Photo: CTK

Tomas Bata goes back to his roots to celebrate his 92nd birthday. Who has the longest handle-bar moustache in the Czech Republic? And - a contest in speed swimming for tropical fish! Find out more in Magazine with Daniela Lazarova.

Photo: CTK
Fourteen years ago Jiri Patera made a vow. He took out a big loan to buy a house and vowed not to trim the handlebars of his moustache until the loan was paid. The whiskers grew and grew and although the original loan dwindled in time he had to take another and his family got used to the fact that dad resembled a Scandivian troll. Last week he finally paid back both loans down to the last heller and it was time to take it all off - in front of TV cameras, photographers and a representative of the Czech Book of Records who carefully measured the length of his handlebar moustache - 86 centimeters from one end to the other. Actually a few years ago the whiskers were much longer - an impressive 1 meter 24 centimeters but Jiri accidentally set them on fire when he lit a cigarette out in the street and the wind blew his long moustache across his face. Luckily only the whiskers sustained damage. After that he wore them tied back in a pony tail. Jiri says that although getting rid of them is a relief - it will take a while getting used to. "I feel a nice breeze" he said when the barber was done. "But the whiskers were not bad either," he added. "In the winter they were like a warm shawl and in the summer they kept me cool." So if you can't afford air-conditioning, this might be just the solution for you!

Non-alcoholic beer? In the past most Czechs would pass, but not anymore. Consumption of non-alcoholic beer has surged since stricter rules for drivers were introduced at the start of July. The new law, penalising drivers with points for every drink-driving infringement and a driving ban if they exceed the limit, is the main reason why many Czechs have exchanged their favourite brew in return for the non-alcoholic variety. Pubs now make sure there's plenty of it in stock and people are increasingly throwing it into their shopping carts for Sunday lunch. Consumption of non-alcoholic beer is now around 240,000 hectolitres a year but market experts say that figure could easily triple within three years.

Prague mayor Pavel Bem
Prague mayor Pavel Bem will make his film debut in the spring of next year. The mayor has agreed to play a taxi driver in a new Czech film called Catch the Doctor! Bem made headlines some time ago when he disguised himself as a foreign tourist in order to catch dishonest Prague taxi drivers red-handed and he says that is what got him the role. "It's something people remember - and my friends who are in casting thought it would be a huge joke to get me to play the part of the taxi driver in the film," the mayor said, stressing that he had no ambitions to exchange politics for the world of film and had merely accepted the offer to humour his friends.

It's a throwback to the 30s in London or New York - a bike food delivery service is now making the rounds in Prague. Kevin Avers who runs a coffee-shop in the city centre says it seemed like the ideal way to deliver lunch baguettes to people working in the vicinity - its stylish, fast and environmentally friendly. And - it certainly makes heads turn! This is a delivery service people will remember.

Today Bata shoes are sold around the world - but Czechs like to fondly remember the days when Tomas Bata set up his first production line in Zlin in 1894. Throughout the communist days and even after the revolution Tomas Bata was regarded by the public as a role-model businessman - the kind who not only made money but looked after his employees as well. The buildings that Tomas Bata built in Zlin stand to this day and Czechs are proud to be associated with his name. Tomas Bata is long dead - he died in a plane crash in 1932 - and the Bata Empire was run successively by his brother, son and presently grandson. Although the Bata family lives in Canada they are always given a hearty welcome home by the people of Zlin. And they always seem to enjoy coming back. Last week Tomas Bata senior celebrated his 92nd birthday in the Czech Republic - and in line with Moravian tradition he was welcomed with bread, salt and slivovice - or plum brandy. The locals threw a birthday party for him at which everyone was in regional costume and a live band played Moravian folk music. Bata - dressed in a red-white-and black costume - loved every minute of it. "I wore it when I was a boy - and it feels great, just great," Bata said, adding "I love what they planned. Roots are important and my roots are here."

Czechs love all kinds of nonsensical races. They have made snails race - and even beetles race - but the craziest race of all must be last week's swimming competition in Rychnov nad Kneznou. The participants were tropical fish and the idea was they should compete in speed swimming. Tropical fish owners from near and far brought their prize fish to the event but it turned out to be a huge disappointment. The fish refused to cooperate and only one of them made it to the finishing line - moreover in a very lazy manner. He covered one meter in 43 seconds which is shameful in view of the species. The world's number one human swimmer can cover 100 metres in the same time. But slow as he was the Melanochromis auratus - a biotype from Lake Malawi in Africa - won the day. All the other fish were disqualified and Auratus was pronounced the winner of and the first-ever swimming competition for tropical fish. Now tropical fish breeders in the Czech Republic have a year to produce something better - or train their lazy specimen to cooperate.

The smallest museum in the Czech Republic is to be found in the western village of Krenovy. The museum of old scales is located inside a huge agrarian scale that measures four cubic meters. The agrarian scales were used for weighing grain in the second half of the twentieth century and were lying idle until the locals decided to fix them - just to see if they could. The idea of having a museum of scales emerged quite naturally when the local men at the pub started talking about the stuff that they had in their attics. Almost everyone had old scales from the first half of the twentieth century - including some American pocket scales from 1945 - and donated them in aid of the one and only museum in the village. The museum is special in more ways than one - it is free of charge and if you want to see it you ring the bell at the nearest cottage - pick up the key and visit the scales inside the scales.