Prague From Stalin’s Viewpoint

You may have come across a beautiful postcard or an amazing Photoshopped picture of Prague that made you wonder where the heck the picture could have been taken?! You comfort yourself with the idea that the photographer must have suffered a lot and surely walked miles before getting to this distant secret place, or even worse, must have gone on some kind of dreary walking tour of Prague! 

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photo credits: http://poprve.blogspot.cz

However, things that seem distant and unreachable are often closer and more accessible than we think. In fact, one of the most beautiful and popular parks in Prague – Letná – is only a short ride from the city centre! You can take tram no. 15 from “Náměstí republiky” (the square with two shopping centres, the Municipal House and the Powder Tower) or tram no. 17 from “Právnická fakulta” (Faculty of Law at the riverbank at the end of the famous “Pařížská ulice” (Paris Street) full of luxury boutiques). Either way, you will get to the stop “Čechův most” in no time and then you just have to climb up the stairs.

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Still having trouble finding this place? Don’t worry, the people of Prague have gone to great lengths to make it clearly visible from far away… Just look for a huge ticking triangular thing right next to the Vltava River. By now, some of you might be asking yourselves who in their right mind would build a giant metronome in the middle of a city? To satisfy your curiosity, we must look back at a chapter of Czech history, which is not a particularly happy one to recall for most Czechs.

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In 1948, the Soviet Union decided that the freedom celebration party in Czechoslovakia after the Second World War had been going on for far too long, so we became a communist country. As peoples’ hearts were being injected with communist ideals, the park in Letná suddenly started feeling too empty. The Czechs were forced to show their gratitude to their Soviet liberators (just like we are grateful to our boss for letting us work overtime, thus liberating us from the chains of laziness…) and the empty Letná Park was the perfect place. As a result, since 1955 no tourists (if there were any), however bad their sense of direction was and even without a tourist map of Prague, could have possibly missed this place. There was a huge statue of Stalin, enjoying a beautiful view of Prague from the top of the Letná Park (while everyone else worked in factories). It was the biggest statue in the whole of Europe at the time (no wonder the architects committed suicide before it was officially revealed, probably due to exhaustion). What is interesting (and a bit upsetting for some) is that some of the stone used for the statue was taken from sites playing a significant role in the history of our nation (e.g. the Old Town Hall, our national hill Říp or from village Ležáky, annihilated by the Nazis along with Lidice).

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Fortunately (for us), Stalin’s supporters didn’t enjoy this magnificent statue for long (those who miss it can buy Chinese Pu-erh tea with a picture of Stalin and Mao Zedong in one of the many Prague tea shops).  When Khrushchev took power, he openly criticized Stalin’s cult of personality and the statue was taken down (narcissism never gets fully appreciated…). After the fall of communism in 1989, when the hearts of people were being filled with money for a change, the Letná Park seemed a bit empty again.  The Metronome Monument was built at exactly the same spot where Stalin’s statue used to stand. The rationale was to remind us that times can change and to warn us against repeating the mistakes of the past (anyway, there is no need for that today, since dry river beds, infertile soil and climate change can do the job very well on their own).

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So come and enjoy the view Stalin once had and see our beautiful city of Prague from a different angle. Since there are several playgrounds in the park, it is one of the things to do in Prague with kids. And don’t forget to learn from your past mistakes (especially don’t make the mistake of not having an awesome once-in-a-lifetime Prague holiday)!

Today’s topic is breakfast, so dig in!

Welcome to another of our Prague excursions, this time we will focus on the most important meal of the day, and that is, my friends, breakfast. 

Now, what do Czechs typically eat for breakfast? It is a tricky question because despite being a native Czech, I cannot recall one particular meal for breakfast. Many people like salty meals in the morning, like bread with cheese and ham or eggs prepared in various ways. Others prefer pancakes, cereal or marble cake.

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Then we have all these special breakfast recipes for curing hangover. In this case, you might want to head to one of my favourite places – Café Louvre. Their menu includes meals such as morning goulash or beef broth. And yes, they do work! I am sure that a lot you will be looking for a quick fix after a long night in Prague, so try it yourself and then let us if it worked for you.

Apart from these delicious and effective hangover remedies, I also wanted to mention the typical Czech pancakes called “lívance”. But be careful, these melt-in-your-mouth fluffy waffle-like cakes with raspberry sauce are highly addictive! Just a heads up for those of you who do not fancy sweet things, they can also be prepared salty with smoked salmon and cream cheese and served with champagne!

