Chrisitine Nuttall

In this week's Mailbox, Chrisitine Nuttall, winner of the Radio Prague listeners' competition, pays us a visit. We will also be answering a question from George Tante in Nigeria on the failing Fischer travelling empire.

Mr George Tante from Nigeria asks the following question:

"I think it is normal for smaller travel agencies to go bankrupt every year. It's part of life and business and I imagine that in the Czech Republic and other post-Communist countries it is difficult to keep a small business going when there are the bigger and richer ones on the market. So, I am a little surprised to hear that your biggest travel agency is facing problems. You never really explained why."

Well, before I answer that, let me explain that none of the Fischer Air flights have been cancelled yet and those who are on holiday or have already paid for a holiday package for the future are being assured that their vacation is not threatened in any way. So far, the travel agency's representatives are saying that Vaclav Fischer's financial problems and those of his two companies Fischer Air and Fischer Limited will not affect the agency itself. I guess time will tell.

As for the reason why a respected man such as Vaclav Fischer, who was always looked up to as a trustworthy and capable businessman, is now facing financial problems - there has been much speculation and no real explanation. While some economists say he had expanded too fast and overestimated his capabilities, he himself puts the blame on banks, claiming they had insisted on reducing borrowing.

Well, we have a very special guest here on Mailbox. Mrs Christine Nuttall won our Radio Prague competition and is in the Czech Republic for a week with her dear husband. Thank you for joining us here today.

"Thank you, it's a pleasure to be here today."

Could you start off by telling us a little bit about yourself?

"Well, I live in England in the county of Cumbria, and I teach in a very small rural school. I have a family - two girls - and I enjoy doing artistic things. My hobbies, as well as my teaching, are reading and writing. But just for fun. This is the first time I've ever entered a competition and have been fortunate enough to win."

I know that you have visited the Czech Republic a few times before but you have no real connection to this country. Why did you decide to start listening to Radio Prague?

"Well, as you said, I've visited on two holidays and I enjoy the country and the history of the country and the people and I wanted to find out more about it. I find it very interesting. I also found it mentally challenging to try and learn the language as well. I just need someone to speak it with me."

So can you say a few words already?

"Dobry den, of course, which means hello. And tesi me."

So, I guess, one of your favourite programmes is our regular Czech language lesson.

"Very much so, I find it very interesting. It's really interesting to see how many similar phrases we have in both the English and the Czech language. I just watched Pavla doing a piece about apples. Just reading her piece made me smile. There are many things that are similar."

Is there anything else you like to listen to?

"I very much enjoy Insight Central Europe. I think it's very interesting to see what is happening and I also think it's well presented and very readable. I also like the general news programmes with new events that are happening in the Czech Republic the whole time."

Any criticism?

"Not really, I find the website very easy to manipulate and read. It downloads very easily and I enjoy the things I read. And I just don't read the things I don't want to read. But generally, I like to read everything to keep abreast of what's going on."

What about Podebrady? What have you seen so far? How have you enjoyed the trip?

Well, it's very nice. Podebrady is very different from my stays in Prague because it's a little spa town. It's something that we don't really have in England. It's a lovely place where people and Czech families seem to go. We have made friends also while we've been there. We've been out for day trips using the very good transport system, the trains. We have been to Kolin, which was an enjoyable day. We intend to come and visit Prague from Podebrady as well. It's a different and very interesting place."

Have you made use of the spa yet?

"Not yet. I think we've been too busy travelling and going out to look at the country. That's more my kind of interest. When I go on holiday I like to go and find out about things. I don't like to sit still too long."

Is there anything you'd like us to change on Radio Prague? Are our programmes easy to understand? Do we explain things enough for those who do not live in the Czech Republic?

"Yes. As I said, the website is easy to access and manipulate. The information you give is always well written and always has a touch of humour, an interest. It's written in such a way that you want to read it. My husband listens on shortwave radio and I tend to work on the Internet at night. Then I have a look at Radio Prague to see what you're up to... when I should really be doing my work."

What is reception like?

"It's generally very good, especially on the Internet, it's easy to download and listen to pieces as well as read them. As for the radio, it depends on the time of day. The evening reception tends to be better than the morning reception."

And finally, is there a question that you would like us to answer on this Mailbox programme?

"Yes. I'd like to know, and I've always wondered this because I like animals and birds and creatures, why there are seagulls on the Vltava river and where they come from when you're so far away from the sea. Do they come in on boats, do they fly inland? I've always been curious about that."

Okay, now the gulls you find on the Vltava River are not the large seagulls we are used to at the sea but smaller common gulls that came to this country when ponds were built in southern Bohemia, specifically close to the Pardubice area. The most common type of gull in the country is the black-headed gull - in Czech it's called the Racek chechtavy. After they nest, mainly around the town of Usti nad Orlicy or the village of Kopidlno, they fly along rivers and sometimes even end up in other countries. This year, for example, some of them were tracked in Hamburg, Germany, and in ports in the Netherlands. Younger Czech black-headed gulls were also seen in southern England.

During the winter, gulls from other countries also fly to the Czech Republic. They come here mainly from Finland, the Baltic States, and neighbouring Poland and stay until March. That is when you also find the herring gull, and the white-headed gull besides the most common black-headed gull.

But overall, ornithologists say, the number of gulls in the Czech Republic has decreased.