28-07-2002

Today's Mailbox includes Topics: Swimming in Prague. Tram lines in the Czech Republic. Are Czechs also Bohemians? QSL cards. Listeners mentioned and quoted: Azizul Alam Al-Amin, Elisabeth Swayne, Brian Moore, Dustin Lopour, Franz Schwartz, Jr., Masanori Misu, Gordon Blom, Michael Stevenson

Hello, once more, from Prague which is just about at the peak of the summer season, with all the ups and downs in the temperature and amount of rainfall.

In Central Europe it's always difficult to say what the weather will be like on any particular day and we take heat waves and spells of cool weather, torrential rain and storms along with dry spells in our stride, quite a different situation from what our listeners in tropical and subtropical countries know. For example Azizul Alam Al-Amin of Ghoramara, Bangladesh can certainly rely on the weather. He writes:

"Here in Bangladesh it is the rainy season now. It rains almost every day."

And I can't resist adding that he also writes:

" Listening to Radio Prague when it's raining like this is quite enjoyable. I must add that the popularity of Radio Prague is growing rapidly day by day in my region. We really appreciate your programs and the reception quality. Please keep up the good work."

Thank you, Azizul, and as for the rain making listening to Radio Prague more enjoyable, I can't resist saying that it's an ill wind that brings no good, or, in this case rather, every cloud has a silver lining.

You know what, let's get back to the summer weather here in Prague. Elisabeth Swayne, from Houston, Texas in the USA asks:

"How do people in the city survive the hot summer? Do you have places where you can go swimming?"

All bigger cities have swimming pools, of course, and wherever there are lakes and rivers, they go there, like they do anywhere else in the world.

In Prague it's not all that simple. I remember times when you could go swimming in the Vltava River which flows through the city, but nowadays it's not possible any more.

It's too dirty.

Not only that, it's also too cold. That's since they built the numerous dams on the river before it reaches Prague, that was towards the end of the 50s, if I remember correctly, and the result is that the water is terribly cold in the summer, and in the winter it doesn't freeze over any more, like it used to. So no more skating on the Vltava, either.

But to come back to summer swimming in Prague. There are a few lakes in various parts of town, where people do go, and there are swimming pools, both outdoor and indoor ones, 18 of them altogether.

The biggest is the complex of three pools in Podoli, one of them indoors, but people can use one of the outdoor pools throughout the winter, too, the water is heated.

The Podoli complex was built in the early 1960s and it's also used for swimming competitions. There are 700 seats around the indoors pool, and the outside tribune seats 4500 people.

But these days it's crowded with people who want to swim themselves, which on a hot day isn't at all easy, the place is too crowded.

In fact, Prague has an acute shortage of places for swimming, and it has no aqua-parks, you know, the big centers with pools, slides, under water massage, artificial waves, etc. Some other Czech cities do have such centers, but not the capital.

There are some plans to build one of two of them in the outskirts, but at this point, only plans. Now, still keeping to the hot and stuffy city streets typical for summer, here is a question from Brian Moore in Lowestoft, England:

"I was sorry to hear about the tram accidents in Praha. It aroused my curiosity as to whether Praha is the only city or town in the Czech Republic with a tram system."

No, Brian, it's not. Most major cities in the Czech Republic have trams. There's a tram line in Ostrava and Olomouc, for example and there's even a tram line connecting two different cities, Liberec and Jablonec, in North Bohemia. True, they're only some ten kilometres apart, but still, they are two separate cities.

In Brno, our second largest city, and capital of Moravia, they have a special name for their tram, they call it salina, nobody really knows why, it's just a typical local word, probably just to show that they are different. Moravians pride themselves in being different from Czechs.

Which, actually brings us to a question from Dustin Lopour:

"Do the Bohemians live inside the Czech republic or do they just call themselves that ? And does Bohemia exist any more? Does the new generation call themselves Czechs instead of Bohemians?"

That's not a question, it's a series of question. So, where do we start? First of all, yes, Bohemia does exist, it's the Western part of the Czech Republic, which also includes Moravia to the East and Silesia, which is North of Moravia.

People sometimes get confused by the fact that the word Bohemian is also used for people who do not respect social convention, sometimes artists, actors and others are called Bohemian. I've heard that that meaning of the name was first used in France, centuries ago, for Gypsies, because the French thought they had come from Bohemia. I don't know about that, but whether true or not, it shows that the name Bohemia has long been used for the territory inhabited by the Czechs, or Bohemians.

But, to answer another question Dustin asks: Czechs do not call themselves Bohemians, and they do not use the name Bohemia for the Western part of the country. In Czech it's Cechy. Bohemia is only used in some other languages including English. The Germans say Bohmen.

So, where did the word Bohemia and Bohemians come from? It goes way back to the first people known to have settled on Czech territory, a Celtic tribe called the Bojas. Archaeological proof of their settlements in Central Europe show they were here as early as the 4th Century BC and lived here for some two or three hundred years. They built fortified settlements that they called Bojohemum, and the Roman legions who fought them, shortened that word to Bohemum, and there you are - Bohemia.

The Slavs, who settled here later, never used that name themselves, but it has been used all these centuries in other languages, by nations that took it from Latin. Now, back to other listeners' letters. We keep getting much very positive response to this year's QSL cards which are a series of 8 photos from various parts of the Czech Republic, and listeners seem to really like them. Franz Schwartz, Jr. from Wilmington NC, USA writes:

"I would like to thank you very much for yet another of your year 2002 series QSL cards. Again and again I cannot imagine anyone not falling in love with this beautiful series of cards representing UNESCO World Heritage sites in the Czech Republic."

And another letter, much along the same lines comes from Japan, from Masanori Misu, who lives in Tokyo:

"The UNESCO World Heritage sites in the Czech Republic featured in your QSL cards are beautiful. In token of my thanks I am enclosing a picture post card with one of the World Heritage sites in Japan, the Giinkakuji Temple in Kyoto."

Thank you, Masanori, the photograph is lovely. You say you have three of the 8 cards in Radio Prague's series. Some listeners already have the whole collection, like Gordon Blom from Rochester, New York, USA:

"With this July report I find that I have all the QSLs listed on the Internet. I am very proud of this collection. I also have the Karlstein Castle, Old Town Astronomical Clock and the Marianske Lazne cards that you sent in previous years. These cards have a different logo and I love this series. For this report I would appreciate a different card, should you have one available."

Yes, we do still have QSL cards from past year's series, including the cards showing old Radio equipment we sent out last year. You can find the complete series on Radio Prague's website - that's www.radio.cz/english.

And if you'd like a card, all you have to do is send another reception report, like Michael Stevenson, from Port Macquarie, N.S.W., Australia:

" I also want to thank you very much for sending me the last QSL card which is a very beautiful one. I must get another reception report off to you to get another beautiful Radio Prague QSL."

But even if you aren't interested in QSL cards, do let us know how you like our programs, or whether there's a special aspect of life in the Czech Republic you'd like us to talk about. The address, of course, is Radio Prague, 120 99 Prague 2, Czech Republic, or, if you prefer, english@radio. cz

28-07-2002