Today's Mailbox includes: Topics: RP listeners' clubs. Sending RP souvenirs, Czech language, Bruntal, oldest town in Moravia. Quotes from: Razia Rasheed, Mostafa Amesiin, Lasse Haapaniemi, Janice Wallace.
Here we are, once again with Mailbox, the program in which Martin Hrobsky and I will be quoting from some of your letters and answering some of your questions.
Despite us not being able to answer them all on our Mailbox programmes, they are an inspiration for our other features. We really do need to know what you would like to hear, which aspects of Czech life you are interested in.
And it does appear that quite frequently we manage to do just that. I say this on the basis of numerous letters, such as this one from Razia Rasheed in Jhang Sadar, Pakistan:
"I am a shortwave listener who enjoys your broadcasts very much. I especially like the news and music. I know that I understand and appreciate your country's culture and her people better because of the work of the whole English service. Thanks."
In some parts of the world, especially Asia and Africa, listeners meet in groups. They form a kind of listeners' club and follow our programs.
But I'm afraid we only hear about their activities or their evaluation of our work when they send us letters such as this one:
"Thank you very much for sending your very beautiful program guide and the Radio Prague souvenirs. Your prompt replies have always been a great encouragement for me to write to you. No other radio station responds so quickly. This aspect of your radio makes me very attached. Your web site is also very beautiful. I have now founded a Radio Prague listeners' club, and it has 35 members. The things you sent are not enough for all of them. My club is new and I want to encourage them to listen to your programs. So, please send me stickers, program guides, pens, calendars, and other information about your radio station to pass around to all of them."
We have not mentioned the name of the listener who sent that request because it's typical of a number of similar ones. Please understand that we cannot possibly send large amounts of items to one listener, regardless of how many listeners he wants it for.
I think that's pretty obvious for financial reasons and Radio Prague, for the same reason, has stopped organising listeners' clubs. So, if the 35 club members want any information and, of course, QSL cards, we'll gladly send them - on the basis of their own correspondence.
And as for making them more interested in listening to Radio Prague, we would like to think that it is the contents of our programs that are most influential.
As for souvenirs, we do have various ones - but those are for regular, long time listeners, our friends throughout the world. Who, we hope, will keep them as reminders of the hours they spent listening to Radio Prague.
...a statement, which is in full accordance with an e-mail message from Mostafa Amesiin.
"How excited I am to find you on the web! Many years ago when I was only a student here in Iran I was already passionately interested in your nice country. At that time I only wrote to you by regular mail (there was no internet at that time) and your response is still in my home library: A book on Slovak literature! Time has passed for me and now I am a doctor practising laboratory medicine here but I still love your country a lot especially when I learn about your scientists in the field of laboratory medicine. I still love to learn about your country in every possible way. I would like to learn, if I can, the Czech language at least a little bit. Do you think you can help? Is there any book for that purpose? I also like to know about beautiful cities in the Czech Republic as I will possibly travel to your nice country soon."
There are two questions in that letter from our listener in Iran. First about the Czech language. And as regular listeners know, we have a basic course, or rather weekly program, about the fundamental aspects of our language, which, by the way is anything but easy to learn.
That program has met with large interest among listeners, and, like all the other features on Radio Prague, you can find it on our web-site - www.radio.cz/english.
And you'll also find other, older programs about the Czech language, because we have been dealing with the topic for years.
But it's mostly information about Czech, you cannot possibly learn a language on short wave programs. So, for those of you, who have a deeper, more systematic interest, I suggest you find the information on the internet - one of the addresses I'm sure you'll find useful is www.bohemica.com. Two of the most popular text books, as far as learning the Czech language is concerned, are called Colloquial Czech and Step by Step.
So, lots of luck with our difficult and grammatically complex language. But, of course, the best way of learning the language is by visiting the country, where it is spoken. Which bring us to Mostafa Amesiin's second question. He plans to visit the Czech Republic, and would like some suggestions as to which parts of it to visit.
Now, that IS a difficult question. Much depends on what you are interested in - nature or historic architecture, to mention just two possibilities. As far as the latter is concerned, most visitors only see the most famous places - the majority of them just stay in Prague.
Of course, much depends on how much time you can spend here. If you have just one weekend, like Lasse Haapaniemi and his wife from Kirkkonummi, Finland, you obviously cannot see much outside Prague. They wrote to tell us they were coming, would have liked to visit Radio Prague, but didn't have enough time even for that to be arranged.
"We are just leaving for Helsinki airport and I think we shall enjoy Prague. I have read many books concerning Prague and its history and I know there are many places we should visit."
So, that's obvious if you're short of time. But many others go to see places like the UNESCO protected historic sites.
We showed 8 of them in last year's series of QSL cards.
And we talk about the best known places on our programs, especially in Spotlight. But the Czech Republic has so many places worth visiting.
A point made by Janice Wallace who e-mails:
"I enjoy listening to your programmes, especially the regional features and reports but why have you not mentioned the town of Bruntal. I am planning to visit your country soon and read about the town in one of my guides. It sounds like a very nice place to visit."
Bruntal, is the oldest town in Moravia, founded before the year 1213, and it lies some 40 kilometres North of the North East Moravian centre - Olomouc, which, itself is well worth a visit.
It's also a gateway to the Jeseniky Mountains, a very beautiful mountain range, not one of the highest in the country, its tallest peak, Praded, only has 1492 meters. But it's very beautiful, with deep forests, brooks, etc., so that here you can have both - historic sites and nature. A part of the range is right in the Bruntal District.
Bruntal was built on a trade route leading to Silesia and had a very eventful history, like many other parts of the Czech Republic.
Yes, we don't know exactly when it was built, certainly before 1213, as we mentioned, but as early as 1241 it was burned down by the Tartars.
But soon it was built up again, only to fall to the enemy, the Swedish. Danish and Saxon armies in the 30 years war. Then, for a change, a fire, not caused by any enemy, burned much of Bruntal down in 1764.
But each and every time the city was re-built and there's much to be seen in it even today. The main reason for Bruntal's exceptional vitality was first the important trade route on which it stood, then the huge local deposits of precious metals and after those had been fully mined out, Bruntal turned to the textile industry and became an important weaving centre. And, of course, it became much poorer with a more simple culture, simpler folk costumes, etc., than the richer parts of Moravia, the ones further South.
But there certainly is much to be seen there. First of all, there's the castle built on the foundations of a Gothic castle, which now houses the local museum. But there are numerous other historic buildings well worth seeing. Parts of the city ramparts are still standing, and I could go on and on. And as for the culture, it's not far from the area where the famous composer Leos Janacek found his inspiration, so much of the musical tradition of that general part of Moravia is well known.