The tourist season here in Prague is at its peak at the moment. To reflect the mix of visitors to the Czech capital, Radio Prague is running a mini-series of interviews with our 'tourists of the day'. All this week, you can hear what foreign visitors make of the capital, its good and its bad points. In the first installment, I visited Wenceslas Square to talk to some new-arrivals:
Vitkov Hill, with its famous memorial and nine-metre tall equestrian statue of Hussite general Jan Zizka, is one of Prague's most instantly recognisable sites, an enormous mass of marble and granite overlooking the city. But it is also one of Prague's more enigmatic destinations, a memorial to statehood imbibed with unexpected layers of meaning following a number of dark twists in Czech history, the most damning being the Nazi occupation in 1939 and later, 1948's communist putsch.
This week in Mailbox: the village of Lidice in Central Bohemia, where is the Red River Valley mentioned in a song featured in SoundCzech, a restoration project discussed in Insight Central Europe, and what colour is the red squirrel? Listeners quoted: Elizabeth Funnekotter, Charles Chambers, Dick Derksen, Aloisie Krasny, Paul Kail.
There have been gloomy reports recently about the inability of the Czech tourism industry to attract visitors to Prague and elsewhere in the country for a second, third or any further visit. Despite this, and despite the fact that, as CNN's travel expert Richard Quest once put it, "getting a smile in Prague is a day's work", the city is busy with tourists all the same and the major sights of the city, like Charles Bridge and Mala Strana, are best to visit at four in the morning, in February.
In April the statue of Jan Hus dominating the Old Town Square was surrounded by scaffolding and covered up in large canvas to undergo vast renovation, which will take at least two years. In the meantime, tourists visiting the site will only see a huge advertisement in its place. This week the media reported that the scaffolding was causing damage to the statue: rust from the wire mesh, which holds the ad in place, has been dripping down, leaving orange stains on the stone.
In early 2006 the Prague Public Transit Company (Dopravni Podnik) added 12 slinky new trams designed by Porsche to its fleet. Though Czech stalwart Skoda still made the trams in its Pilsen factory, this was the first time it had handed over the design to somebody else. As such, there was a great deal of anticipation. But since their introduction the trams have created a mixed reaction here in Prague, and now the Public Transit Company is to make changes to the 12 existing trams. Jan Svoboda is a spokesperson for the Public Transit Company, he explains
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.
The Prague city hall wants to limit some alternative tourist vehicles in the centre of Prague. According to Czech TV, the city hall considers the situation of tourist transport in Prague's historic centre to be "chaotic" and is planning to introduce regulation measures as well as specific routes for these vehicles. Visitors to Prague may now choose between horse-drawn carriages, vintage cars and even rickshaws to take them on sightseeing tours around the city.
Prague 1 has long been one of the city's most prestigious addresses. Stretching from Prague Castle down to the Old Town Square, the district contains some of the city's most impressive sites... but also the most souvenir shops and tourist clamour. As Prague 1 adapts more and more to attract tourist dollars, long-term residents are upping sticks at an alarming rate. Now, a Prague councilor has drawn up a plan to stop this exodus. He suggests that the council should approve all new shops opening up in Prague 1 and ask - do they meet the requirements
Visitors often admire Prague's integrated public transport system. But it doesn't just include trams, buses and the metro - your 20-crown ticket is also good for a number of ferries in the Czech capital. Tuesday saw the launch of a brand new ferry service across the Vltava. Radio Prague's Rosie Johnston was there for the good ship Josefina's first crossing, and has the story:
Over 1,000 skeletons discovered during renovation of Kutná Hora “bone church”
Language exams for foreigners seeking permanent residency permit to become tougher
Why are Russian and Chinese spying activities in Czech Republic so intense and how exactly do they do it?
Prague’s historical Koh-i-noor factory to be converted into residential area
The history of the “German Czechs”