Charles Bridge

Today in Mailbox we air your views on a possible toll system on Prague's Charles Bridge, ground squirrels in the capital, plans by the US to build a radar station in the Czech Republic - and is it Lesser Town or Mala Strana? Listeners quoted: Glenn White, Steve Wisensale, John Novotney and Peter Andrews.

Charles Bridge
Hello and welcome to Mailbox, Radio Prague's weekly programme in which we read from your e-mails and letters.

As you may know from our broadcasts one of Prague's most important historic landmarks - Charles Bridge - has celebrated its 650th birthday this month. In connection with the anniversary, some experts suggested a toll system should be introduced on the bridge to help raise funds for the maintenance of the monument. Glenn White from Florida has sent us his view on the matter:

"How about a system where Czech citizens can use the bridge free with a state issued ID card and only tourists pay? I, as a tourist, would be more than happy to pay a nominal fee to help maintain such a wonderful structure."

Steve Wisensale from the United States is reacting to a recent story by Dita Salavova on how ground squirrels might hinder the building of the Olympic Village in Prague - that is if the Olympics were ever to be held in the city.

Ground squirrel,  photo: BS Thurner Hof,  Wikimedia Commons,  License Creative Commons 3.0 Unported
"During the spring of 2006 my wife and I lived in Prague while I taught at Charles University as a visiting professor from the United States. I must say that reading about the issue of ground squirrels being present at the site where the Olympic complex may be built baffles me somewhat. Much to our dismay, we only saw two squirrels during our entire stay in Prague. Therefore, I would urge the Czech government to do whatever it can to preserve the ground squirrels."

Thank you for your concern. It's not clear whether you really mean ground squirrels that live on the site of the potential Olympic Village, or the European Red Squirrel which is quite abundant in parks around the city in both its red and grey varieties. Scientists have been noticing that the latter have been moving from wild forests to towns and cities lately. For the second year in a row now, children in Prague have been encouraged to take part in a unique project called "Prague Squirrel", aimed at counting the number of squirrels in the Czech capital which will help scientists to monitor the squirrel population.

A story which has been making headlines for several months now in the Czech Republic as well as on an international level, is the planned US radar station to be built in the Czech Republic. John Novotney who lives in the country had this to say commenting on a Radio Prague news story on a joint effort by the mayors of villages close to the planned radar site to fight against it:

"My question is: Specifically why are the mayors so adamantly and vehemently opposed to the radar site? There is no problem with being opposed to anything in a democratic society, but it's quite another thing to have solid, defensible, credible, reasonable, rational reasons to be in opposition. What is the grounds of the mayors' strong stand against the radar? What part does emotion play?"

I'm afraid you would have to ask the mayors themselves for the details but as representatives of their municipalities, the mayors are voicing the views of the citizens who said a clear No in local referenda. Let me just quote one of the mayors, Jan Neoral, who told this to Radio Prague in February:

"Brdy is a lovely region and we don't want it destroyed by some radar base, just a kilometre away from our village. I don't know a single citizen who is in favour of the base. We have experience from previous decades with German and Soviet units in our area when whole villages were erased from the map and people displaced. Also in the event of an attack we would be a target."

And finally Peter Andrews from London has this comment regarding our broadcasts:

"Why does Radio Prague repeat the mistake made by so many text books?

Mala Strana
Where is 'Lesser Town' on a map of Prague? I cannot find it... Attempting to translate place names makes no sense. It is unhelpful to visitors and patronizing to long-term residents. It is a basic principle that you *do not translate proper names*. My name doesn't change when I move across borders, and nor do place names change in different languages. Using German versions of Czech places is more-or-less OK, because these were actually used here. But why, oh why do you have to try to translate 'Malá Strana'? Perhaps you think that foreigners are too stupid to be able to remember a name that isn't in their own language."

If you try and Google the expression "Lesser Town" you will get 137,000 results so, obviously, it is not only Radio Prague who uses it - as a matter of fact it is mainly tourism websites. It is a literal translation of an older name for the district which was "Mensi Mesto". Lesser Town is not a preferred term at Radio Prague and we generally use the Czech name but if we stuck to your rule of not translating proper names, we would have to say "Praha" and "Ceska republika" rather than "Prague" and "the Czech Republic", wouldn't we?

And before I say good bye, here's our regular listeners' competition question:

We would like to know the name of the Czech-born psychiatrist and psychologist who was born in Prague in 1931 and is considered to be one of the founders of transpersonal psychology. He devoted his career to exploring altered states of consciousness, first using LSD and later special breathing techniques.

You still have more than a week to send your answers to Radio Prague, 12099, Prague, the Czech Republic or [email protected]. Until next week, good bye.