I went to Prague last December and again this past July. Unfortunately, my second visit was rather disappointing as the city did not hold the same allure. Don’t get me wrong, the beautiful architecture still amazed me and I felt comfortable walking about the what now seemed to be “familiar” streets. I especially remembered why my love for the city was so great … it was here on a night walk that I decided I’d chase my dreams and move to Europe.
What was different on this second visit? In the summer, parts of the city actually seemed ugly. I suddenly noticed the abundance of American chain retail stores and restaurants like TGI Fridays and even Hooters! I glanced at walls adorned with pointless graffiti, nothing like what I’d seen in Cologne or Szczecin. Worst of all? The city was noisy and jam packed with tourists, many of them drunken college aged back packers.
I didn’t realize how spoiled I’d been to have experienced Prague at Christmas. It’d been quiet, charming and quaint. There were far less tourists. It snowed the entire 2 days I was there, big fat flakes that made my experience extraordinary. Carols played as I strolled the markets, sipping mulled wine, trying local food and laughing at treasures (aka junk) being sold. Even on little side streets, you’d find nativity scenes and decorated Christmas trees.
I was amazed at how beautiful and festive it all was, so unlike the commercial fare of Toronto and North America in general. No one was asking me to donate money every 5 minutes, nativity scenes were on display and not forbidden on the premise of political correctness and people weren’t tearing at one another to snap up some last minute sale item. In fact, families came to the market together and took their time to revel in the experience.
Christmas is really Christmas here … not just a “holiday“. Of course in North America, you don’t dare breath the word Christmas for fear of offending someone. Christmas is especially celebrated by those who lived in Prague during the Soviet occupation when the city was bland and almost joyless during the holiday season when celebrations were limited and conducted in private.
So, yeah it can be said that I enjoyed my first Christmas market experience immensely. I sampled mulled wine for the first time and thought it was disgusting but this changed as the week went on. I got to the point where I was inhaling several cups a day! I tried some weird looking candy that was way to sugary and picked up some cute souvenirs for friends back home.
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