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Another place that I must recommend is the restaurant Eska in Karlín serving fresh home-made bread every day.  Don’t expect anything fancy, you will get bread with a spread or a selection of home-made marmalades. No complex dishes, just enjoy the atmosphere. If you are looking for a different type of culinary experience, I recommend coming to Eska for dinner or lunch but that’s topic for another article. You will also discover an interesting new neighbourhood you wouldn’t otherwise see if it weren’t for this restaurant.

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Finally, a brunch tip. Do you want to celebrate something?  Are you in Prague with your family? Do you like the riverbank? Do you like ports? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then the place for you to be is Port62. In winter, the restaurant and café serves delicious brunches on Sunday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., which are different every week. The very friendly price 590CZK/person includes soft drinks and a glass of wine or beer. I have tested this brunch several times and I was always very satisfied. Make sure you get a table right next to the window, so that you can enjoy the calming view of the river with swans sometimes coming by to say hello. This is exactly how I imagine the ultimate Sunday relax should look like.

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For Mucha Lovers From Prague With Love

The end of 2016 meant not only the end of the year but also the end of one whole chapter – the exhibition of the Slavic Epic by Alphonse Mucha in the Prague National Gallery, which was launched in 2012. Large size paintings are making their journey to the far away Japan right now. They will be available for visitors in Tokio between March and June 2017. During the whole time of the exhibition in Prague, a total of 380 000 people paid a visit to the Slavic Epic. 

For people like me, who like to boast about any world-known artist with a feeling, as if the genius belonged to our own child, the temporary removal of Slavic Epic exhibition is a highly tragic event. However it is important to keep in mind, that for Mucha lovers, Prague has still plenty to offer!

If you want to admire Mucha’s works, there are several places which are a must visit in Prague for you!

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While being immersed in deep prayers in the St. Vitus Cathedral of the Prague Castle, one of the major Prague tourist attractions, your spiritual experience (somewhat obscured by a huge portion of duck with dumplings and sauerkraut accompanied by Pilsner bier which you consumed just now in one of the many local pubs) can be deepened by the very look at the glass window designed by Alphonse Mucha between the years 1928-1930, depicting the dawn of Christianity in Czech lands. The window became one of the most popular artifacts in the Cathedral. But don´t let your spiritual experience to get spoiled by the potential tour guides in your surroundings having a Prague castle tour, telling people something about murders- that is probably only our first baptized duchess Ludmila killing her daughter Drahomíra, or maybe Ludmila’s grandson king Václav being killed by his younger brother. We all have our little faults!

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Stained-glass Window by Mucha at St. Vitus Cathedral, Prague

For those of you who would rather prefer traveling to the past instead of prayers, there is Alphonse Mucha museum in the city centre. You can even book a guided tour there (at least a week ahead). You can find there most importantly the exhibition of Mucha’s works from his Paris period. This period was the one, when Alfonse Mucha became famous artist for the first time. It was for his posters painted for a theater star Sarah Bernhardt. While admiring the works of “the king of art nouveau” there is one important detail to keep in mind. Mucha wasn´t one of those who would create their art works under the motivation in form of golden coins in their pockets and would blindly follow the customs or trends of that time.  High art was available only for the richest people and therefore the highest esthetic experience of an average citizen at that time was probably the entrance sign of the factory gate, where he or she worked. Commercial posters were conventionally without any taste and kitschy (from my own experience I must admit, that for attention drawing it really works well). Mucha however, as one of the first people created posters as artistic works and the time he spent with creating them was also no different from a real painting. In this way he gave the opportunity for common people to enjoy art on the street, the kind of art for which you had to spend astronomical sums of money in that time. Some people might call this casting pearls before swine, but I am on the opposite delighted that thanks to people like Mucha, I can visit my favourite exhibition in the 21. century, because even the world leading authorities have realized, that even though a human being is only a mere workforce for them, catalyzing economic growth, in order to boost their productivity and ensure their compliance, it is necessary to fulfill their psychological needs, which were scientifically proven to exist.

