Mailbox

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Today's Mailbox includes Topics: Czech crown jewels, Czech Centers in various countries, Accidents, How do you say good-bye in Czech? Quotes from: Joan Broadmore, Nick Sharpe, Anne Hutchinson, Hidemitsu Miyake, Masanori Misu, Franz Schwartz Jr.

Yes, it's Mailbox time, time for the program that listeners help prepare with their letters, comments and question. And the first question today comes from Joan Broadmore, who listens to our programs here in Prague:

"I've been in the Czech Republic well over two years and I have yet to see the Czech crown jewels. I've heard so much about them, but there doesn't seem any way to actually see them."

That's a fact, the crown jewels are on display only very rarely, only on very special occasions. They're kept in a vault in the St.Vitus Cathedral at Prague Castle, under seven locks, and the keys to those locks are held by seven different personalities - the President, the Prime Minister, the heads of the Upper and Lower Houses of Parliament, by top Church dignitaries and the Lord Mayor of Prague. They have to gather in order to unlock first the door and then to the historic safe in which the crown jewels are kept also under seven locks. That happens, as I've said, very rarely - during the 20th Century they were displayed only 9 times.

People will probably have a chance to see them again in October, 2003 - on the 85th anniversary of the founding of Czechoslovakia. And next year will also mark the 10th anniversary of the founding of the Czech Republic, and, one more significant event in 2003 - presidential elections will be held, so displaying the Crown jewels will be a part of the celebrations. In that way the Czech crown jewels are very different from those in countries with a monarchy. In Britain, for example, the Queen wears the crown every year at the State opening of Parliament.

The British crown jewels are different in other ways, too. They include the crown, the state sword and two scepters. The Czech crown jewels also include the crown, of course, but no sword, only one scepter and an orb, that's the globe shaped golden symbol the monarch holds in his hand when he's sitting on the throne on official occasions.

The Czech royal orb is made of gold and decorated with precious stones, with a richly decorated cross on top. The globe itself is some 22 centimeters high. The scepter, also gold with precious stones, is 67 centimeters long and weighs more than a kilogram. Both, the orb and the scepter were probably made by the same goldsmith some time before the middle of the 16th Century.

The history of the Royal Crown itself is known more exactly, and it's some 3 hundred years older than the scepter and the orb. Emperor Charles IV had it made in 1347 and he wore it on September 2nd of that year, when he was crowned King of the Czech lands. There are many legends and superstitions connected with the crown jewels, and if listeners are interested, we can talk about them in some future Mailbox. But now I think we should go on to different questions from other listeners.

Not all of which are questions we are really the ones who can actually answer the best, like when Nick Sharpe from Staines, Middlesex, England asks:

"Are there any plans for another Czech evening in London? I attended the last one in the basement of the Czech Centre and it was brilliant."

That, of course, is information best gained from the London Czech Centre itself. You can find it's e-mail address and further information about it on Radio Prague's web-site, that's www.radio.cz/english.

Which also goes for the other Czech Centres. There are, altogether, 17 of them in 15 various countries, two of them in the English speaking part of the world - besides the one in London, there is the centre in New York. These centres are also the best source of information about local Czech cultural activities of all sorts. The centers can help you find locally relevant information, including useful information for tourists.

Now, on to questions we are more competent to answer. Anne Hutchinson writes from Melbourne, Australia:

"I have just read a report on the growing number of accidents in Australia. In many cases those are quite unnecessary accidents caused by carelessness. Is it just as bad in the Czech Republic?"

Yes, Anne, I'm afraid it is, especially now, during summer when children have more free time. Generally speaking, children are more prone to accidents than grown ups. On average, every Czech child, before it reaches the age of 14, has an accident every other year, which means that every year more than 300 000 children have accidents, 30 000 have to go to hospital to be treated and 3 000 have permanent consequences of their accidents, and 300 of them are killed. That's every year, regardless of the various safety campaigns organized mainly at the beginning of the summer holidays and then again before the beginning of school.

Traditionally the most frequent fatal children's accidents are drowning and being run over by a car. But lately there's also a growing number of bicycle accidents, and that's why children have to wear helmets when they are riding a bike. For grown up cyclists they're only recommended, but as far as I'm concerned, helmets should be compulsory for them, too. Grown ups tend to be just as reckless as children, maybe even more so.

And not only when they are riding bicycles. Of the 286 people who drowned last year, only 33 were children, the rest, 253, were grownups.

Let's change the subject to something nicer and easier to listen to. I know this isn't what you had in mind, but when you said nicer and easier for listening, I can't resist quoting one of our Japanese listeners, Hidemitsu Miyake, who writes:

"I have listened to your station many times and now I have decided to write to you. Currently your signal is one of the best in the 25 meter band. The strength of your signal has improved and your station is a favorite for many short wave listeners in my country."

Now, isn't that something nice to hear after the numerous complaints we have had about listening conditions in some parts of the world?

It certainly is. But it's not the only one of its kind. Masanori Misu, also a Japanese listener, who lives in Tokyo, obviously also has good listening conditions, because he writes:

"I enjoyed the classical music in your program, classical music is my favourite genre."

And if somebody who likes classical music enjoys it on a short wave program from Prague, the listening quality obviously must be good. Mind you, not all our listeners consider short wave radio the ideal media for listening to music, in fact some listeners have written to say they'd prefer more information about life in the Czech Republic instead of musical programs. So, we're giving the matter some serious thought. How about letting us know how you feel about it?

And now, just one more letter, it's from Franz Schwartz Jr. Wilmington, NC, USA:

"As a cashier at a grocery supermarket a week or so ago, three young people came through my line. They had some beer in their shopping basket. They showed me their passports - Czech passports. We talked a little and when they were leaving, I asked how one would say "goodbye" in Czech. They said it would be "Chau". I went to your web-page and pulled up "G-for greetings" in your ABC for Czech. I could not find Chau, nor any other word for good-bye. So, how exactly does one say Good-bye in Czech?"

Having read your letter, I looked up "G-for greetings" in Pavla Horakova's ABC of Czech, and found that Chau is there. Maybe the reason you didn't recognise it is that it's spelt CAU - with a diacritic mark over the c, making it a ch. The English text does not have diacritics and the introductory page to the ABC of Czech site does say that in order to properly view letters from the Czech alphabet it is necessary to set your brouser to Central European languages.

But, to come back to your question. Cau is originally Italian, but it's become very popular here. It's the kind of greeting used, both when meeting and when parting, by young people among themselves, a very informal expression, something along the lines of "Hi!"

More formal ways of saying good bye are "na shledanou" - meaning the same as the French au revoir, until we meet again. Then there's "s Bohem", that's may God be with you. And there's a number of other ways of saying good-bye, including "dobrou noc" - that's good night. And there's a very nice folk song that starts with the words: Dobru noc, ma mila, dobre spi - Good night, my dear, sleep well and may you dream about me...

Which is just the song with which we'll be ending today's edition of Mailbox

Authors: Dita Asiedu , Olga Szantová
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