Cool Keg - the cool way to drink beer. Czechs are now buying beer by the barrel. The employees of a Czech advertising agency bare all in aid of charity and, two young Czechs take a bike ride across Mongolia. Find out more in Magazine with Daniela Lazarova.

Jiri Paroubek,  photo: CTK
When the cat's away -the mice will play - as opposition leader Jiri Paroubek has good reason to know. The Social Democrat leader changed his holiday plans at the last minute this week and instead of leaving for Italy as planned he came in to work as usual on Monday morning. However, he forgot to mention it to his employees at party headquarters and under the impression that their boss was working on his tan somewhere in Italy few of them bothered to come in to work that day. Several dozen phone calls later people were back at their desks and Mr. Paroubek was giving out orders as usual. "I wouldn't make a big deal out of it, they were in late and will have to make up for it - at least this scare will keep them on their toes in future," the Social Democrat leader told newsmen.

If you don't have a sweet tooth but still want a cake on your birthday you can always go for a meat cake. The biggest ever - at least in Czech terms - was made to order for businessman Karel Silhavik's fiftieth birthday last week. The three tiered jelly-cake made of sausages, ham, cheese, fruit and vegetables fed a lot of party guests - it weighed 70 kilograms and was 75 cm high. "It was a surprise from a friend and it's the best birthday cake I've ever had," Karel said later. The cake took three days to make and was consumed in less than three hours. Another popular party gift - this time for smokers - is a bouquet decorated with the respective number of cigarettes - one for each year. However, it is not highly recommended; unless you are off to wish your arch enemy a happy birthday. Amazing really how many people still buy them...

The female staff of a Czech advertising agency - Mather Communications - bared all in aid of charity recently. The nude photos were used to make up an erotic Mather calendar - a first in the agency's history. The agency's account director Alena Wilson says she was inspired by a similar undertaking in Great Britain where British IT employees stripped off to increase national interest and awareness in the IT industry and break down the perception of the "geeky techie". "I thought it might be fun to do the same thing - only for charity", Alena Wilson said. She talked ten other colleagues into it - and last week the sexy Mather calendar saw the light of day. The first issue was auctioned off for 120 thousand crowns at Podebrady Chateau and 120 thousand copies are now on sale. The profit will go to help blind children.

Filip Weber and his girlfriend Zdena Vanourkova,  photo: CTK
You won't find Filip Weber and his girlfriend Zdena Vanourkova buying package tours. They like to go where no man -or woman - has been before. Well, almost. This summer they crossed Mongolia by bike using GPS and sign language to find their way. Together they covered five thousand kilometers in 40 degree heat -" it is so hot that you feel you are going to melt but you just have to get on your bike and ride and ride and ride," Filip says. What attracted this young couple to Mongolia is something that would put the majority of tourists off - the lack of communications. "You just ride through rough country - even a dry river bed - your ride where you can, and get by how you can, it's a crash course in survival," they say.

Photo: CTK
Earlier Filip crossed the Sahara desert on his bike by himself. Now he's found a woman to accompany him on his travels. Given the hardships along the way he was lucky to find her - there are not many Czech girls who'd welcome a trip to Mongolia, riding 18 hours a day and not knowing when the next oasis will appear on the horizon. Zdena says she loves it all: "the country is magnificent and the people you meet are very friendly. They see you have nothing and they immediately welcome you as one of their own - even if you don't speak their language."

Bouzov Castle
Come summer the Czech Republic's many castles and chateaux vie to attract visitors - and just giving them guided tours is no longer enough. They organize historic events in period dress with fencing, falconry and dancing, cooking and gardening competitions and strongman contests on selected weekends to really draw the crowd. This weekend Bouzov Castle is holding a fairy tale weekend for visitors. Tour guides will be dressed up as fairy tale characters and in place of the usual information about the history of the castle they will be singing songs and acting parts from popular Czech fairy tale musicals. Among the best known are "The terribly sad princess", "Long live ghosts" and "A night at Karlstejn Castle." Many Czech fairy tales were actually filmed at Bouzov and visitors will be taken to the respective chambers, towers and dungeons to meet the sad princess, the dragon or the Bouzov ghosts.

It's been a long hot summer but Czech beer lovers know how to make it bearable - there's nothing like beer on tap to cool you down. Before, one had to go to the pub for it but now Czechs can enjoy beer on tap in their own homes or country cottages. Twenty-liter beer barrels complete with a tap - or spigot -appeared on the market in May and became an instant hit. The Cool Keg from Staropramen does not come cheap (it costs approximately 16,000 crowns), but Czechs have already forked out two million crowns for them. "Czechs love company at their country cottages and there's now a fashion for barbecues with friends," says the head of the Czech association of beer brewers Jan Vesely. "Before they'd buy crates of beer to take home -now they just get a barrel. It cools to five degrees Celsius within an hour and stays that way for twelve hours even if it's out in the heat. So it's ideal for barbecues and gatherings." Many Czechs will tell you it's the best invention since the mobile phone. Some get it for a day of fishing with their mates others put it in the boot when they are going on holiday or camping. And of course - there's another advantage - you can show your mates how best to draw beer on tap - because that in itself is an art that every connoisseur likes to boast about.