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The Best of Around Slovakia in 2006

January


Košice
Bear quintuplets celebrate birthday


Little Edo, pictured above, found a preliminary home in the Bojnice Zoo.
photo: TASR

KOŠICE Zoo's unique bear quintuplets, who are registered in the Guinness Book of World Records, celebrated their fourth birthday on January 10, 2006.

A large number of Košice schoolchildren came to the zoo to witness the bears celebrate their birthday with a big cake, a large gingerbread heart, and many other delicacies given as presents, the SITA news agency reported.

The bear cubs were born on January 6, 2002. Today they each weigh over 100 kilograms and have put Košice Zoo on the map.

Their keepers also prepared a little surprise for the bears. The young bears were put with their parents and older siblings in one pit and thus, for the first time ever, visitors were able to see all nine bears together.

When they were born, the bear cubs had to be fed artificially because their mother could not manage to feed all of them herself.

Košice Zoo director, Karol Seman, said that initially there were fears of whether the zoo would be able to handle the unexpected bear siblings, both practically and financially.

However, the bear cubs have become the zoo's main attraction and visitor rates have increased by 50 percent because of them.

Domestic and foreign sponsors helped the zoo build a modern "bear house" and also contribute to their upkeep.



February


Nitra
Home from Tunisian prison


NORBERT Ficza of Nitra, who was arrested two years ago in Tunisia and originally faced with a possible 14 years in prison, is now back home in Slovakia thanks to the efforts of Slovak diplomats.

The 27-year-old Ficza was detained at a Tunisian airport in November 2003 on his way back to Slovakia at the end of a holiday. He was accused of stealing two cars and using false credit cards. He was allegedly recognized by his tattoos, the Sme daily reported.

Ficza denied the charges. "At first, I didn't know what was going on. They were speaking to me in Arabic, and I couldn't understand what they were saying. The worst part was the time I spent in the remand centre. My cell was so small that I could only stand or crouch down in it," he said.

"There was an atmosphere of fear. The guards were cruel to the prisoners. One prisoner came back to his cell with his arm so badly broken that the bone was sticking out," Ficza said.

Ficza's court case began in Arabic without an interpreter. Later, he sought help from the Slovak Foreign Ministry. At first all contact with him was forbidden, and this ban remained in place until Deputy Foreign Minister József Berényi visited Tunisia at the end of last year.

Ficza was eventually found guilty only of submitting false documents when renting cars, and was sentenced to two and a half years in prison.

He wanted to appeal, but the Foreign Ministry persuaded him not to.

Ficza was helped during his time in prison by a fellow inmate, who taught him English and Arabic. Although conditions in the prison were extremely harsh, the other prisoners were kind to him, and gave him food brought to them by their relatives, he said. Despite this, he still lost 25 kilograms.

Although he was due to remain in prison until March, Ficza was released early thanks to a special amnesty. The Slovak consulate helped him to get a new passport, as the original one had gone missing in jail.

Ficza is now back in Nitra, where he lives with his family and five-year-old daughter. He does not rule out the possibility of returning to Tunisia, but has no specific plans to do so at the moment.



March


Varín
Abandoned bear cub found


A TWO-month-old bear cub that was found on March 18 between the villages of Zázrivá and Párnica will find a new home at the Bojnice Zoo. After it grows a bit, the bear will be sent to a zoo abroad.

The bear cub is currently being taken care of by employees at the the Malá Fatra National Park Nature Reserve in Varín, the Pravda daily wrote.

The bear cub was named Eduard, according to the name that was celebrated in Slovakia on the day the cub was found. In Slovakia, name-days are celebrated like birthdays.

Michal Kalaša from the Malá Fatra National Park said the cub is in good health and is eating properly.

"He should be placed in the zoo with a female that has a cub the same age as himself," said Kalaša.

It is unclear, however, under what circumstances Eduard was actually found. The people who found the cub said they spotted it near a road. According to Kalaša, however, it is unlikely that the small bear would have been able to walk such a long distance alone. He thinks it's possible that the people actually took the cub from a den and that Eduard's mother must have been dead because otherwise she would have defended her cub.


