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Christmas in Prague, from "Prague for Beginners" by Sara Tusek

For the rest of the day I pack for my trip and tidy up the flat. I turn on the radio for Czech Christmas music; my favorites are “Narodil se Kristus Pán” (Christ is born) and “Nesem Vám noviny” (We bring you good news, hark!). The time passes pleasantly as I bustle around, my mind occupied with the here and now of fitting everything into my suitcase and cleaning out the perishables in the kitchen.

Soon enough, the light begins to fade. I decide it’s time for me to get out of my flat and see what Prague is up to today. I dress warmly and descend once again to the street, this time turning left as I leave the apartment house. In a few minutes I’m at náměstí Republiky. There are tasteful Christmas decorations on the lampposts and doors, greenery and red, shiny balls mostly. The cold, crisp air encourages people to hurry as they walk, giving the scene a busy, happy mood. I go down crooked streets through the intimate square behind Týn Cathedral that Marek tells me it was a dump, a literal…

from my book, "Prague for Beginners": Svatý Mikuláš Day, Dec. 5

Today is December 5, St. Nicholas Day (Svatý Mikuláš), the day that the Czechs get Santa Klaus (St. Nicholas) out of the way. For the rest of the lead-up to Christmas, it’s all about Jesus, who gives little kids their presents as Ježíšek. He comes in the window, as better befits a baby than coming down a sooty chimney. There’s a bonus on Svatý Mikuláš Day: in addition to Santa Klaus, you also get Čert (the devil) and Anděl (an angel).

Last year on December 5, I had recently arrived in Prague and was still completely enchanted by the city. Imagine how it seemed when, on a snowy evening just as dusk was falling, I walked near a school and heard a bell tinkling. When I looked for the bell, I saw three figures on the sidewalk: a huge Svatý Mikuláš dressed in red velvet, with a tall red Bishop’s hat, hurrying along with a black devil with a big red ruffle around his face and a lovely blonde angel dressed all in white. I did a double-take; of course I could see these were people dressed up i…

Nejhezčí České Vánoční Koledy - Stylově!

"The Czechs do Christmas better than anyone. It starts in November, with Advent markets and celebrations everywhere. Traditional food, little hand-made gifts, folk music, and dance done in folk costumes: the Czechs have it all. By December 1st, you are absolutely panting for Christmas, and the Czechs keep bringing it on."--from Prague for Beginners.

In Prague for Beginners, the main character is Elizabeth, an American living in 1994 post-Velvet Revolution Prague. She teaches English, an easy gig in those years when everyone was eager to absorb the big world that had been closed to them during Communist rule (1948-1989).

Elizabeth is enchanted by the mysteries of the city on the Vltava (and by a certain Chech man whose coming and goings in her life both excite and irritate here). She is knocked over by the glories of a traditional Czech Christmas.

Bell Chimes of Church of St. Peter and Paul at Vyšehrad Prague

November in Prague

November is not the most cheerful month in Prague, weather-wise. The temperature hovers around the freezing mark (0 degrees Celsius), the skies are often overcast, and the air is damp.

Bazilika svatého Petra a Pavla Somehow the grey skies, chill air, and still winds of November reflect a particular part of the history of Bohemia, Moravia and Silesia: the stoic endurance of not-quite-perfect conditions. For many centuries after the Golden Age of Charles IV in the 14th century, this part of the world was the scene of civil wars, religious wars, invasions, conquests, and lack of political autonomy.

But the people did not give in or give up. In their hearts, they remembered their glorious past and hoped for a restoration of those days in which beauty was created, not suppressed or destroyed.

Prague is a living museum to the achievements of the people living here over the centuries: Czech, Slovak, Polish, Moravian, German, Vietnamese, Silesian, Jewish, Roma, Rusyn, Hungarian, Russian, Roman…

Czech cooking

I made some attempts at Czech cooking while living in Prague, but found it easier, in the long run, to go to a pekarna (everyday bakery) for bread, cukrarna (sweet-stuff bakery) for cakes, or simply a restaurant (pivovar, restaurace, bufet, or the like) for those rich, satisfying Czech meals.

Kristyna, a Czech-born woman in California, is doing her best to help me cook authentic Czech cuisine here in the USA. She has a Facebook page which is brimming with recipes and tips. She also has the kind of cheerful personality that makes most people want to run to the kitchen and cook (though I know that I have neither time nor inclination to get involved with all those ingredients).

