Jan Kopka in Alaska, photo: Jan Kopka's archive

Is crawling along a rope over a highway really such a good idea? Czech kids spot squirrels in the Czech capital. A Czech MTB rider wins one of the world's toughest races. And, the (in)famous CzechTek music festival is to move further east. That - and more - in this edition of Magazine.

Are these guys nuts? Crawling along a rope stretched high above the highway...

Is a small group of Czechs embracing a dangerous new sport? This week it was reported that a small team of climbers has been practising crawling along a rope stretched horizontally above a major highway as cars and trucks zoomed below. One of the climbers said that the highway was only one site that had been crossed: he and his eight-member team, he claimed, had also crawled hand-over-hand above high-voltage tracks. So far, no one has ever caught them as they operate late at night dressed in military fatigues.

I don't know about you but hopefully this is one pastime that won't catch on: crawling hand-over-hand over certain death - also endangering drivers - seems about as bright an idea as grabbing hold & jumping onto fast-moving trains, another questionable "hobby" reported on a few years ago. There, a group of anonymous surgeons spent their nights jumping onto and riding transport trains like they were hobos in the Depression-era.

I spy with my little eye: a squirrel!

For the second year in a row, Czech children have been taking part in a unique project called "Prague Squirrel", aimed at counting the number of squirrels in the Czech capital - part of an on-going census for a non-profit organisation. Since last year 700 squirrels have been counted in Prague by people calling in or sending text messages, with the more detail the better: time of day, location, type of tree, as well as other bits of information like the squirrel's size and colour. It turns out that most of the bushy-eared creatures live in Prague's Stromovka Park and another part of the city known as Dablice. There's a red European squirrel who lives outside my window, but I haven't called in about him. Yet.

Kids most vocal in new "family-friendly" stadium sector

Things can sometimes get a little heated at Sparta Prague's famous football stadium: I'm not talking about warm spring weather, I'm talking about the atmosphere when the home team is behind. Some of the language commonly used by fans - which I won't repeat here - is enough to make anyone think twice about whether they should take their kids to a football game. Now, no more need to worry about innocent ears. Last weekend the Sparta football club opened a new family sector at Letna stadium where everyone can enjoy the goals, whether Sparta's winning or not. There is even a small play area for kids to kick or toss around their own ball if they feel on top of their game. So far, parents have greeted the idea favourably: the zone was completely full shortly after opening for the first time. Who were the loudest? Not die-hard fans but some first-time viewers: a bunch of eight-year old kids.

Czech wins world's "toughest" human-powered race

Speaking of sport, it isn't too long ago that this year's Iditarod Trail Invitational - what some have called the world's toughest human-powered race along the historic Inuit trail - was won by a Czech. Held in Alaska in the coldest winter he won the race on his mountain bike. The rider, Jan Kopka, must be made of extraordinary stuff: how else could you survive, let alone win, a course lasting 1800 kilometres in -40 degree degrees Celsius? I feel cold just saying it. The racer told a Czech newspaper that at times on his bike he reached speeds of 80 kilometres per hour with the help of strong gales, along what he called an old gold-diggers' path, where he was completely alone. At night he slept in a special sleeping bag by the side of the trail and told the press, the main thing is just to "survive". Well, if I was going to do the Iditarod I think I'd prefer the famous dogsled version: I can't change flat tires with mittens.

Internet news site readers fail to get April Fools' joke

More than a few readers of one Czech Internet news site must have felt a little sheepish after they fell "hook, line & sinker" for one of the site's April Fools' jokes. On April 1st the site reported that Prague's famous Nusel Bridge would soon have an electronic toll, keeping track of vehicles coming in and out of the city. A photo, featuring city hall's logo and the "proposed" toll booth had some readers up-in-arms, and they fired off responses before they even got to the end of the article. They should have read all the way through. The article wrapped up by saying: the current plan proposed by the city was expected to come into effect by next April...Fools'.

Yes, but will they still call it CzechTek?

It's no joke for Czech techno fans but that's the way it is: organiser have announced that the CzechTek techno festival won't be back this summer - at least not in the Czech Republic. Organisers are complaining that the previously illegal festival has lost its "edge". Last year it was held with permission from authorities at an empty military site, a year after police forcibly closed it down, leading to violent clashes. Although tens of thousands of young people attended last year's peaceful event, some are complaining that getting permission went against the whole idea of the fest in the first place. In the past, the chosen location was always a secret until the last minute.

If CzechTek does move abroad, it will be further east. Locations reportedly being considered are Ukraine and even Belarus. While no doubt some Czech fans will probably be sorry, others - like villagers here who've put up with the festival before, will probably breathe a sigh of relief.

Jan Hus statue disappears!

Statue of Jan Hus on Prague's Old Town Square,  photo: CTK
The famous statue of 15th century religious reformer Jan Hus on Prague's Old Town Square has disappeared! Well, not literally, but under a pile of scaffolding where it remain hidden for at least a year. The City of Prague began extensive renovation on the statue, after experts revealed the massive work's base was no longer stable, and that the statue itself had also been damaged over the years. Now, the only ones who will be able to get any view of it for some time will be professional restorers and of course the occasional pigeon.

Tourists to hit Prague at Easter holidays

Photo: CzechTourism
Prague is expected to experience the first big influx of tourists during this weekend with the Easter holidays. Reports from one of the country's main tourist associations have suggested that a whopping 300,000 tourists will hit the Czech capital. Visitors from Germany, Italy, Great Britain, and Spain are expected to spend hundreds of millions of crowns altogether. Many are expected to be over 35 years of age and will probably be interested to learn more about typical local traditions. For example, traditional braided whips have of course gone on sale, which are used to symbolically (!) whip girls on Easter Monday in line with an old fertility rite. Often many forget that in return, the girls then get to pour a bucket of water over the guys' heads. Important to remember!