Prague Castle

There's a plan to restore the Prague Castle Vineyards dating back to Charles IV. A shark is found floating in the Vltava - how much of a fishing story is this? And, a convict is given a place in a nativity scene. Find out more in Magazine with Daniela Lazarova.

Locals and tourists on the banks of the Vltava river stared in disbelief last week as a river barge stopped to drag the body of a small shark out of the water. The river management and the police had been alerted to the find by several fishermen who said they'd spotted a huge fish resembling a shark floating on the water, near the old Certovka watermill. Investigation into these unlikely claims revealed that the fish was indeed a shark but one that had been dead and gutted for some time. Such sharks are allegedly delivered to some exclusive restaurants and the police believe that one of them got rid of it in this unusual fashion. So if any of the tourists who were around at the time happen to show you a photograph proving that there really are sharks in the Vltava - just treat it like you would any other fishing story -with a pinch of salt.

A woman from Uhersky Brod stopped at her local bakery for a fresh loaf of bread one morning and got more than she bargained for - baked inside the loaf was a digital thermometer. The thermometer was one of several used by the small bakery to measure the temperature of the dough and one of the employees forgot to pull it out before processing. We knew one was missing, so we were expecting to deal with a very annoyed customer, the head of the bakery said. The angry customer was soon mollified - she got a tour of the bakery, a fresh loaf and another digital thermometer as a souvenir.

A convict in a nativity scene? It sounds strange, but a certain Czech convict who became a household name after escaping from a top-security prison has now won a place in a Czech nativity scene - that of woodcarver Jaroslav Benes from the Moravian town of Lostice. Benes, who has spent years producing a spectacular nativity scene documenting the history of his region, says that whatever he may have done convict Jiri Kajinek deserves a place in the picture - since he is from these parts. However if Kajinek had hoped to appear in a better light he was mistaken - he is instantly recognizable in the nativity scene crowd wearing striped prison garb. Only the look on his face somehow has more humility than in real life.

A man from the west Bohemian town of Pilsen recently placed an ad on the web saying he needed a professional killer to get rid of his wife and promising to pay him two thousand euros if he could do the job and make it look like an accident. The man even described in detail how this could best be achieved. Whether this was some kind of a sick joke or the man deranged is not clear. The police noticed the ad, went to investigate and on finding that the mentioned couple had serious marital problems put the man in detention, just to be on the safe side. If it was a joke - it is not one he's likely to forget in a hurry.

The statue of Gaston,  photo: CTK
The sea lion Gaston who was swept from his enclosure at Prague's Troya Zoo in the devastating floods of 2002 - and who died several days later on his way to the sea - and as many people saw it - to freedom has come home for good. The unveiling of a statue of Gaston in the sea lions' enclosure at the zoo attracted crowds of visitors. "We really missed Gaston sorely and because so many children asked about him we decided he should have a place here for all time," the head of the zoo told the media. The bronze statue of Gaston is just as people remember him - fooling around in the pool.

The Prague Castle compound will soon have a new attraction - there's a plan to restore the vineyards that were once a part of the castle compound - established by Emperor Charles IV. Two and a half thousand vines are to be planted in the spring of next year and the first proper harvest should take place in four years time. The castle vineyards will be open to the public. "We wish to renew a centuries old tradition," says the author of the project Jaroslav Hykl. "The wine made from these vineyards will not be much - around 1,5oo litres - so it will not be for sale to the public or tourists. We want to establish an archive of Prague Castle wines and bring them out on special occasions. Of course, there will be wine harvesting celebrations in the autumn, which will involve wine tasting." Hykl says. So if you come to Prague in five years time or are still here remember to check out the Prague Castle Vineyard. The first wine harvest should be a very special occasion.

The Czech police force has managed to arrest the biggest lone thief in the history of the Czech Republic. The forty year old thief broke into hundreds of country cottages, stealing whatever caught his fancy, from a lawn mower to a moth-balled folk costume only aired for special occasions. The man stole for the adrenalin surge it gave him and never robbed the same home twice. He was notorious especially in southern Bohemia and it had become a matter of pride for the police to catch him. They failed to catch him red-handed but the arrest itself was dramatic enough. Sixty policemen surrounded his home in Dobrs and a helicopter with thermal vision circled overhead in the early hours of the morning. It resembled the arrest of a drug baron or international terrorist but the police were taking no chances - this particular fish had slipped through their net too many times. The man now awaits trial. As for the things he stole, the interior ministry has put a long list of recovered objects on its web page.

The leading health insurance company VZP is steeped in debt, but some doctors it has a contract with have been doing very well for themselves. A recent inspection of the Prachatice region revealed that a married couple - both doctors - were operating four rehabilitation centres all by themselves, making the insurance company pay several times over for a single treatment or treatments that had never been performed. While a Czech GP makes on average half a million crowns a year, this couple was raking in a staggering 28,5 million crowns annually. "I can't believe this could have escaped our notice," a senior official of the insurance company said later. "A doctor claiming to work 175 hours a week should evoke some suspicion!" The matter is now being investigated.

Supermodels' invitations rarely get turned down and so the audience at a charity fashion show organized by the Czech supermodel Tereza Maxova were in for an unexpected treat. Striding down the catwalk, sporting a Diesel outfit, was none other than football star Milan Baros. And like on the pitch - he put on a great show.