April

Pezinok
Barrel rolling championship


A wine-barrel rolling championship took place in Pezinok on April Fool's Day.
photo: Jana Liptáková

THE FIRST international wine-barrel rolling championship took place in Pezinok on April Fool's Day, April 1, as part of the third annual kapustnica festival. Nine contestants, including two women, pushed 225-litre barrels down a 20-metre track as quickly as possible. In the end, František Minarovič from Pezinok emerged victorious.

When it came to the kapustnica, 14 teams from Slovakia and the Czech Republic competed in trying to cook the most delicious version of this traditional sauerkraut soup. The Lions team from Pezinok won using this recipe: boil sauerkraut; add onion, Moravian bacon, pork shoulder and neck, and home-made spicy sausages; sprinkle in some pepper; mix in some tomato paste and top it off with double cream.



May


Trenčín
Executioner's house haunted


STRANGE things have been happening at the house of a former municipal executioner, which was opened to the public two years ago.

Guide Jitka Šišlíková told the SITA news agency that heavy objects sometimes start moving by themselves and are sometimes accompanied by peculiar thudding sounds.

In the Middle Ages, there used to be a jail in the executioner's house and many innocent people allegedly lost their lives here. They also imprisoned women here who were accused of witchcraft.

These premises where horrific things allegedly took place have today been remade into an exhibit called Law and Justice in Old Trenčín.

Šišlíková says that the weird phenomena started last summer. Around 15 tourists were inside one room when suddenly a beam that had been used for torture, and which hangs from a rope, started swinging. It flew about one metre to the side and then stopped suddenly.

"The tourists were so terrified that they all left immediately," she said.

At that time Šišlíková was in the room with another colleague and both agreed that none of the tourists could have moved the beam because the whole group had been standing about three metres away from it.

The incident repeated two more times.

The thudding that has been echoing around the house is also strange.

"There is a sudden thud as if something has fallen to the floor. My colleague and I run around the house checking everything but we never find anything lying on the floor," said Šišlíková.

The guide said that once a priest visited the house and recommended blessing the premises.

Another visitor, a medium from Prague, immediately ran out of the house because she could not stand it inside.

The house was built in the 16th century. The city of Trenčín had its own executioner until 1790.

Ghosts are also talked about in connection with the Barbara Palace at Trenčín Castle. A legend has it that Queen Barbara Celská will appear to any young man of pure heart who calls her three times.



June


Turecká
Bryndzové halušky championships


THE KOLIBA of St Kryštof team from the central Slovak village of Úľanka, led by cook Miroslav Nohejl, defended their title as world champions in cooking and eating bryndzové halušky in Turecká on June 3.

Second place went to a team from Liptovský Mikuláš, followed by a team from the town of Tornaľa.

Thirty-two teams took part in the competition. One Czech team takes part in it every year, while a Hungarian team from the town of Békés Csaba (where a ethnic Slovak minority lives) - competed for the first time and ended up in 21st place, TASR wrote.

Four-member teams had to cook bryndzové halušky using two kilos of potatoes. The referee measured the time in which each team was able to cook and eat their bryndzové halušky, Slovakia's national dish made of potato dumplings and sheep cheese.



August


Turzovka
New record for eating Horalka biscuits


SOME 900 people in the village of Turzovka in northern Slovakia's Žilina region set a new Slovak record for eating Horalka biscuits, which are popular in both the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

The participants in the "Horalka-eating relay race" ate the chocolate biscuits in pairs for a total of 12 hours on August 19.

According to Igor Svítok, commissioner of the Slovak Book of Records, if the biscuits eaten by the participants had been placed end to end, they would have formed a line 108.9 metres in length. Stacked up, they would have formed a tower 18.81 metres high.

Among those taking part in the event was Slovak President Ivan Gašparovič, who ate one biscuit as a token of support.



Bratislava - Vienna
First Vienna to Bratislava swim event


TEN swimmers made their way down the Danube from Vienna to Bratislava on August 12 on the occasion of the inaugural Danube Without Borders event.

The international event was staged by the Slovak civic organisation Polar Bears Bratislava and the Austrian Erster Wiener Donau Schwimm. Though the planned 09:00 start was postponed by one hour, the swimmers reached Bratislava faster than expected. The estimated seven hours of swimming was reduced to four-and-half hours thanks to a quick current, said Polar Bears member Ladislav Pečenka.

