Photo: Richard Ling, CC BY 3.0 Unported

The latest fad in the Czech Republic: seven mile boots. Tomato battles in the town of Radvanice and the summer exhibition Sculpture Grande has one exhibit less - a six meter walking stick for the blind got stolen from Wenceslas Square. Find out more in Magazine with Daniela Lazarova.

You know the question - if you were to spend a year on a desert island what would you take with you? Well, try asking yourself who would you take with you. Poles were asked to consider this question in relation to different nationalities. And it turns out that a Czech would be a popular choice, third only after an Englishman and an Italian. As for the people they would least want to be stranded with -the Poles were very clear about that - a Russian or a German.

Photo: Richard Ling,  CC BY 3.0 Unported
Czechs have a reputation of being reckless and taking stupid risks when holidaying abroad. For instance in Croatia and Slovakia - both extremely popular holiday destinations because of the Tatra Mountains and the Croatian sea-coast - the locals allegedly dread the summer influx of Czech holiday makers who as they say "come over and kill themselves here". In the course of this summer alone 52 Czechs died while holidaying abroad - in accidents on mountaineering expeditions, of heart attacks and drowning. An incident in Spain shows why Czechs are so accident prone. Four Czech tourists alone violated a ban on swimming along a stretch of the Tarragona coastline after a shark had repeatedly been sighted close to the shore. Luckily the coastguards got them out in time and they were fined 400 euro for "shark baiting".

Countess Sofia Hartig,  photo: CTK
Getting around at age 86 may not be easy for everyone - especially if you have to climb to a height of some 600 meters above sea level to come home - but if you happen to be a countess help is at hand. Countess Sofia Hartig had long dreamed of visiting the family estate one more time before she died. But Bezdes Castle is not accessible by car - one has to walk the last stretch of the road on foot. The countess is no longer up to it but ten athletes from a sports club decided to give her a surprise. They made a comfortable wooden stretcher and carried Countess Sofia up to her former family home. The staff assembled to greet her and she was in tears as she was presented with a big bouquet. The countess now lives in Austria and had not seen her old family home in fifteen years.

Seven mile boots are the stuff of fairytales but now due to a Russian invention that never saw the light of day many young Czechs are walking or rather leaping around in them. These "seven mile" boots were originally meant to help the Russian army move around faster and be more mobile on the battlefront but they were never used and it took many years for someone to bring the original idea to completion. The boots have now become a huge fad with teenagers - due to a mechanism of springs they allow you to jump two meters into the air and bound at a speed of 30 kilometers per hour - allowing you to move approximately six times faster than under your own steam. At present young Czechs are just clowning around in the park with them - but given Prague's heavily congested streets the time may not be far off when we will all leap to work in the mornings.

Mikes,  photo: TV Nova
They say that cats have nine lives and some cat stories suggest there's more than a little truth in this old saying. A cat fell from the twelfth floor of a Prague high-rise building this week and survived the fall! Mikes miscalculated the distance from the sofa to the window sill where he liked to sit and watch the goings-on below. He took a huge leap right through the open window falling from a height of 60 meters before hitting a grass surface. "We didn't for a moment think he could have survived such a fall but we rushed down and found that his heart was still beating," his owner said. A vet was on the spot within minutes and drove the cat to his surgery. Although Mikes had internal injuries to his liver and spleen, the bleeding soon stopped and he's now on the mend and receiving visitors as the local hero.

The tomato battles in Bunol, Spain are world famous and the Czech town of Radvanovice really cannot hope to compete - but it has started a small tradition of its own and its annual tomato battles are now extremely popular. People come from far and wide to let their hair down or take part in one of three disciplines - ketchup battles - that's one on one combat in a pool of ketchup, holding one's breath "underketchup" /the current record is two minutes/ or the traditional tomato battle which starts off with two groups of contestants but the audience is soon drawn into things and soon everyone is throwing tomatoes at everyone else. Those who have tried it say it is the best de-stressing technique ever!

Photo: Fruggo,  CC BY 3.0 Unported
There are various signs that the climate in this part of the world is changing. People have started growing grapes, peaches and apricots in their gardens - while in the past this was practically impossible. New breeds of spiders have appeared in the Czech Republic and there are reports of red-footed tortoises -indigenous to Florida and Mexico - living in the waters of the Brno dam. They survived the winter by burying themselves deep in the mud - like European mud turtles. In the spring zoologists found tortoise eggs buried in the sand and they say that if the mild winters and hot summers persist red-footed tortoises will breed successfully in the area. Some environmentalists consider this a disastrous scenario. They say the red footed tortoises are invaders -who have no natural enemy in this environment and who would consequently over-breed and upset the fragile balance of the local eco-system. So how did these invaders get into the Brno dam in the first place? That much is clear - people had them as pets and when they grew too big for their home aquarium they simply dumped them in the dam. Under normal circumstances they would have died - but thanks to the warm weather they settled in nicely and are doing unexpectedly well. Soon Brno may have a whole colony of them. One really does not want to think about what other exotic animals people may be dumping out in the open.

The police are investigating a curious theft - one of the exhibits of Sculpture Grande - Prague's annual outdoor exhibition of outsize sculptures by artists from around the world has mysteriously disappeared. It is a replica of a walking stick for the blind -six and a half meters tall - and it was stolen from the very centre of Wenceslas Square - right from under the noses of a number of police officers patrolling Prague's main street. As one of the exhibits the stick was also in the direct line of vision of a police camera and was chained to the ground. The whole thing is a bit of a joke - and many people are asking whether the officers themselves may not be in need of stick for the blind.