Mailbox

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Yes, it's time for Mailbox, presented by Olga Szantova and Dita Asiedu,and, above all, by our listeners, because this is the program in which we answer listeners' questions and quote from their letters, the program that is on the air only thanks to our listeners.

But before we turn to the pile of letters and e-mails we have here, don't forget our promise. Last week we started talking about the Radio Prague QSL card with the picture of the Church of St. John of Nepomuk, in the West Moravian town of Zdar nad Sazavou. The church is one of the UNESCO world heritage sites in the Czech Republic.

And it's featured on one of the 8 Radio Prague QSL cards for this year. By the way many listeners have written that they like them, but then, Radio Prague QSL cards do have a good tradition. Robert Hulsman from Murrumbeena, Victoria, in Australia writes:

"I enjoy collecting your cards as they are always so colorful. I now have more QSLs from Radio Prague than any other station in Europe, which also gives some sign of how often I listen and how much I enjoy your program."

And Mick Hersfield of Manchester, England writes:

"I must have over 200 of your cards in my collection now."

200 Radio Prague verification cards - he must be collecting them for years.

Well, many listeners do. David Eldridge in Ilford, Essex United Kingdom, for example

"I first began listening in 1964 though not continuously since then. I still have your correspondence and QSL-cards from those days at home."

And I could quote many more. But let's get back to one of this year's cards, the one featuring the St. John of Nepomuk Church. Last week we started explaining why the pilgrimages are held there, but our time ran out, before we had a chance to explain who St. John of Nepomuk was and his significance in Czech history.

Well, John was a Catholic priest, and the father confessor of Queen Zofia, the wife of king Vaclav 4th .

All this takes us back to the end of the 14th Century, and an era of turmoil - economic, religious and cultural. Charles 4th was not the strong ruler his father had been and he had many disputes with the church and the nobility, and that included his disputes with John of Nepomuk - that's the historic explanation of what happened.

But by far the better known version is this: John was the Queen's confessor and he refused to break the seal of confession and even though he was tortured, he refused to tell the king the queen's secrets. And so, on March 20th 1393 they drowned him in the Vltava River.

The place where they threw him into the river off Charles Bridge is marked with a small monument, which was put there much later, just as the cult of St. John of Nepomuk came much later, in the 17th Century, during the period when the Catholic Church was taking over, after the defeat of the Protestants and St.John of Nepomuk served to diminish the tradition of Jan Hus, the Protestant leader.

Anyway, that's the story behind the Church of St. John of Nepomuk, which listeners can receive for their reception reports. It is a fascinating church.

But we described it last week, and listeners who missed the program can find it on Radio Prague's web-site, on www.radio.cz

I know, but just one last remark, some of the windows in the church are quite unique - they are shaped like a tongue, the symbol of John of Nepomuk, who did not speak to give away the secrets of Queen Zofia.

All right, but there are so many interesting and unique sites in the Czech Republic we can't possibly talk about them all, even though we try our best, which brings me to a letter from Yuzo Watanabe, lives in Nagoya-City, Japan

"A colleague of mine visited the Czech Republic during her holiday recently. She enjoyed the journey very much. Do you have any programs about tourism in the Czech Republic, about interesting places to visit, places that are not so well known?"

I've invited Rob Cameron to the studio to answer that question, because it is, so to speak, up his alley. So, Rob?

Well, in fact we do have a special program devoted to the different regions of the Czech Republic, about interesting places to visit, about interesting towns and events, etc. It's called Spotlight. At the moment it's on every second Monday, soon it will be on every Monday. And just to give you an idea of the program, last week we had the Masopust celebrations, which is the beginning of Lent, in the town of Tabor in South Bohemia. Two weeks before that we paid a trip to Prague Zoo, a few weeks before that we went to the town of Cesky Krumlov, which is also in South Bohemia, a beautiful old town, and next week we'll be bringing you reports from skiing resorts in the Krkonose Mountains which are in North Bohemia. So, if you tune in to Spotlight, you will find out more about interesting towns and places to visit in the Czech Republic.

Thank you, Rob. So, obviously that's one listener's request we are fulfilling. And beginning with our Summer Schedule, we'll be answering another request many listeners have been repeating - they would like to know more about the Czech language, and would we re-introduce a Czech teaching program? Well, I'm afraid we won't be able to really teach the language, but as I've said, we are planning a program which we hope listeners interested in our language will find helpful.

Like David Eldridge, whom we quoted a little while ago. He has retired and recently visited the Czech Republic and says:

w with extra time available I´ll be able to seriously attempt at learning your language. I´ve bought myself a Czech keyboard to take home in readiness and I´ll continue to listen to keep up to date with current affairs."

And on the topic of current affairs, Alice Weston, a listener in Houston, Texas asks

"Are Czech women active in politics? Do they have equal rights in public life?"

Now, that's not an easy question to answer. When you look at the highest levels of Czech political life the answer would seem to be no. All cabinet members are men, and there are only a few women deputy ministers. Both Houses of Parliament have only a very small number of women deputies, but when you come down to local levels of political life, you find more and more women involved.

But even then the number is still small. Only 12% of all mayors are women, in the majority of cases, they are in charge in the smallest towns. It seems that women tend to be more involved in local problems, where concrete results can be achieved. But whatever the reason, when you look at the political scene, women are far from being equally represented in spite of having the same rights as men.

But that is true of other aspects of life as well. According to law, women are entitled to equal salaries as men, but the average woman's salary is 26% lower than the average man's salary.

That's the overall average salary, not salaries for the same jobs - and the explanation, men tend to have higher posts, better paying jobs.

Otherwise pay for the same job, with the same qualification for it, etc., is the same for both men and women.

So, Alice, your question about women's equality in public life is not easy to answer. Most Czech women would, I think, say they are perfectly equal.

Which is a nice note on which to end today's Mailbox, presented by two women - Olga Szantova and Dita Asiedu and let's end it with a song by another woman, the popular Czech singer Helena Vondrackova.....