The Tesco store on Narodni trida, photo: CTK

Where is Hapsburg Emperor Josef II? The search is on in and around Novy Jicin. The Tesco store on Narodni Trida has joined the elite club of cultural monuments. And a Czech entrepreneur declares war on the Ostrava town hall - and wins! Find out more in Magazine with Daniela Lazarova.

There still aren't very many places in the Czech Republic where you can celebrate Halloween - but the Dvur Kralove Zoo is a bright exception. It has celebrated "Halloween Week" since 2001 and the event gets more popular with every passing year. For the entire week leading up to All Hallows' Eve the zoo is decorated with ghosts, witches and lanterns which together with the animal sounds create a very spooky atmosphere when night falls. The zoo has special events for kids - explaining what Halloween is all about and encouraging them to make their own lanterns and masks. The week long event ends with a Halloween procession. Last year it was attended by over 500 people and this year the zoo hopes to attract even more visitors with a special decoration - a huge artificial pumpkin-lantern which should get into the Czech Book of Records.

Imagine this: a pickup ignores the red light at a train crossing and collides with an oncoming train -one of the high speed Pendolino trains whizzing between Prague and Ostrava. You'd think that the Pendolino would barely notice and the pick up would be flattened - but that's not the way it happened in the Czech Republic last week. Not only did the driver of the pickup survive the collision without a scratch on him - but he got out of the car and ran away. The man was allegedly a foreigner and was afraid of getting into trouble with the police. The incident is being investigated.

Next year it will be 220 years since Hapsburg Emperor Josef II visited the town of Novy Jicin. He must have received a royal welcome and admired his own bronze statue on the town square. Four years after the founding of Czechoslovakia - sometime in 1922 the statue mysteriously disappeared. Historians believe that some of the locals may have hidden it in view of preserving it for posterity. There has been no trace of it since 1922 despite several thorough searches of the town and vicinity. Historians had given up - until last week when one of the sidewalks was being repaired. A local walking past the construction site noticed a piece of polished granite sticking out of the ground. An investigation revealed that it was the pedestal of the long lost statue. And now the search is on again - historians feel sure that Emperor Josef II is somewhere close - most likely buried deep underground. A metal detector has already picked out one possible location - where there seems to be a big lump of metal buried deep underground. The town hall has agreed to dig it up. Next year's 220th anniversary of the Emperor's visit was to have been marked with the unveiling of a plaque - but with any luck - the bronze statue of the emperor himself may reappear on the square where it once stood.

A live scorpion terrified employees at the town hall in the Prague district of Bohdalec last week. After a hasty consultation regarding strategy two men managed to sweep it up into a cardboard box and called the police. The officers who accepted the strange delivery and set out to find the owner were in for a shock - the scorpion had escaped from a nearby shop selling exotic animals and his safe return home revealed that two other scorpions had escaped with him and are now on the lose somewhere. People in the district now keep a very sharp eye on the ground at all times.

A twenty year old woman who was getting her hair done at a Prague salon strolled out mid-way without paying. She saved 1,200 crowns but the hairdresser says she's not likely to be very happy about it. The colour-job was only half done - and the lady must have had a shock when she took the tin-foil off - her head would have been a mix of black, blond and red strands. The salon says it's not going to press charges because they think the woman has been punished enough!

A 16 year long dispute between entrepreneur Maxmilian Simek and the Ostrava town hall over property rights is finally over. The town hall capitulated under a direct threat of attack - Mr. Simek drove a vintage tank right up to the town hall and parked there with the barrel pointing at the mayor's window. The 16-year-old conflict was quickly resolved and Mr. Simek's tank departed. "It just goes to show that you need to use heavy caliber when dealing with bureaucrats" he told the press later. Yes, but what about those of us who don't have tanks?

The Tesco store on Narodni trida,  photo: CTK
The Tesco store on Narodni trida - with its functional socialist design - is viewed by some as one of the city's most unappealing structures. Yet this very building has just been elevated to the status of cultural monument. The proposal came from architect Rostislav Svaha who claims that the building is a prime example of the functionalist architecture of the 1970s and, as such, should be protected. Some time ago the building's present owner Tesco stores announced plans to pull it down and build a new modern shopping mall in its place provoking an outcry from many Prague locals. The building's lofty status will now protect it from any major reconstruction - and Tesco has said it will only make some changes to the interior. However the decision to classify the former socialist shopping centre as a cultural monument has evoked mixed reactions among Czech architects and cultural heritage experts. Jan Knezinek of the town hall's cultural heritage department says that the admission of the present day Tesco store to the elite club of Czech cultural monuments is a degradation of the magnificent buildings which truly belong there. Ugly duckling or not - the glass and chrome shopping mall now rubs shoulders with the best of them...and there aren't many shopping malls in the world that can compete with that.