Wollemia Nobilis

The woman who lives with fifty rats! The Czech Republic and Jordan are trying to produce a superior breed of sheep and the plant that travels with bodyguards! The Troja botanical gardens now boast a precious Wollemia Nobilis. Find out more in Magazine with Daniela Lazarova.

The European Parliament in Strasbourg witnessed a most unusual spectacle last week: the traditional Kings Procession from Vlcnov. The tradition is centuries old and is believed to be based on a real event - the flight of a young king whose life was endangered and who escaped his enemies by dressing up as a girl. Every year the scene is re-enacted. One of the village boys is elected king - which is perceived as a great honour for his whole family who enjoy a special status in the village for the coming year and spend a fortune on the event. He is dressed as a girl and throughout the entire ride he has a rose clamped between his teeth - so that his speak does not give him away.

The event ends in a huge celebration, with food, dancing and merrymaking until the early hours. For the first time ever the King's Procession took place far from home - in Strasbourg. The town of Vlcnov would like the tradition to be placed on UNESCO's world heritage list and decided that MEPs should see for themselves what it was all about. They enacted it in the European Parliament arriving with 10 litres of slivovitze, the local brandy, 1,400 doughnuts and several live bands. Participants at the event say the interest was enormous. After downing a brandy or two, several MEPs joined in the dancing and many have expressed interest in visiting Vlcnov in May for the real thing.

People have the funniest pets. Forty-five year old Eva Drimlova and her two children live with fifty rats. A nightmare for some, but Eva says her rats are thoroughbreds, clean and very intelligent. "We all walk around with a rat on our shoulder and we even take them into town, so there's a bit of a commotion when someone on the tram notices there's a rat on my shoulder", she laughs. Most people shy away, but Eva claims that a rat is rather like an intelligent dog - it will come when you call it, it loves cuddling and will even lick your ear when it is glad to see you. Although rats normally sleep through the day and are active at night, Eva claims you can alter this pattern to a considerable extent. A few of her favourites now sleep in bed with her, climbing in, cuddling up and nibbling her toes. Well, as they say, there's no accounting for taste!

Doctors at the Olomouc faculty hospital saved the life of a young man who was brought in with a body temperature of 26 degrees Celsius, after spending the night out in the cold. They circulated his blood outside his body, gradually warming it to normal body temperature and restoring his heartbeat. The man suffered heart arrest shortly after he was wheeled in and it was touch and go, one of the doctors said. Amazingly, in three hours the man was conscious and suffering no ill-effects from his night out. None that is except a bit of amnesia - he recalls nothing at all about the fateful night which could have cost him his life.

It is not often that a stray dog goes up in the world, but Kozuch from the town of Tynec can be proud of himself. He arrived at the local water-treatment plant in a poor state one day and in return for some food agreed to become their watch dog. The authorities were so pleased with his services that they gave him a permanent contract, a title and the right to a few weekends off when he can visit the home of the chief administrator. In return Kozuch pledged -by shaking a paw - not to leave the town's premises and not to tarnish the town's reputation by his amorous adventures.

The Czech Republic and Jordan are working to create a new, superior quality sheep by cross breeding Czech and Jordanian breeds. It is an eight year project and the outcome should be a super-sheep both in terms of wool and quality meat. Unlike the Czech Republic, where lamb and mutton are not diet staples, Jordan can never get enough - it is far from self-sufficient and has to import 70 percent of the lamb and mutton consumed in the country. Maybe when the super sheep appears Czechs will re-think their diet.

Every Czech school has its own custodian who is responsible for the premises and whose main task is ringing the school bell at the set time to mark the beginning and end of individual classes. Now one Prague school has introduced a novelty - the custodian has turned into a DJ and classes begin with disco music instead of the familiar bell. The kids love it and teachers say the few minutes of music make all the difference. They wake everyone up and put them in a much better mood.

The Troja Botanical Gardens in Prague now boast a real prize - the Wollemia Nobilis - one of the oldest plants on the planet. The Wollemia was around 200 million years ago and it was thought to be long extinct when botanist David Noble came across it in the Blue Mountains National Park near Sydney in 1994. The place where it grows is now off limits to the public in order to give it maximum protection. The Troja Botanical Gardens bought a baby Wollemia recently and placed it under high security so that visitors would not try to break off branches to plant in their own back yards. Not that it is the ideal back yard plant - in the wild it grows to a height of 40 metres. "This plant survived the dinosaurs, the ice age and everything else - it is incredible that we have one here today," the head of the Botanical Gardens Oldich Vacek said at the plant's presentation to the public. So if you are planning a trip to the Botanical gardens look out for this ancient and very precious conifer!