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Prague at Christmas on TravelSnapz

Hotel on the square

Pretty Prague,
pretty good!

Prague is such a beautiful city. We arrived here just in time to celebrate our 34th wedding anniversary under a blanket of snow, and then enjoyed a magnificent white Christmas with traditional trimmings.

Prague sits across the Vltava River, rising through the Lesser Town to the castle area and the spires of St Vitus on the Western bank, and spreading through the UNESCO protected old town on the Eastern side of the river.

The Czech people have always considered themselves part of Western Europe and most of their past influences have come from this direction (and to be frank, they had a big part in forming the early cultural life of Western Europe themselves). A stroke of the pen after WWII however placed them under a Communist regime, but independence has now enabled them to turn their eyes again to the West and an expected entry into the EEC in two years.

At this time of the year it is cold - the crisp air sears any unprotected skin while the thermometer hovers between minus 1 and minus 10c, but the winter weather has brought the snow which has just added to our enchantment with the Czech capital.

Our pension is a few kilometres out of the city but public transport is excellent and cheap so access to all the sights has been easy.

Soup IN breadWe had our Christmas dinner on Christmas Eve at a local restaurant. Fish soup (carp) was tasty, and then a main dish of fish (carp again) and I couldn't help thinking of the traditional Australian recipe for carp (boil it with an old boot - and then eat the boot rather than the carp).

But let me reassure you that the food here is varied, tasty and cheap and a New Year's resolution should wean Jen off the mulled wine (which she is currently enjoying for medicinal purposes only).

An unusual highlight in the menu was bhramboracka podávaná ve chlebe (potato soup served in bread - yes, it was served IN bread and Richard did eat the bowl and all).

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On Christmas Day we took the underground metro into St Christopher's church in the old town square for a beautifully sung Eucharist backed by a lovely organ, choir and some excellent soloists; and later that night we went to a black theatre presentation.

A couple of days prior we had attended a classical concert at the Rudolfinum (of concert hall rather than reindeer variety) which was encored with traditional Czech Christmas carols with the baritone showing his versatility by accompanying the pianist, violinist and soprano on flute.

There is a huge variety of concert and theatre options all vying for a part of the entertainment allowance. We have also enjoyed the National Marionette Theatre's production of Mozart's Don Giovanni, which will long remain in our memory. We pulled a few strings and got a look back stage at the marionette theatre, a purpose designed theatre that was built in 1925 and now houses two marionette companies, one (Riše Loutek) that was originally formed in 1920. I have scored a copy of Riše Loutek's almanac published in 1995 to celebrate their 75th anniversary - it is written in Czech but also contains beautiful photographs of some of their past productions.

The rest of our time here has been spent browsing the streets and seeing some of the sights, although to be honest we have only scratched the surface of what is to be seen in the Czech Republic.

Prague is certainly a beautiful city, now under UNESCO protection as a significant area that deserves special consideration. It is a city with style and class, from the cobble stoned streets of the old city, over the statue festooned Charles Bridge, past the "peace wall", to the rising spires of St Vitus Cathedral atop the climb to the castle area on the opposite river bank.

It is almost a "toy town" and perhaps it is one place where the tourist horse and cart does not look out of character. Christmas has brought extra lights and decoration, and the trees have shed their leaves and taken on a mantle of snow.

Photographs probably won't do this place justice, just as words will also be inadequate as a brush to paint you a picture of what we have seen. Places and things we have enjoyed include the unique stained glass images in St Vitus, the streetscapes in the old and lesser town areas, the quiet solitude of the Vysehrad area, the Rapunzel like towers, the un-regimented order of the queues, and the general friendliness of the people we have met. It's a great place to visit.

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