Today's Mailbox includes Topics: Central Europe Today Program. Floods in Prague - past and present. Radio Prague QSL cards. Is Prague losing its old atmosphere? Quotes from:Fotios Padazopulos, Utpal Roy, Adam Allburn, Joan Hemsworth, Alex Torbeni, Brian Moore, Swopan Chakroborty, Alan McQuade

Hello, and welcome to Mailbox. I'm glad to be back and to read through all the letters that have accumulated.

Well, letters really are the only form of contact we have with our listeners, so each and every one of them is very welcome, as we keep reminding you. So, let's get down to business. Fotios Padazopulos from Hackensack, NJ, USA sends a very nice photo of the New Jersey end of the Lincoln tunnel, with a view of New York City on the other side of the Hudson River, which we'd like to thank him for.

But he also writes:

"I have tuned to Radio Austria immediately after your program ended and I heard "Inside Central Europe" again. Is it desirable to broadcast the same program through various stations back to back?"

Well, that, obviously, is a question for Rob Cameron, who is the co-author and coordinator of the program from Radio Prague's side. So, Rob, what's the answer? But first of all, for those of our listeners who haven't heard Insight Central Europe, could you start off with explaining just what it is and when we broadcast it?

Rob: "Well Insight Central Europe is a weekly co-production between Radio Prague, Radio Austria International, Radio Polonia, Radio Slovakia International and Radio Budapest. It was set up at the end of last year, and basically what we wanted to do was create a weekly half-hour radio programme about life in Central Europe, especially seeing so many of those countries are on the verge of joining the EU. Now we decided that to give the programme as big an audience as possible, each station would broadcast Insight Central Europe once a week on all their frequencies - shortwave, satellite, Internet and so on, throughout the world. Unfortunately, in some places the different stations' broadcasts run back to back - as is the case with Fotios in New Jersey, whom I presume is listening to us on WRN. So yes, in some parts of the world - where you hear Radio Prague and then straight afterwards Radio Austria - you will - on Saturdays at least - hear Insight Central Europe twice. This is not ideal, but unfortunately at the moment at least - it's pretty much inavoidable. So my apologies to you Fotios, what I can do is try and make Insight Central Europe so good that you'll want to hear it twice."

And, I'll just add that many listeners have commented on the quality of the program itself, so, obviously this cooperation is useful.

And Utpal Roy from Dist-Darjeeling, India, says:

"Insight Central Europe is very informative and very, very interesting."

So, there your are. But on to other topics. We have been talking so much about the floods in Prague and other parts of the country, that we were determined not to mention the topic in today's Mailbox. But here's a letter from Adam Allburn in Sydney, Australia that we just cannot ignore.

"When I heard about Prague being flooded, I remembered you had talked about how safe the Czech capital was from that sort of disaster in Mailbox some time ago. So I looked the program up on Radio Prague's website, and found the text. On March 24th you said, Olga, that the banks of the river in the city had been enforced and built up higher and in the middle of the 20th Century a number of dams were built on the Vltava River, before it reaches the capital, so the river is regulated and now Prague is pretty safe from floods. Well, now we know that you never really can tell, can you?"

Well, I must say, Adam, it's nice to know we have listeners like you, who really listen and pay such attention to our transmissions. In fact, when the floods came, that particular program came to my mind, too.

You were answering a question from Joan Hemsworth, also from Australia, from New South Wales and you were talking about the numerous times the Vltava River had flooded Prague in the past. Way back in 1118 the first wooden bridge over the river in Prague was torn down and the same happened to bridges built in later years, including Charles Bridge which was badly hit a number of times, and partly torn down in 1890.

Just one more remark, before we really do leave the topic, during the flood in 1367 a number of Prague squares were so deep in water that people went fishing in them.

Really, that is all on the topic, and if you want to find more details, on this and other matters we have dealt with in Mailbox in the past, don't forget that you can look them up, like Adam Allburn did, on Radio Prague's website, that's

Which, actually, also, in a way, answers Alex Torbeni from Bali, Indonesia, who wants to know:

"How many QSL cards featuring the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the Czech Republic do you have? I would like to collect them all, the ones I have are really very beautiful."

There are 8 Radio Prague QSL cards featuring these sites, and if you have access to the internet, you can find the list and pictures of them on our website. And you can also find detailed information about the 8 sites in old Mailbox programs - we started dealing with one of them every week at the beginning of this year, when the new cards were published.

As regular listeners know, Radio Prague publishes a new series of QSL cards every year, each one dedicated to a different topic.

Last year it was old radio equipment and technology and if you don't have the whole series of the old ones, we can send you the missing one, if it's still on stock, instead of this year's QSL card, if you specify which card you'd like.

And, by the way, we are just in the process of deciding the topic for next year's series of QSL cards, so, if you have any suggestions, how about letting us know.

Which Brian Moore from Lowestoft, England already has done:

"A suggestion for the next set of cards, if I may. How about featuring public transport in the Czech Republic, past and present. On occasions, for example the trams and the metro get mentioned on the programs, so a series of cards would be welcome, not only, I suspect, to those like myself who are interested in transport."

Thanks, Brian, for the suggestion and I'd like to add that it's surprising, how many listeners really are interested in means of transport. We always have huge response when we talk about Czech cars, trains, or trams.

Just one example. In his reception report for July 28th Swopan Chakroborty of Kolkata, India writes

"Today I was surprised to hear about trams in the Czech Republic, that you have them in so many cities. In India trams run only in Kolkata. They have been abolished in all other cities that have the metro."

Yes, many people comment on our trams. They are reliable, run quite frequently and help create the good system of local public transport which pleasantly surprises many visitors. And they help create the typical atmosphere of practically all our bigger cities, there is something very traditional about them.

Trams certainly are a part of the Czech city scene, the traditions that, some say, are sadly disappearing as we are catching up with the Western world. Many feel this much the same as our British listener, Alan McQuade, who e-mails:

"I have known Prague since 1967. I skipped 1968, but returned in 1969, as I had fallen under the city's spell. I have been exploring ever since. I feel something of the Czech atmosphere of the city has gone in the last few years. Just one grumble - I lament losing two buffets I always used - the Koruna and in Mostecka now there is a McDonald's. Dreadful."

Just to explain, for listeners who do not know Prague. The Koruna was a typical Czech self service restaurant at the bottom of Wenceslas Square, where you could get fast foods - hot and cold. It was very famous and very popular, a typical Prague landsite.

And in Mostecka Street, in Prague's Little Quarter under the Castle, where one of the McDonald's restaurants took over some years ago, there used to be a milk bar, something very typical that you had in every city. They served milk products, hot and cold milk or cocoa, cheese sandwiches, and the like. The perfect place for a breakfast or snack. They've disappeared now, you won't find them anywhere.

That's a typical example of the changes since 1990. Some years ago I interviewed Jan Koukal, who was then Prague's mayor and asked him how McDonald's could have received permission to open in the heart of the city's historic reservation, which should by all means stay Czech. He told me there was nothing they could do about it. There had always been a self-service restaurant there and since the building was private owned, and since McDonalds was obviously willing to pay higher rent, there was no way of stopping it.

So, let's be grateful for all that still maintains the old Czech atmosphere. And there is plenty of that. Czech folk songs, for example, like this one from Southern Moravia:

Authors: Olga Szantová , Pavla Horáková
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