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Back to Mucha though. Another aspect of this extraordinary artist was his nationalism. The proof for his love of motherland is not only the Slavic Epic (he created it for 24 years), but also the decoration of the Mayor room in the Municipal house. The Municipal house was built in the year 1912. It was one of the most important buildings for the Czech nationalist movement. For the decoration of the Mayor room Mucha didn´t accept any monetary reward, as a sign of solidarity with Czech artists. In that time in most of the public places in Czech the only language was German as we were part of Austrian-Hungarian Empire. The Czech language started to fade. The Municipal house was therefore intended as a gathering place for Czech artists and all performances were conducted only in Czech language. The Municipal house played also an important role in our independence. In the year 1918 the independent Czechosklovakia was announced by our first president Tomáš Garrique Masaryk from the balcony of the Municipal house and with that event, Czech became an independent state after almost 400 years.

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The Slav Epic by Alfons Mucha

It was no coincidence that it was the Municipal house where our independent state was announced. In the place of the house used to stand the Royal palace, where the last king of Czech origin- Jiří z Poděbrad use to rule in the 15th century, not long before Czech lands became part of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire. In the Municipal house decorated wholly in art nouveau style, you can enjoy the magic atmosphere of local restaurant or visit the most prominent classical music concerts in the Smetana hall of the first floor.

Smetana Hall, at the Municipal House, Prague
Smetana Hall, at the Municipal House, Prague

However even the missing Slavic Epic doesn´t leave the womb of Prague for too long. Already now the city authorities are searching for a place to exhibit Slavic Epic after its return form world tour. After all Mucha also returned to Prague in the end after his stay in France and America. It is in the human nature to thrive for exploring new worlds and broadening horizons during long journeys to tropical lands with the feeling of courageous missionary gaining spiritual knowledge. However it is only after I return home and see hundreds of cute towers under the curtain of tender mist that I realize that no matter what adventure I experience, no matter what place I go, there will always be plenty of fun things to do in Prague!

New Year’s Eve Prague Guide

Prague is a popular tourist destination to celebrate the New Year’s Eve. Prague in December is animated by colourful lights and decorations, while bars and restaurants are filled with people. Prague is well known for its lively nightlife throughout the whole year and all the more so on the New Year’s Eve!

If you are a gourmet looking for something special on this day, we recommend welcoming the New Year from the Žižkov Tower. The TV transmitter constructed between 1985 and 1992 is the highest building in Prague. Today, it serves as a luxury restaurant, café, bar and a one-room hotel. At 93 metres above the ground, you may enjoy wine degustation, molecular drinks mix, a delicious buffet and music programme. At midnight, you will watch the fireworks cover the whole city from the restaurant windows. Price: 149 EUR/person.

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If you’d rather spend the New Year’s Eve in the heart of a pulsating city but still be surrounded by greenery, visit Prague and the Žofín Garden Restaurant. Located on the Slovanský Island in the middle of the Vltava River, its programme for the last evening of 2016 takes place in the neo-renaissance Žofín Palace surrounded by a park, an oasis of peace and calm in the middle of the city. The New Year’s Eve’s theme this year is CASINO, so a mobile casino will be opened the whole night. With the services of a professional croupier, the night promises a lot of fun without the risk of losing any money. You may also look forward to a music programme, carefully selected buffet menus, a welcome drink and a midnight toast. Price: 149 EUR/person.

photo: http://www.slovansky-ostrov.cz
photo: http://www.slovansky-ostrov.cz

Would you like to spend the New Year’s Eve in the city but instead of restaurants, bars and clubs, you are looking for a less conventional public space to fully take in the magic of the metropolis with your closest friends and family? Then we’ve got another tip for you!

The functionalistic National Memorial on the Vítkov Hill covered by a large park in the very centre of the city offers a unique view on the whole of Prague with all the major monuments. The memorial was built in 1929-1933 and the bronze equestrian statue of Jan Žižka on the top of the Vítkov Hill is the third largest bronze equestrian statue in the world. You will hardly find a better view on the New Year’s Eve’s sky in Prague than this one.

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You may also celebrate the New Year from onboard a ship on the Vltava River. During the cruise, you will see all the Prague monuments beautifully lit at night and listen to a live jazz band. The voyage is a perfect opportunity to see the city from a different perspective. Price: 20-130 EUR (buffet and music included).

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Whatever your choice of party on your holiday in Prague, be it cheap or expensive, intimate or wild, the Czech capital is the place to be at the very start of 2017.