Her page is here:
https://www.facebook.com/czechcookbook/

Here she is as an adorable toddler:


And here is some of her wonderful food:


Black Cat by Rainer Maria Rilke, 1875 - 1926

Born in Prague on December 4, 1875, Rainer Maria Rilke is recognized by many as a master of verse   A ghost, though invisible, still is like a place
your sight can knock on, echoing; but here
within this thick black pelt, your strongest gaze
will be absorbed and utterly disappear: just as a raving madman, when nothing else
can ease him, charges into his dark night
howling, pounds on the padded wall, and feels
the rage being taken in and pacified. She seems to hide all looks that have ever fallen
into her, so that, like an audience,
she can look them over, menacing and sullen,
and curl to sleep with them. But all at once as if awakened, she turns her face to yours; and with a shock, you see yourself, tiny, inside the golden amber of her eyeballs suspended, like a prehistoric fly.
Translated by Stephen Mitchell

Autumn in Prague - Czech Republic

The Czech Republic gets ready for winter

October in the Czech Republic

Europe is the home of Halloween, where witches and the Church come together for one night--All Hallows Eve. Tom Chivers wrote about Halloween in The Guardian, Oct, 31, 2009:

The origins of the festival
Hallowe’en seems to have grown around the ancient Gaelic festival of Samhain, marking the end of the light half of the year and the beginning of the dark half.
Samhain was in part a sort of harvest festival, when the last crops were gathered in for the winter, and livestock killed and stored. But the pagan Celts also believed it was a time when the walls between our world and the next became thin and porous, allowing spirits to pass through. The practice of wearing spooky costumes may have its roots in that belief: dressing up as a ghost to scare off other ghosts seems to have been the idea. Where the name comes from
The name Hallowe’en is a shortening of All Hallows’ Even, or All Hallows’ Evening. All Hallows is an old term for All Saints’ Day (Hallow, from the Old English “halig”, or holy,…

Theme in Yellow BY CARL SANDBURG

I SPOT the hills  With yellow balls in autumn.  I light the prairie cornfields  Orange and tawny gold clusters  And I am called pumpkins.  On the last of October  When dusk is fallen  Children join hands  And circle round me  Singing ghost songs  And love to the harvest moon;  I am a jack-o'-lantern  With terrible teeth  And the children know  I am fooling.

Dinner in Turnov

On the way from Prague, where we arrived in the Czech Republic, and Vysoke nad Jizerou, where we spent an idyllic week in the mountains, we stopped at Turnov for dinner.


It was a lovely evening, with soft yet strong sunlight everywhere. The narrow streets, however, were somewhat mysterious.


The town square was filled with flowers.


The detail on the buildings was subtle yet intricate,


And there were even some people out, though the tunnels gave them ways to disappear.


Vysoke nad Jizerou

This little mountain town, about two hours northeast of Prague, is where we will spend a week this August. We were there in 2013, just before we returned to the US to live in Florida. It was a peaceful week in a very quiet town. I look forward to being there again.


Magor’s Swansongs by Ivan Martin Jirous

They go to vote on the way from prayer
and from elections they go straight to church
so what did Sion rise up for there?
and what good did Mount Horeb serve?

Oh St. John Hus
Christianity – what a disgustJdou volit cestou z kostela
na mši jdou přímo z voleb
nač tady potom Sion stál
a k čemu hora Oreb?

Ach svatý Jene Husi
jak se mi křesťanstvo hnusí!-----
In honor of Jan Hus Day: This holiday commemorates the martyrdom of Jan Hus in 1415 and is always celebrated on 6 July.

from http://www.radio.cz/en/section/books/the-prison-poet-remembering-ivan-martin-jirous

My life in fourteen images by Sara Tusek

Hiding under the bed Showing off my puzzle skills in the doorway Acting shy with my brother and mother Socializing naked by a lake Tripping naked in a hammock Listening to my professor complain about the sound of a lawn mower coming through the window Looking down at Alto Waking up in Prague with no idea what time it is Making promises at a state park Watching my husband cradle our dog like a baby Hearing trams clang and church bells toll through the open window Looking down at the castle from a monastery wall Dodging tree limbs and vultures on the way to work Trying not to miss my husband