Sculptor David Cerny’s “Hanging Man” causes a panic in Grand Rapids, Michigan. A young man climbs up Prague’s famous astronomical clock to win a bet! And ski resorts in the south Bohemian mountain range are working around the clock to make artificial snow for Prague. Find out more in Magazine with Daniela Lazarova.

There aren’t many places in Prague where you have a bigger audience than around the famous astronomical clock or ‘Orloj’ on Old Town Square. One of the city’s most famous sites is constantly surrounded by crowds of tourists with cameras at the ready to document to procession of apostles on the hour. This week they got a bigger show than expected, when a young man started climbing up the tower clock. He was halfway up the first clock-face, swinging for greater effect, when the police and fire crew arrived. Photographers and tourists snapped like mad as the firemen extended a ladder and one of them went up to bring the practical joker down. The twenty-six-year old man, who was sober at the time, said he’d gone up for a bet. The Prague Town Hall has just invested eight million crowns into a camera system that would monitor Prague’s most famous tourist attractions. Such a system is already operating on Charles Bridge. Every statue is now under close surveillance and in the event of any transgression police can be on the spot in less than a minute. The astronomical clock, the Jan Hus statue and other sites in Prague will be under surveillance as of next year, which means that the Orloj spider man is unlikely to have a successor.

'Hanging Man' by David Cerny
Czech sculptor David Cerny loves to shock people and Czechs are used to seeing his provocative works of art all over Prague – babies climbing up a TV tower, St Wenceslas mounted on a steed hanging upside down or his Trabant car with legs. But when his work burst on the American scene without warning last week people panicked. The Open Concert Gallery in Grand Rapids, Michigan installed David Cerny’s “Hanging Man” – a life size sculpture of psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud hanging onto a rod by the hand – on the roof of its seven-storey building. The public response was immediate. People started calling the police to report a suicide and the first time it happened the police and firemen really arrived at the scene. Poor old Freud has shocked people in a number of European cities although at his home base in Jilska Street in Prague no one bats and eyelid. David Cerny is said to be delighted with his work’s success but one can’t help wondering how Freud himself would feel about it.

Then again there are more departed famous people who might have a complaint or two to make in that department. A recently unveiled larger-than-life statue in the spa town of Karlovy Vary is meant to be the country’s first president Tomas Garrigue Masaryk, but the joke bandied around town is that Lenin is back. The similarity with Lenin is striking and many visitors raise their eyebrows before walking up close to read the inscription. The considerable Russian minority in Karlovy Vary is vastly amused – but the locals are shaking their heads in disbelief. They had long pushed for a statue of Masaryk to be erected, since the much loved first president was a frequent visitor to Karlovy Vary, but now they feel that they got a bit more than they bargained for. The Lenin clone towers above them and unlike the real statues of Lenin – this one will not be easy to remove.

With Christmas and New Year’s Eve celebrations just weeks away people are buying more alcohol than usual and many are heading for the outdoor Vietnamese stalls, where some traders sell smuggled goods which are available for half the usual price. Inevitably the police are cracking down and it is a question of who is faster – the officers or the Vietnamese salespeople who have developed an early warning system that detects the presence of police miles away. When the alarm is sounded they lock up their stands and disappear and the police arrive to a scene that resembles a ghost town. Last week they locked up so quickly that they inadvertently jailed a couple of German tourists in one of their stands. Once again the police arrived to an empty market – but to their great surprise there was a great deal of shouting and banging coming from one of the stands. They broke down the lock and let out a very angry German couple. No doubt they will think twice before trying to save money on cheap alcohol in future.

There are more ways to spice up your sex life than with a pair of handcuffs – in the Czech Republic you can now get underwear with the official logo of the Czech police. This latest fashion in underwear has shocked the police presidium which claims that this use of their logo is not only illegal but ridicules everything that the police stands for. A spokesman said the police would “analyze the situation and take appropriate action”. Whatever that means, the police panties and underpants have only been given more publicity and are reportedly selling like hot cakes.

Photo: CzechTourism
Ski resorts in the south Bohemian mountain range are making artificial snow for Prague, which is to host a cross-country World Cup ski event for the first time at the end of December. Tons of snow will be transported to Prague Castle for the event and spread out in the streets of Lesser Quarter. And it is not only sports fans who will benefit. Once the event is over the snow – a rare commodity in Prague – will be used to make a snow park on Letna Plain. Some of it will be taken to Petrin Hill where it should give kids a few days of sleighing and some of it will be left around Prague Castle. For how long it will stay depends on the whims of the weather. Although it snows fairly frequently in Prague, the city is rarely blanketed in snow. Often the snow turns to slush within minutes and rarely stays more than a few hours. This year meteorologists are forecasting what they call a “muddy Christmas” in Prague, but –unlike the rest of us - those living in Lesser Quarter can rest assured that quality snow will be delivered on time.