Topic's this week: Czech lakes. Karel Gott's hospitalisation. Last minute holiday packages. South Moravian castles. Listeners quoted: Susanna Fernandez. Barbara Stalks. Terence Hirsh. Lucy Gray.

Before we begin answering your questions, it's a big thank you to all of you who have sent us letters, e-mails, and post cards with pictures of you with Radio Prague runner-up prizes. Those of you who have contacted us to ask when you'd be receiving your prize will surely soon get one too. We have forwarded all your mail to those responsible.

Unlike most of the time, this week we have many more questions from our female listeners. Such as from Susanna Fernandez who lives in New York City, the USA. She writes:

Macha Lake, photo: Barbora KmentováMacha Lake, photo: Barbora Kmentová "I visited the Czech Republic in June and I loved the whole trip. We went to many cities and villages and one place we stayed at for five days was the Macha Lake. It was still clean and calm because the tourist season hadn't started yet. One of the locals told us that in the summer the water becomes dirty. Is that true? Your country has so many lakes and rivers, especially in that area. Can people not swim in them in the summer? "

It is true that most of the country's lakes and ponds that people can swim in are much cleaner in June than they are in August. The simple reason is that there is a much higher concentration of urine in them at the end of the summer. Czechs love to go swimming in the country-side so most lakes and ponds are packed with people.

Of course, the devastating floods last summer have also not done our lakes and rivers much good. And what's even worse is that people are still being advised not to swim in the river Elbe close to the small town of Neratovice, a few kilometres away from Prague, because of a possible presence of toxins which leaked into the river when the Spolana chemical plant was flooded. Furthermore, it is wiser to swim in a river that has not just flown through a city, town or village, as the water may contain garbage.

But overall the water in Czech rivers such as the Elbe, the Morava, the Vltava and the Odra is much cleaner than it was ten years ago. This is actually backed by the fact that we see many more beavers, otters, salmons, and lampreys around the rivers.

We continue with a question from Barbara Stalks from the UK, although she doesn't specify what town. She asks:

"What's happened to your superstar Karel Gott? My Czech neighbour was broken hearted because he was apparently rushed to hospital? Is he okay?"

Well, Ms Stalks, you can tell your neighbour that there is no cause for concern. Karel Gott is feeling much better and has been released from hospital. On Monday, he was about to celebrate his sixty-fourth birthday with his partner and a friend when he started feeling unwell. He was taken to the neurological department of a Prague hospital, where doctors conducted numerous tests to see whether he had suffered a heart attack or a minor stroke. The tests were negative and Mr Gott was sent home on Tuesday afternoon.

But besides that, Mr Gott is in perfect physical condition. At Christmas, he went on a rather physically demanding tour with his colleague Helena Vondrackova and had no complaints at all. At the beginning of April, he apparently had trouble with his cervical joint but that's the only other health problem he's had.

Terence Hirsh has sent us the following e-mail from Melbourne, Australia:

"I know you've been doing very good and efficient reporting on Czech holiday retreats and favourite Czech holiday destinations but I have a question that is a little different. I will be coming to Prague in August with a group of friends. We plan to stay for a fortnight and travel some place else, such as Spain, Italy, Greece, or even Croatia for example. Should we buy our tickets here or is it wiser for us to get them in Prague. Last minute, for example?"

Well, we're afraid we do not know how much a ticket would cost if you buy it in Australia but last minute tickets, or even holiday packages, are much cheaper this year. In fact, sometimes, a trip abroad to the sea for ten days is even cheaper than a week at a holiday retreat here in the Czech Republic.

If you're not pressed with time, it probably would be wiser for you to get your tickets here. Last minute packages can end up costing 150-200 US dollars less. You can get plane tickets two or three thousand Czech crowns cheaper, which is up to a hundred US dollars.

But make sure you don't buy your tickets or packages from a no-name travel agency, because every year several of them go bankrupt, leaving hundreds of Czech tourists stranded abroad.

And staying on the subject of travelling. Lucy Gray will be visiting the Czech Republic next month and has the following question:

"I am from the United States and have never been to the Czech Republic. I have never been to Europe, for that matter. I will be visiting friends in southern Moravia. They said there is a lot to do in the area. I checked on the internet and found out that there's also a castle nearby. It's called Buchlov. Can you tell us more about it?"

Buchlov castle, photo: Stanislav Doronenko, CC BY 3.0 UnportedBuchlov castle, photo: Stanislav Doronenko, CC BY 3.0 Unported South Moravia definitely has a beautiful countryside, so we're sure you're guaranteed to have a good time there. Their wine isn't bad either. But to answer your question, Buchlov is located on a thickly overgrown hilltop in the Chrib Mountains. It was built in the mid 13th century. From the beginning of the 14th century to 1511, it was royal property. After that, it was given as a gift to the lords of Boskovice and later on moved through the hands of several other noble owners. The oldest constructional phase is represented by the castle's kitchen with its late Romanesque arch that was added later. The late Gothic banqueting hall, the Renaissance dining room, the dance hall, and the wine cellar are worth a visit.

The castle's library is also unique, holding close to ten thousand volumes, including books on demonology and magic. Some parts of natural science collections from the Berchtold brothers have also been preserved. The Berchtold brothers were travellers and explorers from the National Revival period.

And if you're going to be in South Moravia, another castle in the area is the Bitov castle. It's a fortress over the confluence of the Dyje and Zeletava rivers. Although first records of its existence date back to the 11th century, the oldest preserved parts of the castle date from the 13th century.

In the Baroque period, the interest of the aristocracy in many of the castles decreased as they could no longer serve the defensive purposes intended and furthermore did not provide comfortable living conditions. Construction was stopped and the castle would surely have ended up as a ruin had it not been for the revival of Middle Age castle architecture and knightly ideals. It was reconstructed in Gothic style by Count Jindrich Daun in the 19th century.

In 1912, the castle was bought by Baron Haas of Haasenfels. His son transformed it into an unusual zoo, with a collection of stuffed animals.