Press Review

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Two fires received front-page treatment in nearly all the national papers this morning: the blazing inferno of Moscow's Ostankino TV tower where four people were reported dead in the latest of a chain of disasters that happened to Russia this month, and the blaze which completely destroyed a former brewery in Prague's Vinohrady residential quarter. LIDOVE NOVINY was quick to describe the Prague fire as the worst in a decade. The paper carries vivid eyewitness accounts and photographs of flames high enough to be seen in most parts of the city. Luckily, there were no casualties although dozens of people had to be evacuated.

The same paper notes that all domestic and international political problems, scandals, disasters and smear campaigns dim in comparison with the main preoccupation that Czechs have been massively devoting themselves to in the last few weeks. Namely, mushroom picking. Early last month, for example, a military base whose name and location cannot be disclosed for security reasons and because it is a NATO installation, was invaded by hundreds of civilians hunting for edible mushrooms. Guards were caught off-guard, access routes to the base lost in lush woods were unattended, and soldiers themselves were seen picking mushrooms when a military inspection arrived at the scene, LIDOVE NOVINY reports.

PRAVO has established that children in the West Bohemian town of Cheb near the German border have a new pastime: identifying prostitutes, swarms of whom operate in areas frequented by German and other sex tourists. How embarrassing, complains the mother of 11-year-old Martin, these kids are too young to be exposed to such sights. Martin and his friends routinely recognise street ladies who they meet every day on their way home from school. All talk is about who's 'working' and who's not, and Martin's parents are seriously considering moving to a flat in a quieter area.

Maticni Street in the North Bohemian city of Usti nad Labem, which gained Europe-wide notoriety because of the wall that briefly separated orderly residents from a noisy and unruly community of mostly rent-dodgers, has opened its own police station at long last, reports today's CESKE SLOVO. Initially, three police officers will take turns patrolling the street. But, as Nestemice area Mayor Pavel Tosovsky told reporters, police will have to pay rent like everybody else because their small station was rented to them by the city fathers. And to add insult to injury, the paper says, the Maticni Street police station was burglarised on the very first day of its existence.

LIDOVE NOVINY reports that America's Atlanta Ballet Company are wary and suspicious of Czech strike-breakers. Next season, the paper reports, 69 Czech orchestral players will be hired to fill the posts of their American colleagues. These have been on strike for eleven months now over a pension dispute and the ballet company's management has announced plans to sack the strikers and hire Czech musicians instead.

And finally, LIDOVE NOVINY reports that the King of Sweden, Karl Gustav, and his royal consort were seen walking about in the ancient South Bohemian town of Cesky Krumlov last weekend. He watched a rafting race during which automobile tyres were used, and the town's mayor received the distinguished guest in rather bizarre attire, consisting of comfortable shorts and an Indian good-luck necklace. The Swedish embassy in Prague said the royal visit to the south of Bohemia had been strictly informal. The monarch had visited Cesky Krumlov before, with an official mission five years ago.