Today's Mailbox includes Topics: Radio Prague's web-site takes on new look. Semtex, a Czech invention. Skyscrapers in Prague. The Prague Metro. Quotes from: Hidemitsu Miyake, Michael Stevenson, Carl T.Craig, Jaakko Haapamaeki, Jonathan Murphy, John Snyder, Samuel Radan, Swopan Chakroborty

Yes, here we are with our first Mailbox after Easter and I'd like to thank all our listeners who have written to wish us a happy Easter. We can't possibly name all of them, but we do appreciate your messages.

They have certainly added to the general mood that Spring always brings, a wonderful part of the year, I think.

And so do many of our listeners. Hidemitsu Miyake our listeners in Hiroshima, Japan certainly feels much the same:

"The best season of the year has arrived in Japan. Spring is in the air. It seems that we'll be able to put away the space heater within the next week."

Spring also means better listening conditions for many of our listeners, including Hidemitsu Miyake, who adds:

"Currently Radio Prague's signal is one of the best in the 31 meter band. The strength of your signal has really improved."

Yes, Spring is fine, at least for us living in the Northern Hemisphere. I'm adding that, because I see here a message from Michael Stevenson, who lives in Port Macquarie, N.S.W. Australia, where Summer must be just about over. Anyway, Michael writes:

"Wow! What a surprise I received when I logged into Radio Prague's web-site. It is all new, bright, modern and really cool! And it is also so easy to get around and find what you are looking for, it is also great to see what is coming up in the following week's programmes. Well done Radio Prague, you wonderful people have done a superb job on this new web site, I love it, you should be most proud of yourselves!"

The new look of our web-site does seem to be a success and we have received many words of praise for that, as well as for some of our recent programs, including the one about traditional Easter customs.

Yes, we have been receiving many words of praise, and, of course, they do make us happy, like this letter from Carl T.Craig, who listens to us in Shelbyville, Tennessee, USA:

"I did not think about doing a comparison of your broadcasts regarding listener friendliness with other stations until I read the article in January's Monitoring Times, entitled Radio Prague - 65 years of Dedication" written by Bill Bergadano. He says (quote): For over 26 years, I have been tuning into Radioi Prague. It is one of the most listener friendly stations on shortwave (end of quote). I agree wholeheartedly. Not only are your broadcasts friendly, but you continually present interesting topics. It is obvious your entire crew is dedicated and hardworking. Keep up the good work."

Well, that is nice to hear. But let's not get carried away, not all listeners praise us. To name just one critical response, here is the latest letter from our faithful listener Jaakko Haapamaeki in Filipstad, Sweden who does not seem to be satisfied with our explanation as to why we cannot broadcast a special DX program:

"To enhance the prestige of Radio Prague a revival of the DX club programs is essential. We listeners are not listened to very much, and often we are put off, but the station must realise how important it is to keep listeners and to improve the station's image."

We do realise that and that's the main reason why we have made some changes in our Summer broadcasting schedule as of the beginning of last week. The renewed program about the Czech language is certainly one example. And we do try to answer all listeners' questions - especially in Mailbox.

So, let's get on with doing just that. Jonathan Murphy from Mallow, County Cork, Ireland asks

"What can you tell me about Semtex, is it a Czech invention? Perhaps you know a little about the inventor and where it is made."

Yes, Jonathan, Semtex is a Czech invention and it is produced in the Czech Republic. I don't think we have to explain, what Semtex is, it's probably one of the best known Czech products in the world, ever since it was found in the ruins of the airplane that exploded and fell at the Scottish town of Lockerbie on December 21, 1988, killing all 270 persons aboard.

That was the first time Semtex made the world headlines, but it's been mentioned as the explosive used in a number of terrorist attacks since. The old Communist government of Czechoslovakia exported some thousands of tuns of Semtex mostly to Libya and it has been repeatedly misused by terrorists.

Semtex was invented by a Czech, Stanislav Brebera in 1952. Brebera was doing his military service in the Military Technical Institute, where he was given the task to develop a new and simple explosive for the engineer corps. His invention was a great success and in 1965 it got the go ahead for use in civilian life, for under water construction work, and similar jobs.

Semtex is produced in the Explosia factory in the East Bohemian town of Pardubice under very strict state control and since 1991 the new product has a much shorter life span than it used to have, after 3 years from production it's no longer usable as an explosive. So, experts assure us, the new product does not present any international threat. But it is a fact that tuns of it were exported once upon a time and the old Semtex has a life span of 20 years.

Not a nice thought. Let's turn to something more constructive, such as this question from John Snyder, in New York City

"Writing from the home of the skyscrapers, I'd like to ask whether there are any skyscrapers in the Czech Republic."

Well, John, it depends on your definition of a skyscraper. By our standards, the answer is - yes we have two of them, both in Prague and both of them standing very near to each other, in the Pankrac area of our capital. The first really high-rise was the Motokov building built in the 1980s, to house one of the huge state owned export companies - Motokov exported machinery. The building is 104 meters tall and has 26 floors.

But the tallest building in Prague is the Pankrac Tower building, which was originally built to house Czechoslovak Radio. But it was far too big for our needs, so after the political changes Radio sold it and it's still unfinished. At this stage it has 109 meters, but another 13 meters are to be added and when finished it's to have 30 floors of offices, stores, some cultural institutions, etc.

It's a part of a general plan to build up the whole Pankrac region, and if the project materialises, it would be the biggest development project in the Czech Republic.

If it comes through, at this stage discussions are still under way whether the whole project should be carried through. Some are against it, because it would change the city's skyline. But not really, the high rises would be concentrated in one place and far away from the historic part of Prague, so they wouldn't be in the way. But at the same time they would be very conveniently situated - on the main motorway from Prague to Brno and on the Metro, so it's easily accessible.

And talking of Prague's Metro, we have had a number of questions about it, from listeners in various parts of the world, including Samuel Radan from Bangladesh and Swopan Chakroborty from Kolkata, India. So, to answer all the various questions, let's sum up. First of all, the only metro system in the Czech Republic is in Prague. Its first line was opened in 1974.

The system expanded rapidly and today there are three metro lines with a total length of 51 kilometres and with the same number of stations - 51. Which means that on average the distance between stations is just one kilometre.

The system serves the town's citizens and visitors very well and it transports 1 million and 100 thousand persons a day, that's a third of all those who use the public transport system. It operates from 5 am to 12 pm. The intervals between trains are very short, under two minutes in the rush hour and the longest intervals between trains at night are 10 minutes, much shorter than the intervals between trams and busses, even during the rush hour.

The Metro certainly is the most reliable and fastest system of transport in town, but, I don't like to use it, if I don't have to - I prefer trams and busses, especially now, with Prague showing signs of Spring. It seems such a pity not to see Prague at its nicest.

Which brings us back to the topic of Spring finally starting. So, to keep the mood, let's end today's Mailbox with a song that promises that Spring is really coming.

Authors: Dita Asiedu , Olga Szantová
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