Czechs are buying advent calendars for cats and dogs! Disgruntled police officers are leaving their jobs and putting their uniforms on the market – for the underworld to snap up. And, what did mum and dad do with the Semtex?! Find out more in Magazine with Daniela Lazarova.

Czechs are flocking to a new exhibition called “Following in the footsteps of Mankind” which opened at the National Museum on Wednesday. The exhibition covers the history of mankind from prehistoric times up until the present day – focusing on steps that have made a difference. Man’s travels around the world, across oceans and the discovery of new continents and flights into space – all have been recorded metaphorically and physically. Visitors to the exhibition can admire a copy of the shoe that Oetzi the Iceman wore, or a replica of the boot in which Neil Armstrong took his first steps on the moon. There’s also the sports shoe that Czech athlete Jan Zelezny wore when he set a world record. Most of the exhibits are authentic and when they are not – like in the case of Neil Armstrong’s boot – there is a good reason for it. The astronaut’s real moon boots (size 9 1⁄2 medium) are still on the moon, along with nine other pairs of boots worn during Apollo missions. When the Apollo astronauts collected moon rocks, they had to jettison their boots to compensate for the additional weight they brought back. On the other hand, Zelezny’s shoes are authentic – as is the moon rock given to Czechoslovakia by US President Nixon.

The criminal underworld is rejoicing: hundreds of dissatisfied officers are leaving the ranks of the police and putting their uniforms and even police badges on the market. In the Czech Republic officers who leave the force are allowed to keep their uniform and there is no law to prevent them selling it as a collector’s item. They make extra money and for the price of several thousand crowns people from the underworld get the real thing: an authentic uniform and badge which makes their work much easier. Five years ago three robbers in authentic police uniforms with authentic badges stopped a security vehicle transporting 152 million crowns. They escaped with the loot and were never found. Others collect fines along the country’s highways and others yet rob elderly people who believe they are being “helped” by a real officer. Although selling an authentic police badge is in violation of the law – the price for them is high and officers have been known to report them “lost” before selling them. A high placed police official who did not wish to be named said the police management was aware of what was going on but there was little they could do about it. The only legal provision regarding abuse of police uniforms is that there is an article in the legal system saying that anyone who wears a police uniform without being a member of the police force can be fined up to three thousand crowns. Given the fact that you can “make” up to 152 million in the process… such a fine is laughable.

Looking for a good way to test a new product or service? Try it in the Czech Republic first. If it catches on here, it stands a good chance elsewhere. According to the financial daily Hospodarske Noviny, Czechs have become extremely popular as human guinea pigs for Western companies. Firstly because Czechs are very open to new ideas, goods and services and secondly because they are now making enough money to try new things just for the fun of it. And they are willing to put almost anything to the test, from new toilet cleaners to new computer programmes. And when I say anything, I mean anything: now they are buying advent calendars for cats, dogs and small rodents. In place of chocolates these calendars contain cat, dog or rodent mini-snacks. Their price is actually higher than that of advent calendars for children but they are a novelty on the market and Czechs are snapping them up. The cat and dog ones are said to be extremely popular, the rodent ones less so. Clearly human guinea pigs in the Czech Republic are better guinea pigs than the real ones who are extremely dense when it comes to accepting new goods and services. I am sure that by next Christmas we’ll have brought them round and maybe by that time they’ll be asking for a mini-Christmas tree as well. By the way, the advent calendars for animals are proving a success so look out for them next Christmas: they are likely to flood markets in other countries as well.

Sand, snow and ice sculptures have become very popular of late and Czechs are extremely good at them. Ice sculptor Frantisek Balek took part in Russia's first open competition for snow and ice sculptures in the arctic city of Salekhard and won several prizes for his sculpture Moonlight. What other towns hosting ice-sculpting events need to work hard at, Salekhard provides naturally. Conditions on the town’s main square are perfect for ice-sculpting with daytime temperatures at around -30 degrees Celsius. Huge blocks of ice for the sculptures are brought from a nearby river which remains frozen throughout the long, harsh winters. Although contestants from Russia and Finland have a natural advantage over the others in being able to practice their art at low cost for several months of the year, it was sculptors from Asia who wowed the crowd and jury. They are awfully good, Frantisek Balek says, and they work with lightening speed. What it takes us four days to carve - they do in one. The reason is simple: they are used to working in the heat and they know they only have so much time before their work of art melts!

And finally, a man from Sumperk got the shock of his life this week when he sifted through old stuff in the attic of his childhood home – a cottage he’d just inherited from his parents. Nostalgic memories of “Home, sweet home” and his mother’s Sunday apple pie were rudely interrupted when he came upon a package that contained the Czech-made plastic explosive Semtex complete with a detonator. The young man handed the find over to the police and is now doubtless having nightmares of his mum and dad’s secret double life.