Heiko on the run, photo: CTK

The first-ever fashion show on Wenceslas Square. The nation's patron saint got an eyeful! A baboon from Brno Zoo enjoyed a highly publicized four day outing before the police caught up with him. And, the Pardubice town hall is practicing its bows and curtsies for Princess Anne. Find out more in Magazine with Daniela Lazarova.

Prague's Wenceslas Square, dominated by the equestrian statue of St. Wenceslas - the nation's patron saint -- has witnessed many turning points in the country's history. This is where Czechs congregate at times of joy or sorrow; this is where they gathered during the 1968 Soviet led invasion, during the 1989 Velvet Revolution that toppled communism and on many other occasions to celebrate the country's sports victories. But last week was a first. Never before had the nation's patron saint been treated to a fashion show and the one given by Cuban-born fashion designer Osman Laffita was a quite a sight! Laffitta's summer collection for 2008 was inspired by a recent trip to Asia and his models sashayed down the catwalk wearing ultra-short kimonos and romantic cheongsams. It was in every way a traffic-stopping show and judging by its success St. Wenceslas could well see more of the fashion world in the years to come.

Heiko on the run,  photo: CTK
The police force in Brno was on its feet last weekend tracking down a baboon that escaped from the Brno zoo after a power fall-out rendered the electric-wire fence around his enclosure useless. Heiko led the police on a merry chase and managed to enjoy a four day outing in the process. While officers combed the outskirts of Brno asking surprised passers-by whether they did not happen to have seen a baboon in the vicinity, Heiko was munching away on ripe fruit in allotment gardens and making friends with their owners. When the police were alerted to his presence he sat on a roof and watched them closing in. At the height of the drama - with TV cameras rolling - Heiko simply hopped from one tree to another and disappeared into a nearby forest. Two days later the police got a call saying there was a baboon on the local golf course, about five kilometers away from the zoo. Once again the police swung into action and when they arrived at the golf course they couldn't believe their eyes - Heiko was sitting next to an old man and the two were sharing a packet of biscuits. Their afternoon picnic was rudely disrupted by the appearance of two vets with tranquilizer guns. Although they swear they got him four times Heiko simply took off again. This time he befriended a cyclist going down a country road, running alongside his bicycle while the police hurriedly gave chase in golf cars and tried to avoid hitting the cyclist with the tranquilizers. Half an hour later Heiko was up in a lone tree - once again surrounded by the police and this time much more vulnerable. He was finally hit with a tranquilizer and captured. The police have dubbed him Monte Christo and he has become a national celebrity. Visitors to Brno Zoo now head straight for his enclosure before admiring the other animals. Somehow Heiko is now more than just one of the animals. And he's done more for the zoo in four days than its entire PR department could have done in a year.

A Czech martial arts association organized a special event in the town of Postoloprty last week to publicize its activities and attract new members.

The idea was to set a Czech record in a most unusual discipline - cutting an apple in half with a single swipe of a samurai sword. Not a big deal you may think but the hitch was that the apple had to be placed on the stomach of a volunteer lying prone on the ground. So the challenge was not in the trick of slicing an apple with the razor sharp samurai sword but talking someone into acting as an apple-pad. In the end the townspeople proved to be a brave lot - 81 of them risked life and limb to set and new Czech record and there were no casualties. However, many of them missed the big moment because they could not resist closing their eyes tight when they saw the samurai sword poised above them.

The Czech government wants to encourage more Czechs to eat organic food and is preparing a big information campaign on the benefits of organic products and agriculture to be launched early next year. In the meantime, the Green Party has decided to try a little test at the country's parliament itself. It persuaded the Parliament canteen to sell some organic food products alongside regular brands. The canteen complied but so far with very little success. For the most part deputies ignored the higher-priced goods and the lack of enthusiasm went across the political spectrum. Often MPs were under the impression that buying organic meant buying bird-seed. "I am a sinner where food is concerned - I love good food and I think people should eat what they like," the deputy speaker of the lower house Miroslava Nemcova told reporters. Her Civic Democrat party colleague Alena Paralova eyed the organic goods with a similar lack of enthusiasm saying - "you won't catch me eating bird-seed, I prefer pork chops". And Communist Party deputy Pavel Kovacik, who is on the agriculture committee, argued that all Czech products could be labeled as "bio" because Czech farmers use only a fraction of the chemicals used in most other European states. Not very encouraging all round. Especially when the inside joke being bandied around the lower house is that if the organic food products expire on the shelves the Greens should be made to pay for them all.

One of the side-effects of a permanent lack of goods during the communist years is that Czechs are great at DIY work around the house and very imaginative when it comes to creating home-made gadgets and appliances out of various odds and ends. In fact for years one of the most popular shows on Czech television was devoted precisely to this form of activity. Unfortunately this admirable quality has its downside, as supermarket chains in the Czech Republic have good reason to know. For a while they couldn't figure out where their shopping carts were disappearing to. They found out soon enough - Czechs were turning them into garden grills. Hypermarkets say they are losing on average five thousand carts a year and barbecues have become extremely popular of late. In an effort to curb this widespread theft hypermarkets have introduced new security measures, such as carts with a gadget that locks the wheels within a certain distance from the supermarket. The only problem is that these carts get blocked all over the place and employees have to come and retrieve them. Supermarket bosses say they are at their wits end. They hope that carts will not remain a barbecue hit for long and the thieves will turn to something else with greater creative potential.

Photo: Archiv of ČRo7
A pensioner from Pilsen is in big trouble after he was caught setting a trap for small birds. The pensioner covered nearby tree branches with glue, scattered crumbs under the tree and waited for his catch behind a row of bushes. Sure enough, a bird soon took the bait and another followed. But the pensioner failed to enjoy his little triumph because someone reported him to the police and ornithologists managed to clean up the birds and set them free. This form of bird-catching amounts to animal torture because even if the birds get away they are eventually crippled by the glue and die. This primitive bird-trap was used in the distant past but was banned in the Czech lands in 1870.

The highlight of the autumn season in the town of Pardubice is the annual Velka Pardubicka steeplechase; the demanding race attracts horse lovers from around the country and is broadcast on national television. However the mood of expectation at the Pardubice town hall this year has little to do with the steeple chase itself. The feverish preparations underway are for the upcoming visit of Princess Anne, who is expected to attend the event. The Czech media reported this week that town hall officials spent an entire day practicing their bows and curtsies for the Princess Royal under the watchful eye of the head of protocol at Prague Castle. They got instruction on how to address the royal visitor and what not to say in order to avoid making a dreadful faux pas. Clearly the hosts are taking their role seriously. It remains to be seen whether they will appear at the Pardubice steeplechase wearing Ascot-style hats.