La Putyka, an Unforgettable Show

Tourists ask me all the time what to do in Prague but when it comes to shows and entertainment for English-speaking tourists in Prague, they face one particular challenge. The language barrier. Despite all these wonderful shows in Prague theatres, the language barrier makes it impossible for tourists to enjoy them properly. As an experienced tourist guide from Prague, I always want to recommend something special, something I would enjoy myself. Recently, I saw an excellent show to visit in Prague, for both the locals and non-Czech speakers. Primarily visual with very little or no spoken word, it is the ideal entertainment for tourists coming to Prague!

Foto: HN - Lukáš Bíba
Foto: HN – Lukáš Bíba

The show La Family is performed by a group called Circus La Putyka. But don’t expect anything like a circus in the traditional sense. Instead, remember Ernest Hemingway, who once said you could write a novel with only six words: “For sale: Baby shoes, never worn.” Hemingway wanted his readers to use their own imagination and that is exactly the basic concept of the La Family show. The performance is surreal, almost Dadaistic and there is no real storyline to follow. So, it is entirely up to you to interpret it.

Foto: HN - Lukáš Bíba
Foto: HN – Lukáš Bíba

The show is full of great visual effects and acrobatics. My favourite part was when one of the artists stepped on the trampoline and started doing moves in slow motion. I was also stunned by the number of artists on stage at the same time. I counted nearly 20. The show is diverse in terms of languages, too. I’ve heard Czech, English, Italian and French. And this is exactly my main point: you have no reason to worry about whether you’ll understand the actors. Me personally, I speak only two of these languages.

Foto: HN - Lukáš Bíba
Foto: HN – Lukáš Bíba

If you are into hip stuff, you’re going to love the space where the show is performed. Its Czech name “Jatka 78” stands for a “slaughterhouse” as the the whole area used to be one. Before I tell you a little bit about the history of this amazing place, let me first describe the atmosphere. The walls are not perfectly white, implying this space used to have a completely different purpose. The former slaughterhouse was closed after 100 years of operation and in 1983, it was turned into the Holešovice Market. Today it is known as Little Hanoi. There are countless stalls, restaurants and shops at the market run mainly by the Vietnamese, the largest minority of immigrants in the Czech Republic. If you decide to see a show in Jatka 78, I suggest stopping for a meal in the excellent Vietnamese restaurant Phang Trang, which serves really amazing Vietnamese food. There is a good possibility that this visit might turn into one of the highlights of your entire stay in Prague.

Touch enlightened official and get your wish come true before Christmas!

There are countless mysterious, romantic and culturally enlightening places in Prague an adventurous tourist would probably be eager to know about. Yet as we all know the darkest place is under the candle, and inspired by this knowledge I will lead your steps along hundreds of other visitors to the good old Charles Bridge.

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The Charles Bridge is the oldest bridge in town (the foundation stone being laid in 1357) and another proof that Czech people just can´t stop thinking about carnal pleasures even during bridge building. As a result of this it is said that the bridge contains also eggs and milk. The naive expectation of having a peaceful walk on the Charles Bridge, enjoying fully the historical atmosphere of a small Eastern European town someone might perhaps hold, will be probably not fulfilled only unless ceaseless crowds are on your ideal romantic experience list. However for those introverted you, who got cold feet just now, please don´t get too dispirited by my heartless remarks.  The magical atmosphere of this place, which feels new and different even during 500th visit, totally overshadows the fear that the almost 700 years old bridge might collapse every second under the attack of eager tourists. But it is exactly the beauty of the place which makes most of the tourists indulge in mindless awe, leaving them often unaware of the most interesting spot of the whole bridge – the tiny statue of John of Nepomuk hiding between a golden grid in the middle of the bridge wall.

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This is the time when I get superstitious and having thousands of wishes in my head in the time of Christmas, when we should think of our neighbours, I pick up the most useless and selfish one, approach the statue and try to suppress the knowledge of the true identity of the depicted saint into my deepest levels of subconsciousness.  Yet I am prepared to make a journey into my subconscious again in order to shed light on this little tragic comedy story.

