Four reasons not to spend Christmas in Czechland

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List posts are the friend of time-poor bloggers.  As today is the day the Czechs celebrate Christmas, it seems reasonable to use this tried and tested format to reflect on some of the advantages of spending the festive season back in Blighty. 

1.  Carp’s Head Soup

While turkey poses its own problems as a festive dish such as how to cook it so it doesn’t end up being hopelessly dry as well as how to serve up the leftovers in new and creative ways, when served up with all the trimmings, at least it looks, well, like a feast.  Carp’s head soup?  Festive?  I don’t think so.  Carp in breadcrumbs accompanied by potato salad may be more palatable but again, it fails the Christmas decadence test as far as I’m concerned.

2. Freedom to indulge in wanton consumerism

Back in November, while I was still in Prague, I noticed something strange was happening – or rather, it wasn’t happening.  It wasn’t just the weather, which was blissfully mild for the time of year.  It was a different kind of absence.  Santa Claus was barely to be seen either in the many shop windows in the centre of Prague or in any of the adverts on our large non-plasma TV screen.  Christmas in Czechland promised to be pleasingly less commercial.  ‘What a relief,’ I sighed to myself.

By December of course the adverts hit the small screen and a knee-high Santa Claus had appeared in the main entrance to Debenhams along with a couple of reindeer.  The thing was though, somehow, it just wasn’t the same.  It  isn’t just the fact that Czechland lacks the impressive array of retail outlets eager to get you to waste your cash on gaudy tat.  It’s the fact that wasting your cash on gaudy tat, as far as Czechman and his family are concerned, is not merely stupid, it is immoral.  I am grateful in one sense that I could get away with spending a mere 60kc a head on gifts for his family but remain gobsmacked that Czechman was actually considering buying a special computer monitor cleaning fluid for his parents.  ‘But it’s practical,’ he told me when I protested that it was perhaps not the best Christmas gift. My point exactly. 

If Christmas is no longer a religious festival then it is an excuse to brighten up the bleak midwinter by celebrating the frivolous, the silly, the tacky, the extravagant.  A cleaning spray is none of these things.

3.  Avoiding the Prague tourist crush

Prague remains, despite the credit crunch, one of Europe’s mini-break hotspots.  Apparently between Christmas and New Year Wencelasus Square and the Old Town are heaving with tourists indulging themselves with mulled wine purchased from one of the little wooden huts that make up the Christmas markets and depressingly sell all the same items you can find in the surrounding tacky gift shops.  I wouldn’t know though, as I’m escaping it all by being here in England.

4. Taking a break from the Czech freezing temperatures

Except that I seemed to have failed on this front.  The first thing I had to buy on arriving was a big pair of wellies to negotiate all the ice and snow.  At least the fact that my flight was delayed for two hours gave me a good excuse to eat a final portion of fruit dumplings. They’re a main course here so you can eat them for your tea, served up with lashings of melted butter, icing sugarand a cheesy substance called quark (tvaroh). Thank god Czech cuisine isn’t all fish head soup…


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20 Responses to Four reasons not to spend Christmas in Czechland

  1. Eso

    I often fail to determine, if things you write you mean for real or it’s sophisticated humour.

  2. girlinczechland

    Hello Eso,

    Hmm, interesting comment although I fear you might mistakenly think my writing is cleverer than it really is. I’m curious to know which parts are you referring to…

    Merry Christmas!


  3. Pingback: Tweets that mention Four reasons not to spend Christmas in Czechland « GIRL IN CZECHLAND --

    • girlinczechland

      Hmm, Google Translate tells me that this tweet says that my post is propaganda! Ah well, happy holidays you Hebrew-fluent readers!


  4. I’m also at the moment in Czech and I can understand what you mean. Especially since I’m Jewish…. (-;

  5. You seem to be most upset with the Head soup. I dont blame you the tiniest bit. In my whole life I have never tasted it and I do not plan to (I am Czech). Prague these days is really crazy, thats right. I have been around the Old town few times before the break and the crowds were just unbearable. Vien is much more pleasant these days.

    Also you have to bear in mind that Santa IS a pure product of consumerism at chrismas and it was imported here and many chzechman consider it an annoying disturbance of the chrismas peace by the westers corps.

    Other than that, very nice article.

  6. girlinczechland

    Fish head soup? No thanks!

    Fruit dumplings? Yes please! And they’re a main course? Brilliant!

    Merry Christmas Honza


  7. Christmas is easy to enjoy no matter where you are. We had so much fun last year in Prague that we are back for our second season, staying longer this time.

    In fact we have been out and about so much that we have not had time to blog about it. So our current blog is not ready yet:

    Check out our report of Christmas in Prague 2008. It includes a video of carp slaughter:


  8. Miss Finda

    Girl, how anyone could fail to giggle copiously at your genius prose is beyond me. Write a bloody book. Include the words “gaudy tat”. It will sell a shedload. :o) A carp in a bath?? A CARP IN A BATH???? Utter inspiration.

  9. RyanG

    Merry Christmas to you too. Glad to hear you weren’t snowed in like some of us elsewhere on the globe!

    Articles like this are why I read your blog. I’d never heard of carp for christmas before. And certainly not in a bathtub. Educational AND entertaining. 😉 I agree with Miss Finda, write a book.

    • girlinczechland

      Hi Ryan,

      Glad you liked the post.

