Online Vacation Center's Sharon Miceli continues her journey through Europe's Christmas Markets with a day in Prague. Sharon...
|The Old Town Square Christmas in Prague|
In my dreams I like to imagine a squeaky clean city in the heart of Europe where 5-star hotels cost the same as modest American motels, where the past is celebrated in the present & where beer costs less than water. I woke today in Prague to find all of that and more!
The small, modern airport was a welcome introduction to the Czech Republic, a country that enjoyed fabulous wealth in the days before World War II. Today the country’s economy is still healthy and the American dollar goes a long way.
Although we did see a few women in stylish leather boots with spiked heels I would strongly recommend comfortable walking shoes with very thick soles since one of the charming features of the quarter is the cobblestone streets.
|Tasty Hams [Editor's Note: Yum!]|
In the Old Town Square, which is dominated by the famous Astronomical clock tower, we found our first cluster of Christmas market stalls. Here the enticing aroma of mulled wines, spit-roasted hams & sizzling sausages drew us in and we giggled at the potato sack costumes worn by 2 men deep-frying chips. The most unusual item was the local pastry called trdelník. It is made from bread dough that is rolled into long strings and wrapped around cast iron dowels which are placed on a device that spins them around over hot coals until golden brown. The resulting crispy treat is then rolled in sugar & crushed walnuts. Yummy!
|Trdelník [Editor's Note: Double Yum!]|
We followed the streams of visitors over the Vltava River via the Charles Bridge and purchased a ticket for the tram for less than a dollar. The orange colored cars whisked us up the steep hill to the Prague Castle in no time and in the cold wind we appreciated that we spent no time waiting for it. From what I observed the trams were numerous and appeared one right after another in rapid succession.
The Prague Castle complex is one of the largest in Europe. You can add a private guide for the cost of only $5 each to accompany you or you can use an electronic audioguide device for $20! We of course opted for the live guide but were told that because it was the weekend there were no guides. We thought it a missed opportunity for them but it is another world after all.
We wandered around the massive complex exploring the ancient nooks and crannies. Our eyes lit up at the crown jewels and we imagined what it would have been like to attend a fancy dress ball here many hundreds of years ago. As we read about the historical characters entombed all around us we heard the ethereal strains of Gregorian chants echoing off the thick stone and I swear we were transported back in time.
|The Crown Jewels|
It was a cold, cold day and as we passed the enormous Christmas tree that was dwarfed by the Cathedral of St Vitus we spotted a cozy coffee shop advertising hot chocolate with rum or amaretto. What could be better than this rich, thick potion topped with heavy whipped cream to warm our spirits on this frigid afternoon?
We descended the mountain and wandered the streets of the area they call the Mala Strana. The local restaurant we popped into allows dogs, which is not unusual in Prague. A small Pug who ignored his shiny water bowl and whose attention could not be distracted from his owner’s every move delighted us. In all we saw 4 dogs enter the restaurant and each one was better behaved than most children we see in the US.
|The Opera House glows brilliantly at night|
Prague worships all things pork and no part of the pig was left out on this menu. We sampled the local cheeses with fresh peasant bread, braised meats and several dumplings made from spelt, potatoes or bread to soak up the gravies. The red and white sauerkraut dishes were the best I have ever had. We could not understand how all the men stay so slim with such a heavy diet but it seems to work for them.
|Bright and cheery Christmas lights on a cold night|
Did you know that the Czech Republic consumes more beer per capita than any other country in the world? Their skill in this area is to be admired. The lagers, pilsners and ales are rich and potent and topped with a creamy head. They are crafted with love and truly stick to your ribs. What could be better? The price! Whereas a litre of water might be about $3.50 in a market the same amount of beer would cost about 50 cents.
|Christmas Market by night|
We will meet next with our AMAWaterways group at the 5 Star Intercontinental Hotel and they will transport us to Nuremberg, Germany to board Amalyra for our Christmas Time Cruise on the Danube River. Come along with us as we sail through the heart of Europe.
Na Zdraví (Cheers)