Christmas markets on the Wenceslas Square

In this week's edition: Christmas in the Czech Republic, length and time of transmission of Radio Prague's broadcasts, Radio Prague's QSL cards for 2005, honey cake recipe. Listeners quoted: Muhammad Shamim, India; K. Thiagarajan, India; Jonathan Murphy, Ireland; J. Bettelheim, England; Gordon Blom, USA; Nick Sharpe, England.

Welcome to Mailbox, Radio Prague's weekly programme in which we read from your letters and emails and respond to your comments.

First of all, thank you very much for the many Christmas greetings you're sending us from around the world. And our listener from India, Mr Muhammad Shamim, would like to know which is the most famous Christmas market in the Czech Republic, and also he's curious as to how young people in the Czech Republic celebrate Christmas and the New Year.

Well, Christmas markets are quite a recent appearance in this country. The communist regime frowned upon all religious ceremonies although it couldn't quite ignore Christmas. But it tried to tone down the manifestations of it and Christmas markets as we know them now, with traditional goods and mulled wine, started to appear only towards the end of the 1980s. Now every city and town has at least one, but I guess probably the most famous are those in Prague. The two biggest ones are in the two central squares, St Wenceslas and Old Town Square.

New Year's celebration
And as to young people, they usually spend their Christmas with their families and the first Christmas spent with a boyfriend or a girlfriend is a real milestone in one's life. Czechs celebrate the New Year on the 31st of December and young people in particular like to meet in pubs or have parties in their parents' weekend houses in the countryside. And those celebrations usually involve drinking, I'm afraid.

And now back to radio business. In last week's Mailbox I talked to Radio Prague's head Miroslav Krupicka who answered a listener's query about the possibility of Radio Prague going on long wave. In response to the interview we got an email from Mr J. Bettelheim from England. He writes he has been listening to Radio Prague's Czech and English services on shortwave and if the weather conditions are good he can hear Czech Radio's broadcasts on long wave there, too.

Thanks for that feedback and many thanks to those who have sent us their comments regarding the length and times of our transmissions.

Mr K. Thiagarajan from India wrote:

"Why don't you make your half-hour transmission into a one-hour transmission. You could explore the possibility of sharing transmitters with Asian radio stations to penetrate more into the subcontinent."

And Jonathan Murphy from Ireland wrote this:

"I would welcome a one hour programme at the weekends. As your listener Nick Sharpe pointed out last week, that is when most listeners have a little more time to listen (myself included). Just don't allow it to be more than 1/3 music during the programme! I'd like to hear extended interviews, news behind the news (e.g. an extended slot for Daniela Lazarova's Magazine), etc."

Thanks very much for that comment, Jonathan, and we also got this email from Mr Gordon Blom from the United States:

"On your mailbox program you reported that you were getting complaints that the transmission was coming at the wrong time. I disagree with that assessment. Here in the eastern United states, 2330UTC on 6:30PM local time is just right, and you come in well, usually better than your later 0100 transmission, but if I miss the 2330 broadcast, I can tune you in later. Please do not change a thing. As for the length of program, I wish I had an hour to listen to you, but I do not. A half hour is fine with me, although if you had a half hour just of music that would be fine. As you know, I have been listening to you since 1962, so I am not likely to stop right away."

So you see how tastes differ. While some would like the amount of music we play to be very limited, others would welcome programmes with just music in them.

Marianske Lazne
Also with the New Year approaching, a number of listeners, including Jonathan Murphy, have been enquiring about Radio Prague's QSL card series for 2005. For example, Nick Sharpe from England wrote:

"It's great that you have a different series each year and makes for a nice collection as well as gives you some valuable feedback on your programmes and transmissions."

Well, the new series is out now, featuring famous and less famous spa towns in Bohemia and Moravia. It's definitely something to look forward to and we're looking forward to sending them to you in exchange for your reception reports.

Now on a different note. A number of listeners and visitors to our website, including Svetlana Kirilova and Lenora Genovese, have responded to a story by Jarka Halkova about the much-loved "honey cake", made to a traditional Russian recipe by a the Chibovskijs - a Russian couple who have settled in the Czech Republic and launched a successful business here of baking and selling their medovnik, or honey cake. The recipe is kept secret and therefore no one apart from the Chibovskijs knows it, not even Radio Prague. So there is no use writing to us for the recipe. Unfortunately, we don't know it and we cannot obtain it.

And now let's go straight on to Radio Prague's Christmas time competition question.

"A well-known English-language Christmas carol sings about a kind monarch who was in fact a historic figure, a Czech prince and a saint. We'd like to know who he was."

Please send us your answers by the end of December to Radio Prague, English Section, 12099 Prague or