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According to the legend, five stars emerged on the surface of Vltava River (the one flowing under your feet while standing on the bridge) in the 17th century. (Hint: it was right after the end of 30 years war, when 85% of people in Czech lands were Protestants and all of them had to either emigrate or convert to Catholicism… what an interesting coincidence!). People saw the emergence as a sign from heaven and dived into the water. To their astonishment, they found the skull and bones of the 14th century priest John of Nepomuk right there! And what more, his tongue was still preserved! (Well it is actually quite difficult for modern capitalist creatures to imagine such an excitement over few bones with no apparent business utility, but just you wait!). John Nepomuk was said to have served as the personal priest of the kings Wenceslaus IV wife Žofie. He enjoyed her full trust and thus she told him all her personal secrets. Unfortunately the king became afraid, that he might have “parohy” (horns, in Czech language having horns means to be cheated on by wife, I am sure she wasn´t the only one for him either though). He wanted John to reveal everything she entrusted to him during confessions. John however being a decent priest refused to break the seal of confession even during torture and was eventually executed by throwing into the Vltava River.  And because this miracle he was canonized and proclaimed a saint. According to the legend when you touch the five stars around his head with your right hand and five stars of the cross below with your left hand, John of Nepomuk being able to return to Prague again after his death (even if in the form of bones) can help you to return to Prague again also. Or just fulfill some of your wishes.

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While being a bit reluctant of destroying the mystical curtain of John of Nepomuk’s holiness and revealing his true identity, I realized that in today’s world we don´t fall victim to the presumption, that a hero or icon must necessary be moral, or even can be moral, since we are all just human beings, having our cute little flaws.

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John of Nepomuk while indeed having lived in the 14th century and served the king Wenceslaus IV, he wasn´t a mere priest but the vicar general of the Prague archbishop. It was because of the fact, that John threatened the power of the king with his intrigues and rising power that the king decided to get rid of him and his bones ended in the depths of Vltava River. After the end of the 30 years war however, there was an urgent need for some catholic saints in Czech lands (how sad) and his newly by chance discovered bones were a great opportunity to trick the people.

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So please, when you make your trip to Prague and see the beautiful scenery of this city from the Charles Bridge for the first time in your life (envy you), spend a thought about Czech history and appreciate the creativity and narrative genius of our ancestors. Touch the statue of John of Nepomuk and make a wish (and at the same time please avoid the unpleasant feeling that the society actually didn’t change that much over the centuries).  I am sure that a vicar general who has made it to a saint is surely powerful enough to make it come true!

Hello Steak, Nice to MEAT You!

My fellow gourmands, this time, I must apologize to all the vegetarians among you, but you might want to avert your eyes. I previously talked about finding food for a fair price and will do so again today; you‘ll just need to dig a little deeper in your pockets. So let’s talk steak. 

I don’t think that it needs mentioning that the best is to look for places where you can choose your cut, where they follow your wishes and make you feel divine. One of those places is Naše Maso (“our meat”) which is a small butcher‘s shop where you can find EVERYTHING, and if they do not have what you are looking for at that moment, they will do their best accommodate you and order it. I cannot recall any better customer service at a butcher‘s shop than here.

image credits / www.michaelatomiskova.com

For a fee you can have your cut of meat prepared right there and you can likewise enjoy a burger or pastrami from their daily menu. The only disadvantage is that they do not have many places for seating and the place always seems to be at peak capacity. Yet they have a solution for that too. Every evening, after they close the shop, they have something called “večeře u řezníka” (dinner at the butcher‘s), where for 1000 CZK (excluding drinks) you can sample some of their best dishes. There are only 6 seats at the table available and I recommend reserving with a bunch of your closest friends for maximum enjoyment.

image credits / www.tasteofprague.com
image credits / www.tasteofprague.com

Furthermore, when speaking of Naše maso, we should note it is a member of the Ambiente group, which has a diverse repertoire of restaurants, all of which have the same amazing standard in meat. For steaks I recommend the specialized Čestr (abbreviation for Czech mottled cattle) or Brasilero which offers Churrasco rodízio, both of which are members of this group.

image credits / http://cestr.ambi.cz
image credits / http://cestr.ambi.cz

Moving on to their biggest rival and, in my opinion, the second best choice is The Real Meat Society. The meat here is more accessible with slightly friendlier prices. They also have their own signature butcher‘s shop with a “restaurant” called Maso a Kobliha (“Meat and doughnut”), however, with stronger stress on the doughnut! Don’t get me wrong, their meat is beyond delicious, but their lamb is preferable to their good old beef steak.

image credits / www.masoakobliha.cz
image credits / www.masoakobliha.cz

Last but not least, we have George Prime Steak. Personally, this is a one time experience unless you you have a soft spot for snobbery and the expensive atmosphere. They claim to give you the best dry-aged steak in Prague, but it‘s up to you if you to believe them. Their prices are definitely worth the glory served on your plate, and if you are celebrating a life milestone, this is the place to go. However, that does not necessarily mean comparable steaks cannot be achieved at home.

image credits / http://georgeprimesteak.com
image credits / http://georgeprimesteak.com

Though you can have a steak in almost any restaurant in Prague, if you are a true bon vivant, you’ll appreciate a little hint where to find something refreshingly different to the usual beef on your plate.

