Fairytale Christmas in Prague

Trip Start Oct 17, 2007
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Trip End Feb 04, 2008


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Monday, December 24, 2007

And so we arrived to Christmas in Prague hoping that the fairytale awe we had heard about the city would inspire within us the Christmas spirit.  Allow me to be corny for a moment and state, in all truthfulness, that there really is no better place at Christmas than home with your family.  Scott and I agree that Christmas is our favourite holiday of the year and this was the first time we had spent it without family.  Anyway, if you must spend Christmas away from home and family, Prague is absolutely a great second option.

We spent four leisurely days, the 24th to the 28th wandering the many cobbled streets and alleys of Prague.  Our accommodation location was excellent and allowed us to reach the main sites within a 20 to 30 minute walk.  Prague at Christmas is a fairy-light laden feast for the eyes.  Towering Christmas trees stand at the bottom of Wenceslas Square and within the Old Town Square, colossal heralding angels made of Christmas lights guard the entrances to Old Town Square, markets selling chestnuts, roasts, mulled wines, pastries and souvenirs dot the cobbled plazas, and Christmas concerts abound in every music hall and church.  Yes, the city of Prague definitely knows how to warm to its citizens and welcome its visitors at this time of year.

Our fabulous plan had been to arrive in Prague in the morning of the 24th and then spend the day doing some sightseeing and generally orienting ourselves and shaping out what would be our Christmas day.  That night we would go out for dinner and maybe have the traditional Czech Christmas meal of carp (strange and overly fishy, but I was willing to have some) which they have on Christmas Eve.  We went out, did what we set out to do, returned to the hotel, we jumped in the bath before getting ready to go out for dinner and fell asleep in the tub.  Literally.  How dangerous is that!?  The jetlag and bus-lag and colds that we had got the best of us and we ended up spending Christmas Eve asleep in bed by seven freakin' thirty in the evening.  Clearly it was needed, because WHO falls asleep at that time besides a baby?

Christmas morning was excellent, we slept in (because we went to bed at 7:30 pm the night before for God's sake, it was late!), had a leisurely breakfast and then gave each other "gifts".  For example, we had a Toblerone that we'd bought in SE Asia that wasn't finished so either one of us would grab it and say "Ok!  Close your eyes, I have a gift for you!!"  Then the other would say "Wow!  You got me a gift!  Oooo!  It's a Toblerone, I'm so surprised!"  And so on.  Very amusing.  Maybe you just had to be there.  Our Christmas evening wasn't quite as amusing unfortunately.  The day before we had found a gorgeous little restaurant that was serving turkey dinner on the 25th.  We booked it in advance, stating our interest, and rocked up at our reserved time, eager and stomachs grumbling to have a regular menu plunked in front of us.  We told the wait staff we were there for the Christmas dinner, as booked, and we were told it was no longer available, pick something else from the menu.  Huh?!?!?  Seriously?  Why did we book?  What is the point?  It was all so matter of fact to them too; we just couldn't understand their insipid behaviour towards the situation.  We stood up, got our jackets and walked out.  I honestly lost my appetite, but in the end we found a place that was welcoming enough and had a regular meal.

We spent hours upon hours drifting through the streets of this Renaissance meets Gothic meets Baroque city.  We visited the arresting Prague Castle, part of which is used as government offices, other areas which are closed to the public, and also viewed its courtyards and the extraordinary St. Vitus Cathedral which unfortunately was closed when we visited (as was the recurring theme throughout the holiday season).  Anyone that's been to Prague is familiar with the Charles Bridge with its towered entrance which is meant to be a model of the universe (the medieval universe where we are the centre of all creation, that is) and with its many statues lining either side of the bridge as you cross it (mostly reproductions as the originals have been damaged or looted).  In the old town square was the astronomical clock built in 1410 and again, it's a model of the medieval era's interpretation of the universe.  It's the most beautiful clock I've ever seen, a mixture of colours, numerals and dials overlapping each other, and on the hour, a skeleton rings a bell.  It's not really as exciting as it sounds to see a skeleton ringing a bell, but unique nonetheless.  And as a bonus, it's meant to be haunted, which leads to my next story. 

We took a great guided walking tour of Prague so we could soak in some of the history and architecture of the area (which included the oh so macabre but fascinating fact that the cemetery in the Jewish Ghetto has over 100,000 bodies buried 12 people deep within a tiny square block, as their community was highly "feared" and confined within a walled area).  Our day guide was fabulous; he was a trilingual PhD, a virtual walking encyclopedia that taught at the university part time during the week.  However, included free of charge was a night ghost tour with who was to be the day tour guide's antithesis, the king and master of wishy-washiness, mumbling and coughing and bleating his way through the tour, not scaring us at ALL, and at the end stating "I hope I didn't scare you".  Ha!  Don't you worry my friend, you almost put us asleep while walking in -10 degrees plus wind chill, so goal accomplished.  Ghosts-schmosts, I don't remember any of it.  And I'm a chicken s#@t when it comes to that type of silliness.  Glad it was free for us, as there were people that paid, what a bummer.

And that was Prague over Christmas... wandering, visiting, strolling, window shopping, drinking hot beverages, taking photos... a perfect way, honestly to spend time in Prague.  Just one blip on the radar when it came to Christmas dinner, but you cannot complain when we are travelling as we are.  Oh!  There were two excellent culinary experiences to mention, one was the gut-warming, lip-smacking hot mead sold at a market at the base of Prague Castle (I may introduce it to Canada, it could become a national obsession), and two was the Country Life vegetarian restaurant which was like heaven descended to me in a continent obsessed with sausage.  The food in there was fabulous!  Don't even get me started about the giant fruit tart we shared for dessert.  Mmmmmm.

Canaussie rating:

Walking tour during the day: 5, but the guide definitely defines the experience

Country Life vegetarian restaurant: 5!

Sausages: 5, according to Scott.  It does look hearty!

Mead: 5

Ghost tour: Boo!  Not as in "Boo!  I scared you!" but as in "Boo! You suck!"

 

Prague, quite simply, lives up to the reputation given to it by other travelers and visitors.  Dazzling to the eyes and historically rich, it is an easy place in which to be any time of the year and we are so glad to have finally visited it.
 
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Comments

clairejohnson
clairejohnson on

Christmas in Prague
I was in Prague during Christmas and most of all was impressed by Christmas markets (Vanocni trh) which are a key ingredient of the Czech festive magic. Visitors come from all over to stay in Prague, find a place here http://www.prague-hotels.org.uk/ and experience and enjoy the Christmas markets in Prague (vánoční trhy). The markets usually start four Saturdays before Christmas Eve (Dec. 24) and run until the beginning of January. They are open every day of the week. The Prague Christmas markets light up the city centre at this time of year, bringing tourists and locals together to enjoy the holiday spirit, in a true 'winter wonderland' setting. Prague at Christmas is a special place, so bundle up and take a stroll. If you get cold, have some hot chocolate at a café, stop by a tea room or buy a cup of mulled wine or grog from a street vendor.

mike667788
mike667788 on

Christmas in Prague
Christmas in Prague is a magical time and December is undoubtedly one of the nicest months of the year in this beautiful city. Christmas markets are up, shop windows are bright and beautiful, Christmas trees adorn the town squares and the early dusk is filled with warm light. People are nicer to each other, the mood is festive. Last New Year we booked a room in one of the hotels in Prague using http://www.prague-hotels.org.uk/ site right in the center of the Old Town - wanting to be close to everything, to the magic beauty of Christmas.Prague at Christmas is a special place, so bundle up and take a stroll.

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