By Elizabeth Kachavos, Georgetown University
Although I’ve been in Prague for almost three weeks so far and seen tons of incredible sights already (such as Prague Castle, Charles Bridge, Kutna Hora, etc) I thought I’d dedicate my first blog post to the amazing markets and festivals that have been going on around Prague this month. Spending time at these markets and festivals has really helped me get used to the idea of living in Prague, rather than just being a tourist. The majority of the people in attendance are locals, so it’s been a great opportunity to practice our (limited) Czech and to learn about the traditional events, music, and food of Prague.
About a week and a half ago, I went with a group of CIEE students to our first farmers’ market on the outskirts of Prague (I’m not exactly sure where it was, but it feels like we were on the tram for a while before we got there!) It was definitely a lot of fun (and a struggle) attempting to buy things at the market; I had to resort to a lot of pointing and gesturing and of course the fallback phrases, “nerozumím” and “děkuju” (“I don’t understand” and “thank you”) poorly pronounced without a doubt.
The farmers’ market had the typical fruits and veggies of course, in addition to stalls that sold bread, pastries, meats, cheeses, and wine. But by far the best discovery at this market was burčák, or “young wine” (a drink that’s halfway between juice and wine, but tastes more like sparkling apple cider). It’s absolutely delicious, but if you buy a bottle to take home, I would recommend that you definitely open it over a sink! Bottles of burčák have been known to overflow all over the kitchen when opened (as I personally experienced the other day), or even spontaneously explode at 3 in the morning all over your bedroom (yes that also unfortunately happened to a friend of mine). Burčák incidents aside, the farmer’s markets and festivals have been a great way to sample Czech food and drink as well as a great chance to see some of the non-touristy areas of the city.
Last weekend, my Art and Architecture of Prague class had a trip to the castle Troja out in Praha 8. After touring the inside of the ornate Baroque building (which is more like a grand mansion rather than a castle), we wandered outside to check out the wine festival that was happening out in the gardens. We sampled wine and cheese, watched a band in traditional costume perform folk music, and wandered around the outside of the building and its gardens.
The last (and most recent) festival I attended was this weekend, and took place in Náměstí Jiřího z Poděbrad, the church square that is actually right by my apartment.
Besides sampling more burčák (hey it’s a seasonal drink! who knows how much longer it’ll be around) at the festival we also tried trdelniks, a coil of dough that is cooked over a flame and then rolled in cinnamon sugar and nuts. Sounds like fried dough, but this was ten times more delicious. The festival also featured other Czech foods and drinks, as well as crafts, sweets, performances by several bands, and at one point (which I didn’t personally see, but my roommate tells me) medieval jousting! It was amazing to be able to walk out of the front door of my apartment building, turn the corner, and wander into a sea of local people enjoying the festival. I will definitely be visiting many more markets, fairs, and festivals over the next three and half months, and I’m particularly excited for December, when the Christmas markets begin!