The swimmers were divided into two groups. Ladislav Pečenka, Radovan Hlatký, Eva Steyrerová, Tibor Kováčik, Katarína Kuniková, Hanns Pekarek and Stephan Dvorak alternated every 30 minutes.

Two swimmers originally intended to swim the whole 53-kilometre route, but only one succeeded. Tibor Černák swam less than half the route, and was replaced in Hainburg by his Czech colleague, Michal Moravec, because the 15-degree-Celsius water had lowered his body temperature to a dangerous level. Zoltán Makai, who was the first Slovak swimmer to swim across the English Channel, managed to swim the whole route from Vienna to Bratislava. "The most difficult thing was getting into the water," he said.

The weather was not on the swimmers' side, with the air temperature being below 20 degrees Celsius, a cold drizzle falling from the sky, and the water at a chilly 15 degrees Celsius.



September


Levice
Masturbating driver hits bus


A 42-YEAR-OLD driver who recently caused a car accident in Levice was discovered in his car with a vacuum pump on his penis with which he had apparently been masturbating while driving.

According to the Nový Čas daily, the man was injured when he ran into both a bus and a nearby traffic sign at an intersection.

"After the accident, the driver of the Citroen remained lying motionless in his car, so some passers-by and bus passengers went to the car to help him," said Peter Polák from the Levice police.

He added that the rescuers were shocked to discover that the driver was naked from the waist down and that he had a vacuum pump on his penis.

According to police, the accident took place at 19:10 on September 6, at an intersection on Štefánikova Street.



October


Bratislava
The narrowest house in Europe


SLOVAKIA'S capital city boasts a unique feature - the narrowest house in all of Europe.

The house's facade is only 130 centimetres wide and is located at 15 Michalská Street in Bratislava's Old Town.

It was built in the 18th century after the city walls were demolished.

The house now serves as a fast food establishment selling kebabs, the Nový Čas daily reported on October 11.



Svidník
Valley of Death witnesses WWII battle


A BATTLE from the WWII Carpathian Dukla Pass Operation was re-enacted on October 7 by members of the Club of Military History.

The re-enactment took place near the village of Kružlová in the 'Valley of Death' in eastern Slovakia's Svidník district.

As many as 250 military devotees, aged 18 to 60, took part in the mock battle, playing the roles of German, Red Army and 1st Czechoslovak Army troops.

The reconstruction included troop carriers, mortars, machine guns, motorbikes with sidecars, and pyrotechnic effects.

There was also an exhibition of modern weapons and equipment used by the Slovak military. The main organizers of the exhibition were the Košice branch of the Club of Military History and the Defence Ministry.

The historical Dukla Pass Operation took place between September and November 1944, when the Soviet Red Army and the 1st Czechoslovak Army Corps fought their way through the Dukla Pass from Poland into Slovakia.

Around 14,000 Red Army troops were killed during the operation, while the Czechoslovak Army reported 1,600 troops killed and 4,400 injured.



November


High Tatras
Giant Tatras postcard


Conservationists want forests in the High Tatras protected against development.
photo: TASR

ON NOVEMBER 21, a group of conservationists handed the Slovak Government Office a giant postcard showing a photograph of the High Tatras mountain range in support of private owners of forests in protected areas.

"We want the zoning of The High Tatras National Park to be adopted as soon as possible, and that's why we want the Government to resolve the issues [that they have] with the owners of private forests, especially when it comes to financial compensation," said Ján Dobšovič from the Our Tatras NGO.

The postcard was signed by the conservationists, who met last weekend near Poprad in the village of Podbanské, on the second anniversary of a windstorm that felled large areas of forest in the High Tatras.

As many as 400 activists from over 15 environmental organizations came to express their support for the protection of one of Slovakia's national symbols.

According to Our Tatras, the issue of privately owned forests could be resolved through purchases, land exchanges, or permanent land-rentals. The conservationists regard land exchanges as the most economical option for the state. According to them, the zoning plan prepared by the management of the Tatras National Park, along with related measures such as agreements on compensation for property damage for private owners, will provide a coherent solution.

The zoning plan will divide the national park into several areas, each with a different level of protection against building and development.

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