Magazine

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A "communist-style" evening at the pub - what's so good about it? A Czech farmer harvests his cabbage field in January. And, the man who advised Oscar winning film director Jiri Menzel in the making of his latest movie "I Served the King of England". Find out more in Magazine with Daniela Lazarova.

He had ten beers, ten rums, a serving of goulash and two rolls - for which he paid 95 crowns in all -that's just over 4 dollars. The pub's owner Petr Holinka says he's happy to give regulars a treat. "I have been looking forward to this all week," one of the guests said " I even made a deal with the wife - a few extra household chores and I'm free for the night.""If Czech deputies and senators can drink for next to nothing - why not let normal people try it once a year" he said with reference to the low price of alcohol on Parliament premises. When his guests finally left in the early hours of the morning they each got a token-gift to remember the occasion by - a communist party medal.


Are autumn harvests a thing of the past? Vojtech Kral, a farmer from Litomerice called in television crews last week to see him harvesting a field of cabbages in mid-January. No one has seen the likes of it- all harvesting is normally concluded by the end of October - but this year Vojtech took the risk of leaving his crops in God's hands for as long as possible. And the risk paid off. He's saved money on storage and the cabbage that is now going straight on the market is said to be much crisper and tastier than usual. "This is just perfect - I couldn't ask for a better climate" Vojtech told reporters. Others are wishing they'd done the same. Maybe they'll get another chance next year - but meteorologists are saying don't count on it. For Vojtech this could have been a once in a lifetime experience - unless he moves to the south of Spain.


The older, the better, that's true not only of wine but also of cigars. Lovers of fine Cuban cigars should definitely visit the travel fair now underway in Brno. One of the attractions is a collection of the finest Cuban cigars - fourteen brands of them - made in 1911. The company which produced them Tabak Regie no longer exists but the cigars it made still smell great, or so collectors say. Smoking one would be a very expensive treat indeed...


"I Served the King of England" is a film after Vaclav Smid's own heart. His ambition to be the best took him to the top of his profession and as a waiter for VIPs he too can say he has served kings, presidents, prime ministers and film stars. Today - at 64 - Vaclav Smid is no longer in "active service" although he teaches the young generation the art of waiting on VIPs. He was chief advisor to film director Jiri Menzel in the making of his latest movie and even made a small appearance in the film itself -playing one of the chefs. "It was a fantastic experience and I was obsessed about every detail being just right" the 64 year old Vaclav told journalists, adding that he had even been upset about the fact that the tablecloths could not be snow-white. Because of the film cameras they had to be beige-grey. Apart from his memories Vaclav Smid has the biggest Czech collection of menus of VIP events from around the world - over 3 000 of them altogether. Among his most prized are a menu for a banquet given for Prince Charles and Princess Diana at Lany Chateux near Prague, a menu from the coronation of King George VI in 1937 and a menu from the Titanic.


The former Czech president Vaclav Havel is now trying to save one of his favourite haunts in the dissident days. The riverside pub - now called Vltava - which was known earlier as the "Steam Navigation Centre" is fighting a losing battle with the landowner who has increased the rent so steeply that the pub can no longer afford to pay. "It is a place which is dear to my heart and witnessed history in the making" Mr. Havel says. That's where Charter 77 was drafted and where the dissidents planned their strategy and secret meetings. The ex-president has written a letter to Prague mayor Pavel Bem asking him to look into the matter and try to save the pub because he fears that it will be forced out and replaced by a casino or some such. The building dates back to the 1940s and is protected as a cultural landmark - so there is no danger of it being torn down - but Mr. Havel says that once the pub is gone the atmosphere of the place will never be the same again.


Czechs who have relatives in Slovakia - and there are plenty of those given that the two countries spent over 70 years in a federal state - will no longer be able to send them a telegram. Slovaktelecom has cancelled the service as such, precisely 160 years after it was set up. In the past five years the number of telegrams sent dropped from several hundred thousand to a mere 23,000 - as people turned to SMS messages and e-mails instead- a cheaper and quicker alternative. Here in the Czech Republic the situation is much the same but the telegram service lives on. Telefonica O2 says that with under 100 thousand telegrams sent a year the service is still functional and important for elderly people who may not have a computer or mobile phone. Still it is only a short reprieve. Inevitably the telegram service is on its way out and soon the only people who will be able to sent telegrams will be heads of state, who do so by special diplomatic post.