Today's Mailbox includes Topics: Spring flowers and blossoming trees. Radio Prague listeners' competition. Czech film industry. Crime rate among young Czechs. Fish and Chips Shop to open in Prague Listeners mentioned and quoted:Carol Strunc, Swopan Chakroborty, David Tottenham, Peggy Meadows, Mick Horsfield

Hello, once again, from a Prague full of Spring, flowers and mild weather. Even the air seems less polluted, something that does not last long here, with the narrow historic streets full of cars. But Spring somehow brings in a bit of fresh air and I do think this is the best time of year to visit.

O: Which partly answers a question e-mailed by Carol Strunc:

"We have always had a great time when visiting your country. In the past our trips have been in the autumn. This year we will be there the last 2 weeks of May. I am wondering if the apple trees will be blooming and what other flowers we might see."

No, Carol, I'm afraid the apple trees will be past their blossoming time. The fruit trees blossom in the very beginning of May.And there is an old tradition that a girl has to be kissed under a blossoming tree, preferably a cherry tree, on the 1st of May, otherwise she'll wither away in the coming year.

So, it will be too late for blossoming fruit trees in the second half of May, but there will be other kinds of trees blossoming. The loveliest, I think, are the chestnut trees and we have plenty of those. Horse chestnuts, that is, we are too far north for edible chestnuts to grow here in any larger number, but even so, the blossoms are beautiful. And then the rhododendrons, even though those are rather scarce, our winters are too rough for them. And of course, the first roses will be out, and various flowers - the second half of May will probably be too late for most of the tulips, but there should be violets, pansies, and numerous other flowers.

As we've said, Prague is at its loveliest in May, and maybe it will inspire Carol Strunc, and others, to participate in our listeners' competition. The question we are asking listeners to answer is:

What comes to my mind when I hear the word Prague.

The main prize is a visit to Prague, with all expenses paid. The winner will be taken to the CR courtesy of Czech Airlines, the Airlines that make you feel at home in the air. And while you are in Prague the Prague brewery Staropramen will take care of an important part of your program, which will, include a visit to the brewery and a chance to taste the beer produced there - Staropramen.

Even if you have been to Prague recently, and don't think you'd have a chance to win the main prize, the runner up prizes are worth sending a competition entry, which should reach us by the middle of June.

Some listeners might know about Prague in connection with various films produced here - American film makers have been coming here more and more often to make use of the Barrandov film studios and the historic sites, and of course, there are many famous Czech films, including the Oscar winning film Kolja. All of which brings me to a question from Swopan Chakroborty, who lives Kolkata, India :

"I would like to know about the Czech film industry. How many Czech commercial pictures are made each year? Please let me know via your Sunday's Mailbox programme."

After 1989 the Czech film industry was heading for some major problems. It had been a state owned industry, financially taken care of by the state, and with privatisation setting in, it did seem that the problems would be too big to overcome.

That, with the general problems faced by the film industry all over the world, with modern technology taking over there was the question whether people would still be going to the movies. But that has been overcome. People have not stopped going to the movies. Nearly 10 363 000 Czechs went to the movies in 2001, which means, on average, that every single person living in the country went to the movies at least once. And a third of all those who did buy a movie ticket, went to see a Czech film.

Which brings us back to the Czech film industry. 17 Czech full length films were produced last year. It's a smaller figure than in some past years - 20 films were made in the year 2000, and even more, 25 in 1995 and 1996. But experts agree that the 17 Czech films produced in 2002 is a reasonable number, sustainable for the future.

As for financing: many Czech films are produced in co-operation with Czech public service television, but film makers have to look for grants and financial help from all sorts of sources. There is a special Film promotion fund, where film makers can borrow money. So, generally speaking, they have learned to cope.

It is all very much harder for them than it used to be when the state looked after the financial aspect of film making, but the problem was that they looked into other matters as well, I mean there was a strongly monitored limit on what could and what could not be in a film, so there are no regrets for the old days.

Although some people do express certain nostalgic feelings for the old days when there was much less violence in films and on television. The trend may not be so strong in Czech films, but we see more than our share of violence in the foreign films shown in the movies and on TV.

Which, many of us feel, has a direct impact on the crime rate among young people. And which brings us to a question from David Tottenham of Seattle, Washington, USA:

"All of us here were shocked by the shootings in a number of American schools, and now in Erfurt, Germany. Do you think something like that could happen in the Czech Republic?"

That's a question we keep asking and I do wish we could say quite definitely that it could not possibly happen here. We hope it never can happen, but then, that's what people in Erfurt would have said before what everybody considered a normal boy shot 16 people before shooting himself in the Erfurt school.

It is a fact that violence among young people is increasing, world wide, and in the Czech Republic as well. It shows up in schools and most frequently takes the form of bullying, which can be very cruel and teachers often don't know how to cope with it.

The number of young people arrested for breaking the law is also increasing. But most of those crimes are property crimes, violence takes up about ten percent of crimes among young people under the age of 18.

Another aspect of the situation is the enormous increase in the number of guns owned by Czechs. During the communist regime people could only own sports rifles, but even that was not easy to get and people were thoroughly checked before they received permission. Of course political aspects were very important in the decision. So after 1990 many people wanted to own a guns, once it was possible. Now there are well over half a million registered guns in the country - for a country with 10 million inhabitants that's quite a number.

And there are more than 700 gun clubs with 20 000 members. But I don't think they present a threat. You don't have to be a member to get hold of a gun. Preventing such tragic events as the shootings in Dunblane, Scottland, or Jonesboro, Arkansas, or in Littleton, Colerado, or Erfurt, Germany, is a much more general problem than just the access to weapons. And so, quite frankly, David, I don't think we have a straightforward answer to your question whether such a thing could happen in the Czech Republic.

Not a happy statement, I'm afraid, but true. Let's turn to something more cheerful. But first the questions, or rather comments: one from Peggy Meadows from Ipswich, England:

"I was most surprised to hear there are no Fish and Chips shops in the Czech Republic."

and the other from Mick Horsfield, not surprisingly, also from England, from Manchester, to be exact:

"I was surprised you did not have Fish and Chips shops. We have several in the UK. I recommend you open one in Prague."

Well, the good news is that there might be one opening in Prague soon. Ian Willoughby knows all about it.

"Well, Olga, there was one fish 'n' chips shop in Prague a few years ago. It was pretty good, but it was in a bad location. It was out in Prague 7, near the Vystaviste exhibition grounds. I recently spoke to an Irish businessman here in Prague, his name is Frank Haughton and he owns around five Irish bars in the city. He told me he is planning to open a fish and chips shop in Prague himself. He has all the equipment now, all he needs to do is find a good location. He reckons it's going to be a great success and I think he is right. I myself would definitely be a regular customer. And if and when it opens, I plan to do a report on it."

Thanks, Ian - we'll be looking forward to it, to going there, and to your report, I mean.

And with that bit of news we've come to the end of today's Mailbox. Just a reminder that we are looking forward to hearing from you - our surface address is

Radio Prague

Vinohradska 12

120 99 Prague 2

Czech Republic.

and our e-mail address: [email protected]

We welcome your questions and comment on our programs and we're looking forward to your competition entries - the question to answer, once more: What comes to my mind when I hear the word Prague. and the deadline - the middle of June.

Authors: Olga Szantová , Pavla Horáková
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