Lednice, foto: Barbora Němcová

Topic's this week: Cooking programmes. Castles and Chateaux. Salaries. Rent. Foreigners in football clubs, listener looking for free Czech lessons in the UK. Listeners quoted: "Bobby" from Atlanta, William Allan, Ken Skrbin, Tomas Fields, Nii Nortey Akiwumi, listener from Italy.

And we'll start with our first question. In fact, we have received many such questions in the past few months:

"My name is Bobby and I live in Atlanta, Georgia. I recently became friends with a Czech couple and wanted to surprise them with a Czech meal. I have not been listening to Radio Prague for long, so I am not familiar with all of your programmes. I decided to vhrady a zamkyisit your web site but found no cooking programme. Did you have one in the past or will you be launching one in the near future?"

Unfortunately, we do not have a cooking programme, and as far as I can remember, we did not have one in the past either. Once in a while we cook in our features - we made Christmas carp in our special Christmas programme or introduced Czech, Polish, and Hungarian dishes in Central Europe Today, which has now been discontinued. We suggest you look for recipes on the Internet or order a cook book from or other internet book stores.

And before we continue with the next question, we have been asked by a number of listeners when we would start a new feature serving as a guide to some of the interesting pubs, clubs, or restaurants here in Prague. This week, saw our first edition.

And you're actually mainly responsible for the mini-feature. What exactly will it entail, Jan?

The mini-feature is called Stepping Out and it's kind of a new look at Prague nightlife. The blurb that goes with the feature is a "night hawk's" look at the night spots. This week I tried to set the case for the nightclub as art. I look at Akropolis, which has been a long-time staple here in Prague. As a club, it features very interesting interior design done by some of the Czech Republic's leading artists. So, in that respect we want to show listeners abroad what places they can visit when they come to Prague. With that said, there are other aspects that I would like to look at in upcoming features which have more of a sub-cultural aspect. Things that come to light are transvestite shows, of course, or tattoo parlours as well as more traditional restaurants and so on. In fact, I've even heard that there's a bar that caters specifically to mountain and rock climbers and they are said to have a climbing wall inside. So, I would like to explore the sub-culture that goes with that.

Lednice castle, photo: Barbora Kmentová
Mr William Allan listens to us on the local CBC station in Iroquois Falls, Canada. He sent us a good-old-fashioned letter:

"It is with alarm that I heard on your early morning radio broadcast that there may be a move to close Czech castles and museums early this year because of money problems. Please don't do this. We are coming to the Czech Republic and Prague in particular in September and want to see those historic places."

Well, you no longer need to worry, Mr Allan. The country's castles, chateaux, and other historic sites will be open throughout the season. Just as you continue to say in your letter, the Czech Republic and other post-communist European states are large tourist attractions and its castles contribute to that. That is why the National Heritage Institute decided to concentrate on getting some money from the ministries to keep our castles open.

Castle wardens had complained that there wasn't enough money to pay tour guides the minimum monthly wage and restore buildings. The National Heritage Institute was successful and announced that 3.3 million Czech crowns would be available to increase the number of tour guides and pay them at least thirty crowns an hour to reach the minimum monthly wage.

Which brings us to another question. Ken Skrbin receives our daily news bulletin and sent us an e-mail from somewhere in cyberspace:

"I was wondering if you could give me some idea of what wages are like for the average Czech."

The minimum monthly wage currently stands at 6,200 Czech crowns, which is a little over 220 US dollars. The average wage is around 17,000 crowns in Prague and a little over 15,000 crowns in the rest of the country.

Tomas Fields from somewhere in Denmark asks:

Photo: Archive of Radio Prague
"I have read on the web that a two-bedroom apartment in Prague costs almost as much as the average monthly wage in the Czech Republic. Is this true information?"

That unfortunately is true, although rent for flats in Prague is decreasing. There are only a few places in the Czech Republic where market rents of flats are on the rise. The growth in rents has stopped in most Czech towns and rents in Prague are already decreasing. Here, the difference between regulated and markets rents has been diminishing too. Rents of larger and more luxurious flats are especially affected; but flats in prefabricated houses and older flats are also getting cheaper.

The reason for the decrease in rents in the Czech capital is the fact that some 2,000 new flats are built there every year. The supply rises, which pushes rents down. Better access to mortgages also contributes to the decrease. The steepest fall is reported for rents of flats at prefabs and big luxurious houses in the centre of Prague. The Czech Association of Real Estate Agencies says that over the last five years, the rent of a flat at a prefabricated house has fallen by about a third. In other regions rents of flats are lower than in Prague but there are fewer constructions of new flats. The purchasing power of people outside Prague is also not so high and that is why rents have not started dropping.

Nii-Nortey Akiwumi sent us a letter from Lagos, Nigeria. He asks whether there are any Latin or African players in Czech football clubs.

And to answer that question, we have asked our colleague Ian Willoughby to tell us a few words on this topic:

"Well, there are two African players, as far as I know, in the Czech league. There is Kennedy Chihuri who plays for Zizkov. He is from Zimbabwe. The second African player is a man called Gyan Baffour, who is from Ghana. But as far as I know, he is leaving the country soon. He plays for Liberec and he is supposed to be joining a Russian club. I think there is one other black player in this country. He is from Brazil and his name is Adauto da Silva but they call him Adauto. I don't think there are any Latin players, but I could be wrong."

We have a special request from an Italian listener, who currently lives in the UK:

"I am very eager to come across Czechs who live in the UK and specifically in London with whom to arrange a language exchange. In fact, it is my strong desire to learn some basics Czech. I am currently living in the heart of London and hope you will be able to provide me with some contact nr of Czech association/ Czech Cultural Institute of Czech Pubs based here in London."

If you happen to be Czech and are listening to us from the UK and would like to meet this listener from Italy or wouldn't mind giving him free lessons in the Czech language and culture, please send us an e-mail or a letter with your name and address and we will gladly forward the information to him.