Revolving auditorium in the castle park, photo: Barbora Kmentova

Today's Mailbox includes - Topics: working hours in the Czech Republic, the revolving theatre in Cesky Krumlov, the Lednice-Valtice UNESCO World Heritage Site (shown on one of Radio Prague's QSL cards for 2002) Quotes from: Otto Schwartz, Kevin, John Novotney, Joan Terpetski.

Today's Mailbox is presented by Olga Szantova and Nicole Klement. And I suggest we get straight down to work. And work, or, more precisely, work in the Czech Republic is the topic of a question sent by Otto Schwartz from Castle Hayne, NC, USA.

"I read somewhere that the Czech Republic ranks second, behind South Korea in the number of hours worked by its workers. This really surprised me. Do they just work long hours, or do they hold second or perhaps even third jobs? And why do they work so much?"

Well, I don't know about Czechs being second in the world in the number of hours they spend at work. There's the Japanese, for example, who are well known for the amount of time spent on the job. I really don't know, but most Czechs do work long hours. Especially people like doctors, waiters, and managers. 65 percent of all Czech managers works 45 or more hours a week, which is a much higher number than in most European countries.

But generally speaking, one in two Czechs spends 8 hours at work, which is the official working day and only about 4% stay at work for more than 10 hours a day. That's at their regular job, but many people do take on second jobs - as to why, for the obvious reasons, they want to make more money. Salaries are still very low here, in the Czech Republic and people frequently look for additional jobs in order to pay for things like summer holidays abroad, or other luxuries.

But that happens in other countries as well. It's not the working hours as such that are really bad, it's the early hours people start working. It's a long tradition dating back to Austro-Hungary, before World War I - they say it all started because the emperor Franz Josef could not sleep so he had people up real early.

Whatever the reason, when I came here from Canada, I found it a real shock that people get up so early. 50% of all Czechs start work at or before 7, factories usually start at 6 - all of which means that people get up really early, 40 % of men and 30% of women get up before 5 am. And the morning rush hour is between 6 and 8, when three quarters of all employees travel to work. Which, of course means that people are home earlier, which many Czechs like, especially women, because it gives them a chance to get more housework done. And it also means a different lifestyle, to some extent at least, people tend to be more at home in the evenings, for example, except for the young generation, of course. That's one of the things we try to show in our programs - everyday life, I mean and many listeners say they appreciate it - for various reasons. A listener who only gives his first name - Kevin has a very special reason

"I am an American living in the U.S. having a relationship with a woman in Prague and find the distance almost unbearable at times, especially with regards to current world affairs. Your broadcast has helped to bring me a bit closer without travelling and I am able to converse with her about the topics of the day in the Czech Republic. Thank you most sincerely."

Well, Kevin, we're glad to help! And now on to one of the topics of the day you mentioned. John Novotney e-mails us this question.

"Under restitution, does formerly state-confiscated property revert to the original owner, or is it up to the government to decide to whom it sells such property?"

The bulk of the property confiscated by the Communists has already been returned to the original owners. They had to be Czechoslovak, or, after 1992, Czech citizens and they were entitled to get back property that had been confiscated after the Communist take-over in February 1948.

One of the problems, thokugh, was Jewish property, which had been confiscated by the Nazis at the beginning of World War II. But those cases are being treated individually, and some of them have already been resolved.

Obviously, not all property could be returned - for various reasons. Either there are no owners or relatives still alive, or else the property no longer exists - for example buildings that were torn down or farmland used as building sites throughout all those years. In all such cases the courts, not the government, which decide what is to become of the property, or what compensation is coming to the former owners.

Now, on to a different topic. In Mailbox on January 13th we talked about Cesky Krumlov, the historic town in South Bohemia that has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is featured on one of our QSL cards. Joan Terpetski who lives in Sydney, Australia writes:

"My husband and I went to Cesky Krumlov during our visit to the Czech Republic last summer. We saw a wonderful performance of Shakespeare's Merry Wives of Windsor in the outdoor theatre there, but it's a completely different theatre than the one you described. Can you please explain?"

Revolving auditorium in the castle park,  photo: Barbora Kmentova
Yes, of course. The theatre you and your husband visited, Joan, is the very unique theatre built in the castle park in the 1950s. It's special in that it has a revolving auditorium. The audience sits in seats on a slanting platform that turns around. There is no stage and the actors perform in the settings of the park, on the steps to one of the buildings, etc. When one act is over, the auditorium revolves so that the audience sees the setting prepared for the next act in a different place around the theatre. It's a fantastic experience, the programs are in the late evening, with darkness all around and the brightly lit part of the park which is the stage for the moment is like a fairy tale setting.

Photo: CzechTourism
Especially since it's in the old setting of the Baroque castle. But on the other hand that's just the reason why the theatre may be pulled down. The ministry of culture and some experts on historic monuments say that the theatre does not fit into the site. Others want it to stay, because it is a very unique structure, there is only one other similar theatre in Europe, that's in Finland, but that one is smaller - the one in Cesky Krumlov seats 658 people and it's always full. There are heated discussions going on right now about the future of the theatre - we'll be reporting on it in more detail on some future program from Radio Prague.

Lednice chateau,  photo: Barbora Kmentova
But talking about Cesky Krumlov reminds me that we promised to talk about one of the sites shown on this year's Radio Prague QSL cards every week, so let's have a look at the third one, the one that shows the Lednice chateau. The chateau is a part of a whole complex built by the Lichtenstein family throughout some 7 centuries. It includes a number of chateaus, gardens, parks with beautiful lakes. It has a greenhouse with plants from all over the world and nature lovers can spend days there, as well as in the gardens and parks.
Minaret in the park,  photo: CzechTourism
But the complex also includes numerous historic buildings. Besides the Lednice and Valtice chateaus there is the Baroque church of the Assumption. And there is even a minaret in the park, probably the oldest Muslim piece of architecture on the territory of the Czech Republic. The Lednice-Valtice complex is situated in South Moravia, a place famous for its folk costumes, folk art, and songs. So, let's end today's Mailbox with a typical folk song from South Moravia.