Christmas tree light up in Prague will be special again!

There is one event, which all citizens of Prague truly love. Not even they get out of their warm and comfortable homes, but they will take their whole families just to see it. I’m talking about a traditional light up of a Christmas tree at Old Town Square in Prague.

The tree is going to be first lit up on 26th November at 17:30 and is going to be 31 meters tall and its age is estimated at around 70 years. If you can’t make it on time, don’t worry, because this is not the only time the Christmas tree is going to be lit up this year.

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In the past few years, the city of Prague, has been concerned about terrorist attracts and it changed its concept about lighting up the tree, which makes it even better for tourist who want to see it. Two years ago, there was one big event when the Christmas tree was lit up at a certain hour on a certain day. In the new concept the tree is going to be lit up every hour between 17:30 and 20:30 until 6th January. As a citizen of Prague, I do not really understand why the authorities are so concerned about terrorist attacks, but new era requires better precautions, so we all are going to be safe and sound.

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As a spectator, you might get cold while watching the Christmas tree being lit up. I’m mentioning this, because the tree is literally surrounded by traditional Czech Christmas market and you could help yourself with some warm mulled wine, tea or punch. My personal favourite is warmed almond mead. But the alcohol is not all what Christmas market offers. You could buy yourself a nicely decorated gingerbread or a handmade Christmas tree decorations and baubles.

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It is important that Christmas market have got something for everybody, including the music fans. Every year, there is a stage by the Christmas tree where children choirs and various musicians perform Czech Christmas carols. You might hear carols like Good King Wenceslas. Even though this is English Christmas carol, the story is linked to Czech saint Wenceslas I. from 9th century.

Vanocni trhy 2006 - If someone read this, write me e-mail

There is another tradition you might love to see as well. Celebration of Saint Nicolaus day. This happens on 5th of December. People will get dressed up as devils, angels and Saint Nicolauses and on the evening they will head into the city centre of Prague as a triplet. The idea behind is to scare little kids. If the kid was not behaving well all year long and it was annoying its parents, then they might pass it to the devil, who puts them into massive sack and take it to the hell with him. There is also possibility that kid was good and in that case, the kid will receive some sweets from angel and Saint Nicolaus. I do remember being so scared as a kid as I never was good all year long.

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I hope you are going to embrace idea of Chrismassy Prague and you’ll add it onto your travel list. In case you would like to learn more about Prague, book a tour with Think Prague and we’ll make sure you have the best possible experience.

5 Home style cooking places in Prague you need to go right now

We all know those expensive restaurants all around the world that offer something “special”. Consider, for instance, molecular cuisine: no one is exactly sure what you are eating and you end up with a slice of bread with a tiny bit of infused butter that will mesmerize your taste buds but you will also have to dig deep into your pocket. So are there places where you can eat well, not spend a fortune and still truly enjoy that little something on your plate? The answer is YES! Fortunately, trends in modern cuisine are changing and places offering “home style cooking” are on the rise.

Let’s start with the basics: soups

With the onset of low temperatures and rainy days, sometimes associated with depression resulting from short days with little sunlight, many of us start craving soups. Well, at least in my case. The soup restaurant Polévkárna paní Mančo is one of the places to visit if you’re a soup lover. Their daily menu includes thick soups as well as broths to warm you up and keep you well hydrated. Each soup is special and cooked with love, which is something I found very refreshing.

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photo: www.polevkarnamanco.cz

Bistros Home Kitchen also offer very good soups. There are four of them in Prague and they change their soup menu every week. You can either order a small soup as a starter before the main course or a big one, which will do as a whole lunch. From time to time, they also offer the typical Czech meal called “Buchtičky se šodó” (small cakes with custard), which I highly recommend.

