the Amazon jungle – according to his GPS some 800 kilometers away from civilization. He says that deep in the rainforest he came upon an Indian tribe whose members had never seen a white man before. “It is hard to say who was more stunned – them or us” Jakub says, recalling their unexpected meeting. He says that after a few hours of gesticulation they were able to establish good relations and in the end became fast friends. “They taught us survival tactics and I gave them tips on fishing” the Czech angler told the CTK news agency upon his return. The twenty four year old Jakub has written several books and and made a number of films about angling as well as hosted a successful TV show on the subject.

If you have a cat you know how therapeutic its presence can be after a long, hard day’s work. Experts say cats can reduce their owner’s stress and blood pressure levels, help them wind-down quicker and sleep better, not to mention improving their mood. A nursing home providing long-term care to chronically ill patients in Šternberg recently decided to put that to the test –with convincing results. Jonáš, a seven-month old tom cat, had become the institution’s pet – and has managed to bring many elderly patients out of their apathy. Thanks to his visits an old lady, recovering from a stroke, started to cooperate with the staff and is now walking again. Cats it seems are also good mediators when it comes to resolving family squabbles – and some couples who refuse to talk to each other after a fight have been known to communicate by addressing their remarks to the family cat in order to break the ice. So you see how useful a cat can be. Though I wouldn’t overdo it. There’s only so much a cat can take – and it may be fortunate we don’t know what they think of it all.