Prague’s Charming Christmas Treasures


Prague's official Christmas tree at Old Town Square, December 2013

Prague’s official Christmas tree at Old Town Square, December 2013. Photo: GK. Click on the pics for enlargements.

The city is again full of the usual tourists, crowds following guides in umbrella armor, or pub crawl trash, anyway, that’s how it is.

Yet, one can enjoy this season when moving a bit away from the beaten track. And I must admit that even the Christmas market in Old Town Square slowly gets a bit more magic every year. Booth owners are friendly, the hot wine gets better and this year’s tree is wonderful.

The cosiest atmosphere I felt at the Christmas market at náměstí míru, the main square of Prague’s Vinohrady district. With the tall church spires in the background, this square always looks impressive. Now, with all the booths, the people chatting and having hot wine, children gazing at the glittering stuff all around and everybody obviously having a good time, strolling through the market really brought me into Christmas mood.

I discovered more, though. The Charles bridge museum offers an exhibition of Christmas scenes from glass, several charity bazaars, organised by theatre people give the „buy and consume“ aspect of nowadays Christmas a different face, and then I bumped into a quite modest announcement of a Christmas exhibition at the Botanical Garden of Charles University, not far from where I live.

Candy and gingerbread booth at the Christmas market in Old Town Square, Prague, December 2013

Candy and gingerbread booth at the Christmas market in Old Town Square, Prague, December 2013

As my niece and her husband were on visit that weekend, I thought it would be a good idea to begin our city walk with.

Located in one of the less spectacular parts of the Botanical Garden’s greenhouses, I was afraid it wouldn’t be worth bothering. But then!

An absolutely charming little collection of hand made Christmas decorations made from salt dough, dried fruit, candies and gingerbread, nuts, chestnuts, bark and wood and many other materials, obviously created with a lot of dedication and love.

Nativity scene from salt dough at the Christmas exhibition at the Botanical Garden of Charles University, Prague, December 2013

The Christmas exhibition at the Botanical Garden of Charles University: Nativity scene from salt dough. Photo: GK

The organiser, a gardening company from outside Prague, wanted to show old Czech Christmas traditions, decoration that, in former times, was done from natural materials and ingrediences, items crafted on the long evenings in winter when people in the country could not work on the fields.

I saw little Christmas trees that were put together entirely from dried plums, fir cones and acorns, decorated with sculpted orange and apple peels, gingerbread hearts with a design so finely drawn that you’d never again buy those you get at the usual kermess booths, nativity scenes with smiling onlookers, waffles sculpted to blossoms and angels from parchment.

Gingerbread still life at the Christmas exhibition at the Botanical Garden of Charles University, Prague, December 2013

Gingerbread still life. Photo: GK

I sound enthusiastic, I know, but honestly – I felt like a small child there, admiring the solemn beauty of an event whose original meaning seems long forgotten.

Part of the exhibition are also old kitchen utensils, the tools with which people crafted all this artwork, and a Christmas cookie competition.

Blossoms from waffle dough at the Christmas exhibition at the Botanical Garden of Charles University, Prague, December 2013

Blossoms from waffle dough. Photo: GK

I was one of the few people who were allowed to take photos – Mr. Herynek, the manager, told me that people would take photos and, without adding the credits, use them for their own advertising purposes…

The shows runs till January 2nd, 2014, at the greenhouse of the Botanical Garden of the Department of Natural Sciences at Charles University, Na Slupi 16, Prague 2. The entrance is about 50 metres uphill, around the corner in Benátská street. Opening hours daily 10:00 – 17:00, entrance fee is KC 50,-, approx. € 2,-. Trams 6, 18, 24, tram stop Botanická zahrada.

http://bz-uk.cz/cs/vanocni-vystava-1 (Czech only)

Christmas decoration from wax at the Christmas exhibition at the Botanical Garden of Charles University, Prague, December 2013

Christmas decoration from wax at the Christmas exhibition at the Botanical Garden of Charles University, Prague, December 2013. Photo: GK

Dried fruit tree with Christmas pastry at the Christmas exhibition at the Botanical Garden of Charles University, Prague, December 2013

Dried fruit tree with Christmas pastry, a metre or more tall. Photo: GK

Krchlebský koláč at the Christmas exhibition at the Botanical Garden of Charles University, Prague, December 2013

Krchlebský koláč, a yeast dough cake with poppy seed, white cheese or jam topping, a local version of what is known in Austria as “Egerländer”. Delicious! Photo: GK

Gingerbread cookie sculpture at the Christmas exhibition at the Botancial Garden of Charles University, Prague, December 2013

Gingerbread cookie sculpture. Photo: GK

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School children eagerly trying themselves to create some little Christmas artwork. Photo: GK

Angels and a Christmas tree from parchment at the Christmas exhibition at the Botanical Garden of Charles University, Prague, December 2013

Angels and a Christmas tree from parchment. Photo: GK

Cookie contest at the Christmas exhibition at the Botanical Garden of Charles University, Prague, December 2013

Cookie contest. Photo: GK

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