All I want for Christmas is to be sent to prison! A Czech man talks an Austrian judge into jailing him. Who let Fittipaldi drive a Pendolino? And Chomutov offers a special marriage ceremony for those who want to give it a try but prefer to remain single. Find out more in Magazine with Daniela Lazarova.

An exhibition in Prague called “Flowers in the Bin” reflects on life in communist Czechoslovakia during the 1970s, the so-called “Normalization” years following the crackdown on the Prague Spring reforms. The name of the exhibition “Flowers in the Bin” is actually the title of a protest song which likened people’s dashed hopes and dreams to flowers thrown in a bin. The exhibition itself focuses on the fashions and lifestyle of the ‘70s, a time when quality goods in Czechoslovakia were hard or impossible to get. Its organizers scoured bazaars and appealed to the public for donations and the result is a very convincing 1970s environment. People walk into what appears to be a private living room furnished with a seedy-looking sofa, a coffee table, a huge bookcase and the kind of knickknacks that people collected at the time. The television is on, broadcasting authentic 1970s programmes and the closet is filled with ‘70s fashions. There are glass cases made up like the shop windows of those days – exhibiting underwear, dresses and bathrobes, most of them made of synthetic fabrics. There is a section devoted to shoes, accessories, jewelry and outdoor wear as well a section of “coveted” clothes – such as jeans which were only available in a network of shops for the communist elite. People’s reactions range from amusement to surprise and many an older visitor will see something they recognize and still have up in the attic somewhere. The exhibition is open until mid-February.

Emerson Fittipaldi driving a Pendolino,  photo: CTK
Czech Railways are in trouble for allowing Formula One legend Emerson Fittipaldi drive a Pendolino along a stretch of the railroad from Prague to Vienna. The Brazilian racer and two Czech racers were recorded having a good time in the driver’s cabin of the high speed train, with Fittipaldi in the driver’s seat. The Czech Rail Inspection Office said this was in violation of safety rules and may slap Czech Railways with a fine of up to 10 million crowns (381,000 euros). Czech Railways has denied any wrongdoing saying that the racers had visited the driver’s cabin for promotional reasons at a time when the train was on auto-pilot. Their defense was somewhat weakened by the fact that a few days later someone leaked a family video to the press showing a family with three young children crowding into the engine room as a special treat. Paradoxically, the evidence was a home video that the grateful family had made to remember the occasion by.

Young Czechs aren’t rushing into marriage these days and the town of Chomutov is offering a special service: a romantic renaissance-style marriage ceremony where the bride and groom can exchange vows but still leave town single at the end of the day. They get an impressive looking “marriage certificate” written in beautiful old script on a scroll of paper as a souvenir and of course “wedding photos” in period dress. Czech couples may not be rushing into marriage but they are clearly not against enjoying the romantic ceremony itself and there is now a long waiting list for these Chomutov weddings. And it is not just singles who want this dress rehearsal wedding. It has become popular with married couples who want a special occasion on which to “seal” their love - ideally on their wedding anniversary.

Gone are the days when German citizens living near the border would come to the Czech Republic to shop for basic goods because of the low prices. The strong crown and rising costs have now reversed the situation and many Czechs are driving across the border to do their weekly shopping at a German supermarket. Staples such as butter, oil, pasta, meat and wine are all cheaper next door. According to a recent test conducted by commercial TV Prima a basket of selected goods cost 249 crowns in the Czech Republic and the equivalent of 174 crowns across the border. Prior to Christmas, Czechs are taking German supermarkets by storm and the trend is expected to continue next year when Czechs are bracing for further price rises.

Archeologists have uncovered the skeleton of a baby, very likely a human sacrifice, from the turn of the 13th and 14th centuries in the foundations of a medieval house in the centre of Usti nad Labem. The baby was not older than six months and appears to have been buried there intentionally. Archeologists say that human sacrifices were extremely rare in the Middle Ages and this surprising find indicates the existence of pre-Christian, pagan habits in this particular locality. A team of anthropologists will now determine the baby’s sex and any pathological changes. Their work is expected to take over a year. Archeologists are very excited about this particular site which has rendered up other valuable items –including a ceramic statue of the Virgin Mary dating back to the fourteenth century and coins, tiles, flint tools, animal bones and ceramic vessels dating back to 6,500 B.C. A large shopping centre is to be built on the plot but the archeological importance of these finds is holding back commercial interests in check until the site renders up all its treasures.

Christmas is a time of wishes come true – even for people who are penniless. A Czech homeless man knew exactly what he wanted for Christmas – a sentence which would open the door to an Austrian jailhouse. He stole repeatedly and threatened to carry on breaking the law until the judge finally obliged him. Radim Kopecky, 22, told the court in Korneuburg, Austria, that life in jail - especially at Christmas - was much better than what awaited him in his homeland. He was looking forward to having a roof over his head, the company of other convicts and regular meals. He said he’d come to Austria to get himself jailed and begged the judge not to turn him away. The judge finally obliged, sentencing him to 16 months and two days in prison for stealing 4 dollars worth of sweets in a supermarket. The man expressed profuse gratitude as he was led off – his Christmas wish granted.