Chor von Radio Prag singt Weihnachtslieder

In this week's Mailbox: Czech Christmas carols on Radio Prague's website, new Czech language programme SoundCzech, Czech folk costumes and ticket inspectors on Prague public transport, property return claims. Listeners quoted: Adriana LaGier, Sandra Davis, David Wright, J.C. Lockwood, Louisa Silhavy Bunce, Aloisie Krasny.

You are tuned to Radio Prague's weekly Mailbox programme in which we read from your letters and e-mails. Christmas is drawing closer and on that topic we got an e-mail from Adriana LaGier from the United States:

"My mother was born in Prague and moved to the United States where I was born. I recently had a daughter of my own and wanted to sing her some of the Christmas carols my mother always sang to me. I was so grateful when I discovered your website where you also included the music."

Thank you for actually reminding me to bring the special website to your attention. You can find it easily by clicking on the "Czech Christmas" title on the left hand side of our main page All the carols recorded there are sung by the staff of Radio Prague - you may recognise some of the people in the photo.

While on the topic of songs, we have received quite a bit of response to our new Czech-language course, SoundCzech. This e-mail came from Sandra Davis:

"I really enjoy your new program 'Sound Czech', as I did the ABC of Czech. For someone trying to learn the language without a teacher, it is very useful to learn idiomatic expressions and more importantly hear them pronounced. I like the fact that the listener can review the same phrase several times and that you discuss the meaning of the verbs used, etc. I hope to find a work-study opportunity to learn Czech in the Czech Republic from real live Czechs next year, but until that time I look forward to learning more from your excellent radio program."

David Wright from South Wales listens to SoundCzech in his car:

"I just want to tell you how much I have been enjoying your SoundCzech programmes. I have to travel an hour and a half each day to work and got bored of UK radio. I have now worked out how to download your programmes as podcasts and can listen to them in the car. The SoundCzech series is excellent for this. As a regular reader of your website I don't know how it took me 4 weeks to notice these little gems! The only problem is that I now spend the day singing 'Male kote, Miow-miow'. I'm sure you don't do requests but is there any chance of hearing my favourite Czech band Uz jsme doma?"

Well, it depends on whether the band use some handy phrases in their lyrics that are worth learning. We'll take a look. On the same note, so to speak, this e-mail came from J.C. Lockwood.

"I enjoy your SoundCzech program - even though I've had that song 'Male Kote' playing in my head for the past two weeks and it's starting to drive me nuts. I started studying Czech years ago so I could understand (and pronounce) the lyrics of the songs I had been mangling phonetically for a long time. But the lyrics that catch my ear, so to speak, are often not especially useful. Like '... tvoje oci pitome je videt tmou' [I can see your silly eyes through the darkness] or 'piju zeru prasky stejne sotva usnout smim,' [I drink, I take pills but can hardly fall asleep] Egon Bondy texts from the Plastic People's songs 'Okolo okna' and 'Toxica.' It's fun to sing (um, snarl) but, hopefully, these words will never be needed in conversation."

That's pretty advanced Czech I must say, but I hope we can still offer you something new in our SoundCzech programme. And sorry, everybody, for giving you an earworm!

Louisa Silhavy Bunce from North Carolina returns in her e-mail to an older edition of Mailbox where we discussed folk costumes and also ticket inspectors in the Prague public transport.

"My husband and I have been to Prague 7 times and have never been challenged for tickets on the trams or metro, so I don't think it's commonly applied to tourists. Regarding Mr. Ray Mulac's request for a folk costume, perhaps he should access where there is a source for traditional Czech folk dress. Keep up the good work, is my daily touchstone."

Aloisie Krasny from Sydney, Australia, was concerned about the latest property return case in the Czech Republic.

Konopiste Castle,  photo: CzechTourism
"I read this article with great interest and was a little alarmed. Konopiste Castle has been managed by Czechoslovakia now the Czech Republic for many, many years and it belongs to the people as part of their heritage. I am all in favour of family heritage and history as it is extremely important to me and if the granddaughter of Franz Ferdinand was prepared to live in the castle and keep it running as a working castle e.g, running tours in conjunction with the Czech Heritage Society or equivalent and keep the castle maintained then she should be allowed to co-own it with the State. It must be accessible to the Czech people as part of their heritage. I feel very strongly about this."

Of course, Radio Prague will keep you informed about any developments in the case.

As we are running out of time, here is our December competition question for you.

In our December quiz we'd like you to tell us the name of the British playwright and screenplay writer who was born in 1937 in what is now the Czech Republic. In the 1970s he visited Czechoslovakia, met the then dissident Vaclav Havel and was instrumental in translating Havel's works into English. He was knighted in 1997.

Please, send us your answers by the end of December to [email protected] or Radio Prague, 12099 Prague, Czech Republic.