After saying farewell to my friends, the next morning before the sun even rose, I was out heading to the airport. K, U, D, and I were off on one of the longer trips I’d been during exchange. We were to attack 3 cities (and 3 countries) in around 6 days. Actually, we ended up going to 4 cities and countries really, since we made a transfer stop in Milan. We had around 3 hours of transfer time, which now that I think about it, was terrible. Obviously we didn’t leave, since it takes around an hour to get in the city. We literally napped at the airport on these terrible chairs, and it was not a comfortable experience for sure. Cost over comfort. Sad life of a student. Anyways, by around noon, we were able to take our next flight and from Milan, we entered Prague in the Czech Republic. To be honest, I didn’t know much about Prague, but it seemed like a city most exchange students visited. Now that I’m back, I can say that Eastern Europe is quite different from the rest of Europe. I find it very medieval with lots of history and the culture is generally quite different. Oh, and one huge change was the weather. It was freezing during December, and although Vancouver can get to the same temperatures, I guess I was just used to the warm, sunny weather in Spain. By the time we found our way to the hostel and dropped our bags off, it was already pretty dark. We got lost on our way too, so we spent more time than we should’ve. Christmas markets were everywhere in Europe now, and the one in Prague is known to be pretty good! We went to the one in the Old Town Square which is the main market. Just around 5 minutes away, is also Wenceslas Square, which we also checked out.
The Old Town Square was filled with people and a giant Christmas tree stood in the middle. Other than food, crafts, and souvenirs to buy, there was also a performance stage and children were singing carols! It was really cute and the square itself had such Gothic styled buildings that the scenery just looked so much more spectacular.
You MUST get this when you’re in Eastern Europe. It’s called Trdelnik (no idea how you pronounce it) and it’s a traditional Hungarian cake and sweet pastry. We also found this in the streets and Christmas markets in Prague and my friends had recommended that I try this. For us, we refer to it as the “Chimney Cake”. We smelt the cinnamon smell and immediately went over to purchase one to share between us. It’s pretty interesting how it’s made. Essentially, it’s rolled dough that’s wrapped around and grilled on an open fire while it’s turning. Then, they roll the dough on sugar that’s often mixed with cinnamon or other flavours. They slide the dough off the stick, and it’ll have a hollow hole! It’s extremely fluffy and soft! So addicting with the sugar on the outside. I love how you can just rip pieces off since it’s rolled around continuously. A must try!!!
At the market, there were tons of food I wanted to try, but I had to be careful in selecting since I knew I wouldn’t be able to finish all the food. We ended up sharing some potatoes at this stall that had pans of different seasoned potatoes. This one was Bacon and Potatoes. I liked this one a lot, but I wouldn’t say it was amazing. Plus, I’m sure I could make this at home quite easily. It wasn’t very special, although it seems like a traditional type of food they ate here.
We also got a portion of Potatoes with Sauerkraut and Sausages. This wasn’t as good as the Bacon and Potatoes. The main reason was the sauerkraut. I’m okay with sauerkraut, but I like it when it’s with soup. I can eat it as a side too, but not too much, so I found this overwhelming. Sauerkraut seems to be eaten a lot in Eastern Europe. The other problem was that these potatoes weren’t exactly warm. I’m not sure if it’s because we were in the cold and it cooled down, or just simply because the pans weren’t being heated underneath. Also, be extremely careful with the people selling these potatoes! They sell by weight, and their per pound pricing is pretty cheap, but it adds up. Remember that potatoes are extremely heavy! These people were just scooping as much as they could onto your plate, and unless you say less, they won’t budge. You had to be really persistent on how much you wanted. We ended up still paying quite a lot for just potatoes… Apparently a lot of tourists get scammed by this so be very careful and be clear what you want. Not worth your money in my opinion.
It was getting pretty cold so we hid inside the Kingswood Apple Cider House for a while. It was this wooden lodge in the market and they sold Apple Cider of a few varieties. You could get it with alcohol or without and some other variations. We chose the most typical one that had some alcohol in it. You could barely taste any alcohol, and the sweetness of apple was very apparent. A really good way to warm up!
Then K got hungry again and he decided to try the Old Prague Ham! It was being sold at various stalls and was turning on a rotisserie. This ham is known to be traditional delicacy and basically the grandmother of today’s hams. It’s fully cooked and also smoked. The ham is also boneless although there is often some fat attached to it. It was very tender and I didn’t find it too salty actually! Again, you need to be very careful with stating how much you want to the vendors. Unless you speak their language, they can pretty much assume you’re a tourist and it seems that many vendors have been ripping tourists off by cutting a huge slab of meat, hence a ridiculous price. I think K was pretty careful in telling them how much, so he got a good portion to just try. I’m not saying every vendor will do this, but I did a quick search and many tourists have fallen under this “Prague Ham Scam”. I guess it works for the potatoes and any other food that’s sold by weight. Just watch out so your trip doesn’t get ruined.
All in all, the market was very nice and festive. I just wish the weather wasn’t as cold. We weren’t able to stay out in the cold for long and had to go into souvenir shops and such to warm up. Also, I wasn’t aware that Prague was known for pickpocketing (like how Barcelona is), but my friend did almost get her wallet stolen. The man was reaching in her bag while she was looking at souvenirs at the market, and luckily a woman screamed to my friend to watch out! Such good people out there, but you still need to be careful!