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photo: www.homekitchen.cz

Moving on to restaurants…

The beautiful restaurant Osteria da Clara, though a bit further from the city centre, is definitely worth the short tram ride. There are very few places that offer authentic Italian cuisine. Don’t get discouraged by their website because none of us is perfect and I value that they know what they’re doing in the kitchen rather than their IT skills. In my experience, they have fresh fish on to menu at least three times a week and you can also treat yourself to great spaghetti, delicious soups or the finest panna cotta. Unsurprisingly, they also serve great wine and coffee.

photo: www.daclara.com
photo: www.daclara.com

…And finishing off by desserts and coffee

My favourite cafe in Prague is the newly opened Kavárna co hledá jméno (“café looking for a name”). Located in a reconstructed factory building, the place has a unique atmosphere. I wouldn’t really recommend going there to work unless you’re a Mac owner as it seems to be some kind of a secret code to fit in. Be that as it may, their coffee is absolutely fantastic and they offer a different kind every week.

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photo: www.nasekavarny.cz

You may also enrich your experience by homemade desserts. I personally recommend trying their carrot cake. It’s pure heaven. And speaking of “pure things”, you might also want to visit Puro Gelato, ice cream parlour specialized in gelato. There are two parlours in Prague: in Výtoň and in Kaprova Street in the very centre of the city. Apart from awesome gelatos, they also offer mind-blowing waffles, genuine Italian espresso and other tasty desserts.

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photo: www.veronikad.com

I hope I have inspired you to try out home style cooking in Prague and I am looking forward to sharing our experience.

Festival of Freedom: an insight into Czech national identity

If you happen to be in the historical centre of the city of Prague on 17 November, you will probably come across all kinds of art performances, crowds of celebrating people, omnipresent street vendors offering refreshments and many different cultural events. And no, this is not one of these festivals you are used to seeing in large European cities. 17 November is an important day for the Czech Republic and this year, it will be commemorated by various celebrations within the Festival of Freedom.

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Before describing the festival itself, let us go back into the complicated past of our country that made this date a national holiday and an inseparable part of Czech national identity. 

First, let us go back to 17 November 1989 in the communist Czechoslovakia.  The fall of the Soviet Union seemed inevitable and from 1988 to 1989, several anti-regime demonstrations, which would have been unthinkable just a few years earlier, took place in Czechoslovakia. The date 17 November had already been an important date in Czech history. It commemorated the tragic events of 1939, when the Nazis executed nine Czech students who took part in anti-Nazi demonstrations. In 1941, the date was designated as the International Students’ Day, becoming the only date of international importance with Czech roots.

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On 17 November 1989, in the tense atmosphere created by the ruling communist regime, the independent student organization STUHA held a commemoration service on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the closing down of Czech universities by the Nazis. However, the more radical students wanted to express their opposition to the communist rule on the occasion. The whole service was supposed to take place in the Prague quarter Albertov and its organizers got official permission only under the condition that the commemoration march would not head into the city centre. From the very beginning, people chanted anti-communist slogans and after the official programme ended, a part of the march decided to continue to the centre of Prague. About 10,000 protesters were surrounded by two police cordons on Národní třída and viciously beaten. The next day, news of the brutal police crackdown quickly spread all over the country.

photo: svobodnymonitor.cz

The events of 17 November were key in terms of mobilising the Czech people and finally resulted in the transition to a democratic political system. In the following days, a general strike was declared and mass demonstrations took place all over the country. Everything climaxed on 29 December 1989, when Václav Havel was elected President of Czechoslovakia at Prague Castle, becoming the first non-communist head of state after 41 years.

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This year, the streets of Prague will host the 2016 Festival of Freedom on this important day. The programme, which includes concerts, discussions, marches and other activities, was put together by several civil society groups. Important Czech personalities will also participate in the festival taking place on sites that witnessed the events of November 1989, such as Národní třída, Albertov, Wenceslas Square or the Charles Bridges. 

www.festivalsvobody.cz
photo: www.festivalsvobody.cz

As the name suggests, the Festival of Freedom is a celebration of freedom as one of the basic values of our national identity. Sadly, we have seen our current president repeatedly trampling on fundamental freedoms in the last couple of days. This is also one of the reasons why I believe it is important to value freedom and celebrate it with dignity. So, if you happen to be walking through Prague on 17 November, do not hesitate to light a candle with us on Národní třída and commemorate our struggle for freedom. It is definitely not a celebration exclusively for Czech nationals but for all people from around the world, who consider freedom to be the cornerstone of civil society.