Who's the winner of the Miss Deaf World Contest? A Skoda veterans' car parade makes its way through Europe - the auto maker is celebrating its centenary. And, a mushroom turns nasty. Find out more in this week's Magazine with Daniela Lazarova.
Czech forests have started filling up with mushrooms again and Czechs are enjoying this national pastime to the full. Even a closely watched meeting between the country's Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek and former premier Milos Zeman took journalists into the forest as the two men decided to spend Saturday afternoon picking mushrooms. Not every mushroom enthusiast gets that kind of coverage - but you can do it, even if you are not the prime minister.
For Czechs mushrooms are important enough to make the prime time news and they do so at least once a week. All you have to do is come upon a prize find: a huge mushroom weighing several kilos or one mushroom growing from the cap of another, as Mr. Zdenek Fencl did this week. The less popular way to find yourself on the evening news is to eat a poisonous mushroom. Which some people occasionally do as well, despite the fact that Czechs probably have the best general knowledge about the different varieties of mushrooms in the world. Most people recognize dozens of them and know exactly how they taste best.
Although Czechs are well-versed in mushrooms few of them know that one type of mushroom - the Armillaria Mellea - known informally as Vaclavka - which many Czechs pick is actually a deadly killer. Not of humans - since most people know they have to cook it for at least 30 minutes because it could be toxic if eaten raw. The Vaclavka kills trees. Predominantly spruce trees - the mushroom grows into their root system and literally draws on their juices, drying them out until the trees die. The Vaclavka is now said to be as dangerous as the bark beetle and thousands of trees have been completely destroyed by it. The Trebic region reports damages on a territory of 50 thousand cubic metres. Even the wood from these trees is hard to sell because it is dry and damaged by the mushroom. And although there are now armies of mushroom pickers out there, picking the Vaclavka, it's of little help to the endangered spruce trees because the fungus is still there in the undergrowth.
The 40 year old long distance swimmer Richard Blatny, who swam across the English Channel, is planning to set a new record. He wants to swim down the Vltava river from Stechovice to Melnik, which is approximately a 92 kilometre distance. The event is planned for the weekend of August 21-22nd. Blatny expects to spend over 40 hours in the water and says that if he succeeds he wants to dedicate the achievement to Ladislav Nick from Olomouc who will turn 92 in August and is the Czech Republic's oldest and best known hardy-man who still takes a swim in the Vltava river every year on January 1st. "I'll swim one kilometre for every year of his life" says Blatny who is a friend and admirer of the old man. Blatny himself holds the Czech record in the length of time spent in cold water - he spent 57 minutes in the Vltava in January when the temperature was minus two degrees Celsius and the temperature of the water was 1,5 degrees.
Summer is such a good time for inventions and constructing things. A team of enthusiasts in Prague's Troja district have been working on their own version of Chity Chity Bang Bang - promising the public a car that would be equally at home in the water as it is on the road. July18th was D-day. They drove their made-over Fiat 127 down to the edge of the Vltava planning to sail the car to the opposite bank as TV cameras whirred and photographers snapped the action. The car went in bravely and then coughed and belched as it started filling up with water. About 5 metres in, it sank and the team of engineers made a hasty exit. They remain undaunted - telling the media that it would take only a few days to dry out the motor and make it properly waterproof. So, we're still waiting....
A veterans' car ride across Europe is underway in honour of the centenary of the Skoda car plant in Mlada Boleslav. The veterans' parade has already passed through Poland, Germany and Belgium and has still to conquer England, France, Italy, Austria and Slovakia - a long road indeed when you are travelling at 50 kilometres per hour. The cars are covering approximately 300 kilometres a day. The selection of five veterans was made by Skoda and they all date back to the first half of the twentieth century. "The response from the public is great, a member of the accompanying team said - people wave and stop us, asking to take photographs." The oldest of the veterans had a spot of trouble in Belgium and needed servicing, but the Belgian firm d'Ieteren, the sole importer of Skoda cars in the country, rose to the occasion and replaced the ailing veteran temporarily with an even older Skoda model dating back to 1905 from its own museum. It saved the day - and I bet that the museum bound veteran was equally happy to be allowed out on a trip.
Tourist boats sailing down the Morava river are once again offering the very popular "adventure trips" for kids and grown ups. They are for people who want more than to rest on deck watching the scenery through a pair of binoculars. The Morava adventure trips offer you the excitement of searching for hidden treasure on board, a meeting with water sprites, nymphs and goblins and an unexpected attack by pirates. So if that kind of thing seems just what you need - you'll find more information at www.batacanal.cz