Lobkowicz palace

Today's topics include: Lobkowicz palace restituted to Lobkowicz family. New book on Czech and Czechoslovak Presidents. Travelling. Canoeing. Quotes from: Matthew Pintes, Emilia Julin, Julius Sloane, Binate Onde.

Welcome to another edition of Mailbox.

We'll start right off with a question from Matthew Pintes who listens to us from San Diego, California and asks:

"I read on the Internet that the Lobkowicz Palace at Prague Castle is now owned by the Lobkowicz family. Is that true?"

Yes, that is true. The Lobkovicz Palace at Prague Castle was returned to the descendants of the aristocratic family of Lobkowicz. The palace was given back to the family on Thursday, according to one of the dailies - Pravo. William Lobkowicz has been suing the Czech state over the palace for many years. The Lobkowicz family has now won the court battle with the Prague Castle administration. This resulted in criticism from some Czechs who disagreed with this step as the castle is on the list of national heritage sites.

The Lobkovicz palace was returned to its original owners in restitution on the basis of a Czech Constitutional Court ruling from March 1999. The court then abolished a part of the law which banned buildings declared as national cultural heritage from being returned to their original owners. The Constitutional Court found this provision as discriminatory and in violation of the Czech Constitution.

Up to date, the palace was used to house an exhibition of the National Museum and its representatives came to an agreement with the Lobkowicz family to continue the lease under the same conditions. The museum pays under a million Czech crowns a year in rent.

William Lobkowicz, the grandson of diplomat Maxmilian Lobkowicz under the inter-war Czechoslovak Republic, returned to the former Czechoslovakia in 1991 from Boston, in the United States. He is now managing his family's property which includes several castles and chateaux, wine cellars and a brewery.

Emilia Julin has been listening to both the Radio Prague English and Czech broadcasts for several years. This is the first time, she's actually thought of writing in:

"I have been living in Germany for ten years now and discovered Radio Prague a few years ago. Since the Czech Republic is so close, I think it's important for us neighbours to keep up with each others news. Just about a week ago, I spoke to a friend who was coming to Prague, telling him that you have a new president - Vaclav Klaus. He was very disappointed to hear that Vaclav Havel is no longer your head of state. I am also still a little sad about that. How can I find out more about Mr Havel and also Mr Klaus?"

Well, Emilia, you couldn't have picked a better time to ask that question as a new book has just come out with the life portraits of all ten Czech and Czechoslovak presidents. From Tomas Garrigue Masaryk to Vaclav Klaus. The book is called the "Ten Presidents" and was written by Czech author Libor Budinsky.

According to Mr Budinsky, his main goal was to introduce them from their human side - their lives, wives and hobbies. The book also includes the most popular jokes that were told about the presidents.

The only bad news is that it is in Czech for now. However, any search engine on the web will give you links to publications on the lives of both Vaclav Havel and Vaclav Klaus.

We have a question from Julius Sloane from somewhere in New Zealand and he asks:

"I am planning to travel to the Czech Republic with two friends in the summer. We are already looking forward to the trip and have three questions. Does the Czech Republic have good maps of its towns and villages? I once read about a so-called Greenways Project but can't remember the details. Could you point us in the right direction? Do you know anything about canoeing possibilities in your country? Thank you."

The Czech Republic indeed has very good, detailed and comprehensive maps of its regions, towns, and villages, so you do not need to fear coming to the country without maps. The German and Austrian publications are also quite good.

Greenways is a Czech project that aims at promoting sustainable tourism by means of a series of tourist routes through small towns and rural areas where you can get involved with some local farms and enterprises. For more information, visit the website Radio Prague's Pavla Horakova also reported on the project last year. A copy of the programme is available on our website.

Both flat water and white water canoeing and kayaking are very popular in the Czech Republic. The Sazava river that stretches from West Moravia into Central Bohemia is most popular as it can boast beautiful scenery. The Vltava and Opava in South Bohemia are also very popular. For white water rafting, there is the Labe (Elbe) river below Spindleruv Mlyn and the Vltava below the Lipno dam in South Bohemia.

And staying with travelling. Binate Onde from West Africa, you forgot to say from what country, wrote to Radio Prague with an interesting question:

"Is it true that foreigners have to report to the police when they arrive in Prague? I find that very strange."

To tell you the truth, Mr Onde, I'm not surprised you're asking this question. I myself read this in one of the more popular guide books. The answer is a simple No. It is not true. This used to be a strict rule under the Communist regime but today, you no longer have to report to the police as a foreigner with a standard tourist visa.