Photo: CTK

Kisses in the air – Czechs help set a new record on Valentines’ Day. Who needs a washing machine? Czech scientists are working on self-cleaning textiles. And, the strange theft of a railway bridge. Find out more in Magazine with Daniela Lazarova.

Photo: CTK
People taking off from Prague’s Ruzyne Airport aboard SkyEurope Airlines on Valentine’s Day were asked to help the airlines set a world record in kissing in the skies. “The idea was very warmly accepted by passengers, people of all ages had a lot of fun on board,” a SkyEurope official said later. This was confirmed by the company’s Czech representative Jakub Lohniský who said over 1,600 couples aboard some 60 planes departing from Prague in the course of that day had kissed at a ten-kilometer altitude – that’s approximately 60 percent of passengers on every plane. SkyEurope reports over 2,200 kisses in the sky on Valentine’s Day. All kissing passengers were awarded a world-record champion certificate and a voucher for a free ticket valid for the next two months. Moreover each passenger flying on that day received a little chocolate heart. Unfortunately there were no kisses on flights to Paris – which many view as Europe’s most romantic city – the 92 scheduled flights to Paris had to be cancelled due to a strike of air-traffic controllers. Most unromantic of them…

Do you sometimes wonder how new technologies will change our life in the future? Czech scientists are working on self-cleaning textiles – in other words a T-shirt that will clean itself “on the go” as you wear it. Sound too good to be true? Apparently this would be done with the help of a special lining which would be activated by the sun’s rays and any impurities would simply melt away. Already special textiles are being used for table-cloths that do not allow impurities to penetrate deep into the cloth which makes washing them a breeze. Unfortunately every time you wash them the substance they have been impregnated with washes away bit by bit. Scientists are also working on self-cleaning glasses and monitors. There’s just one thing that I don’t understand – what do we do in the winter months when the sun’s rays are often absent for days on end and we live under a blanket of smog? Maybe then tanning salons will really be in business…..

Can one really exist without a car? In the States perhaps not – and one might even have doubts about it in the Czech Republic where the number of cars per capita has been growing rapidly. Now a group of no-car owners in Brno, the country’s second-largest city, intend to show the world – and each other - that it can be done. They have established a club where they give each other tips on how to manage without a car and still lead an active life. “In other European capitals people rent a car when they badly need one or ride a bike instead, but here people who do not own a car are often looked upon as social outcasts ” one of the club’s organizers explained. The club has its own web pages and hopes that its numbers will grow – not just for a cleaner environment but because, as its members point out, the roads are already so jammed with cars that it makes life harder for those who would consider riding a bike to work. In the Czech capital there are currently over 600 cars per 1000 inhabitants, that’s including babies and pensioners.

The police in Cheb recently got more proof of the fact that it is possible to steal virtually anything. They were called out to investigate the disappearance of a railway bridge weighing four tonnes. The bridge was part of an old track no longer in use which gave thieves the opportunity to dismantle it bit by bit. The bridge was most likely sold in parts as scrap metal.

A Red Rat snake – also known as a corn snake - recently escaped from a private owner and moved into new quarters for a month. It spent an entire month riding inside a police car without the officers suspecting they had an extra passenger. The reptile – a species from North America – had escaped from its owner before appearing somewhere completely different. Someone caught the snake and the police were asked to return it to its owner. However, when they got to his house they found that the snake had once again escaped. The officers searched high and low and just to make sure it wasn’t somewhere in the car they asked for a thorough check up at their service station where their colleagues said they practically took it apart. It is not clear where the snake was hiding but after four weeks it made an unexpected and very dramatic reappearance. Two other officers were making the rounds in the said car when one of them said he suddenly felt something creeping up his leg. “I looked down and there was this red snake wound around my calf – it made my blood freeze” he said, recalling the incident. This time the police kept a close eye on the reptile and he is now back with his owner. However the officer says he now closely inspects the passenger seat of any car before climbing in.

Photo: Kristýna Maková
Before the fall of communism drinking tap water was considered perfectly normal –one simply did not pay for water and moreover there was no bottled water on the market. Water given to babies was boiled and the rest of us simply drank tap water without giving it a second thought. Much has changed since then and today many Czechs would not dream of drinking tap water, believing it to fall short of the required health norms. However a number of studies have recently shown that this is not the case and that tap water is as good as the stuff you buy in PET bottles. Following the example of London mayor Ken Livingstone, Jiří Peřina, the owner of a restaurant in the town of Ustí nad Labem, is encouraging guests to order tap water if they don’t mind drinking it. “At present we are happy to bring them a glass of iced tap water free of charge, but if the trend catches on – and more people ask for it – we shall have to put a price on it,” Jiří Peřina says. That’s as it may be, but don’t expect to get tap water in most Czech restaurants – ask for it in Prague and the waiter will most likely look down his nose at you and say they don’t serve it. However that too may change. Environment ministry spokesperson Jakub Kašpar says he has made it his goal to educate waiters around Prague – asking for tap water wherever he goes. “I still get amazed looks and even glares, but slowly the idea is sinking in” he told journalists recently. He may have to drink a lot of water before it does…but as environment ministry spokesman his attitude is commendable.