The Czech Republic has a large Roma minority who live very much on the margins of society. But estimating the size of that minority is - and the effectiveness of government measures to lift them out of social exclusion - has always been a difficult task. The week the government announced plans for an anonymous monitoring scheme to make that picture clearer. Czeslaw Walek is the head of the Government Council for Roma Affairs; my colleague Rob Cameron asked him why the government had decided on the scheme.
Ask a few Czechs where they are likely to be spending the end of the year and many will give you the same answer - at their country cottage. The tradition of country cottages stretches back over half a century and today it is hard to find a family which does not own one or have access to one through family and friends. Although sociologists predicted that the fall of communism would bring about a radical change, country cottages remain an important part in people's lives.
Are you tired of baking the same Christmas cookies year after year? Do you have a sweet tooth and think it deserves a special treat at Christmas time? Jarka Halkova asked Martin Polacko, a young and up-and-coming chef, to come to your aid. He proposed apples and pears wrapped in pastry "purses" - a Christmas dessert that's delicious and very easy to bake. Here's the recipe:
It's the end of the year and many people are taking the opportunity to look back over 2005, including demographers, who have found a surprising discrepancy in data regarding the size of the Czech population. Around 100,000 babies have been born in the Czech Republic this year. The country has accepted 28,000 immigrants, and overall the population increased by almost 26,000 people. But just how many inhabitants does the Czech Republic have?
Santa's on his way and this year he's having to make many a stop over at private clinics to pick up gift certificates for bigger breasts, longer hair or liposuction treatments. The things people want for Christmas follow western trends and while five years ago the ultimate gift was a holiday in the Caribbean, now people want a gorgeous new body to take there.
Strolling through Christmas markets around the Czech Republic, you can find various Czech traditional sweets. Gingerbread men are probably the most typical ones but more and more often one can come across what's known as Stramberske usi or "Stramberk ears" - cone-shaped gingerbread cookies with a bloodstained history.
Fried carp and potato salad is today the 'bread and butter' of any traditional Czech Christmas meal. But this was not always so. Pious Czechs once used to fast at Christmas; they then took to cooking meatless dishes, such as sweet porridge with dried fruits. Slowly, fish - and finally, carp -- became the most common fasting meal. In this week's Panorama, however, we go along to a tasting of Advent and Christmas dishes that predate - by centuries - the carp and potato salad tradition. Some recipes date back to the Middle Ages and are long forgotten;
This week in Mailbox we read from your answers to Radio Prague's November competition question and we announce the name of the winner. You will also find out the new question for December. We read from e-mails sent by Don Schumann, US; David Eldridge, UK; Arcadia Wylie, New Zealand; Andrew Dral, US; Mary Krenek, US; Mukesh Tekwani, India.
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