      Like the BBC I aim to educate, entertain and inform ;)Thanks for the compliments, my head is expanding as we speak!


  10. Standy

    Hallo Girl in Czechland,

    I have to confess to eating fish head soup though is truth,that I dont have to see the preparing it.It makes my wife, she comes from farm family and is less sensitive as me a native Praguer.But finally it taste
    greatly.It is personal feeling though,but all the same you will not believe me, I think.
    Otherwise I think, that every one have such a Christmas what he or she will do.We ,me and my wife,dont spend the pre-Christmastime by too much cleaning,cooking and baking because it is not so important.We want spend this time by beeing together,we want have good time.We are succeed in doing this – so far.
    We have living in country for 15 years and every year we visited the prague Christmast market,because I miss
    the mummery,my wife not,but I need it, to drink overpriced mulled wine,to eat carcinogenic grilled sausage and watch the Christmastree.
    There is one thing with I realy hate – Santa,but he is not guilty,he was imported there by foreign owners almost all supermarkets in Czechlands.I hope he hasnt any chance against our Jesusbaby.
    So have good time.

  11. girlinczechland

    Hi Standy,

    Perhaps I should give the carp’s head soup a try as I am something of an adventurous eater. Perhaps next year if I opt to spend Christmas with Czechman’s family.

    The Christmas markets are very atmospheric despite the rubbish products on offer – even I indulged in an overpriced glass of mulled wine or two so you are not alone and even Czechman bought one of those funny trdenik thingys for an outrageous 50kc – I’m sure the thought of such extravagance still keeps him awake at night…

    A belated Merry Christmas


  12. Standy

    Hi GCL,
    the market of old crafts is arranged every year in autumn in our local town Havlickuv Brod (located in east Bohemia).There are many stalls with exhibits this one.All are dressed in folk costume and you can
    buy here many lovely things made of glass,wood,cloth etc..and trdelnik too of course ,but only for 20 Kc. A folk band play the old music.All looks very
    nice, only the singing indians doesnt fit here in atmosphere of czech village …. every crowns is good,maybe.I dont know you realy,but I think you would like such place like this.
    Have nice day


  13. jednorozec

    Standy, jak to, že máte u následujícího článku jinou zelenou dečku?

    Keep taking your lessons. You may get there, eventually.
    Best of luck to you.
    Best of British to GIC.

  14. GIC

    Hope you enjoyed your Christmas away from Czechland. We thoroughly enjoyed ours staying here in Prague. However, we didn’t eat carp!!!!

    Šťastný nový rok! Happy New Year!

  15. Mr.Glock

    Hi girlinczechland!
    This is a funny blog, really! I read it and i laughed and laughed… Ive heard many western foreigners commenting on our culture and habits but this is a very funny and intelligent way. Honestly!
    Fish head soup? Yeah a lot of people make it but we did it for the first time this year. The thing is it was up to me to get the carp and cut it up in portions so i decided to make my mom make the soup. I have to admit she wasnt very happy to learn what task shes been given.
    By the way I do not think we are all that stingy and thrifty. I guess most people arent like your boyfriend. It may be him or runs in the family but who knows. However some of your comments are very true. Like it is not too common to use taxi and considered expensive but it seems funny how some people refuse to pay 300 czk for a taxi after spending over 1000 czk in a pub and rather freeze at bus stops to get home.
    Are you ever gonna put together 4 reasons why not to date (or even marry) a Czechman? lol
    And whats with you guys in Britain and your political correctness? Turkish city? Is it politically incorrect? Who said it makes the city worse? Maybe people here absolutely od not respect any political corectness (i dont) and no i do not think its because were outside the free world in the past times. Personally i think its a big plus. Where did the freedom of speech go then? Ill stop boring you all here… 🙂
    Keep on writing girlinczechland, i cant wait to laugh over you further observations…

  16. Lucka

    We actually also had a fish soup this year, while spending Christmas with my family in CZ. I guess it’s the cultural issue, because my (american) husband did not like the fish soup, while I loved it. He eventually ate the carp, but preferred the other fish (candat). We also spent some time in Prague and I was disappointed by the commercial stuff at the Christmas market at Staromestke square. We avoided the tourist crowd by walking to Vysehrad and Petrin tower. Had a lunch at “Kolkovna” which has the authentic and tasty “Czech Food” at reasonable prices. We enjoyed Christmas in Czech very much.
    I hope the Czech Christmas dinner did not discourage your explorations through the Czech culture.
    PS. My husband enjoys fruit dumplings as well, even though he can’t get that they are considered as a main meal. Happy New Year and I’m looking forward to read more posts on your blog!

  17. Mike

    My wife and I were beside ourselves this Christmas because we couldn’t find a carp with which to make the soup here in the states. The United States has carp, but it’s considered a not so good breed of fish…most markets won’t have it.

    I think the soup is excellent…my Czech wife makes it, but will not eat it. I’m not so big on the fried fish and potato salad…it’s good, but doesn’t say “Christmas” to me the way a turkey or ham does. So, our answer to this is the traditional Czech soup and fried fish on Christmas eve and on Christmas day…Turkey with all the trimmings.

    The fruit dumpling as a main course threw me a bit the first time it was served…my question for you…why does your picture not show the fruit dumpling with chocolate sause? It looks…naked.

    Thanks for the blog.

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