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From xenophobia to freezophobia: will I survive the Czech winter?

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panalak snow

After tackling the serious topic of the Czechs and racism, I thought I’d move onto more neutral territory: the weather.

Today it is gloriously sunny in Prague. There has been a distinct lack of cold or rain despite the fact that we’re nearing the end of September; my recent visitors from England first words when I went to pick them up from the metro were, ‘You didn’t warn us it would be this warm!’

Of course, I should be grateful for this late burst of sunshine but instead I can’t stop thinking about the cold days to come. It’s been six months since I made the move to Czechland and so far, things are going well. I haven’t felt particularly homesick and I think I’m managing to settle in reasonably well. However, I’ve never experienced Prague in winter, not even as a visitor. In fact, I’ve never been anywhere in my life where the temperature gets lower than minus two or three and I’m worried that the Czech winter could be the thing that sends me back on the next Easyjet flight home for good.

Winters in England are grey and miserable. There’s rain and mist and cold and ice and sometimes even snow. When the snow does appear, as I was explaining to the amusement of my students recently, everything stops: schools close, trains are cancelled and most people stay at home. Last year, the three or four centimetres of snow stopped London’s buses from running, a feat even Adolf Hitler couldn’t manage during the Blitz.

It never gets to minus 10C though. I’m so anxious about the approaching winter that I’ve already begun buying huge thick wool cardigans even though it’s so warm now that I’m sweating when I try them on. I don’t care. I must be prepared. When I imagine what winter will be like in Prague, I keep thinking about a film about Napoleon where he’s sitting in the Winter Palace in a deserted Moscow covered in a thick carpet of snow with his army in ruins defeated by a freezing winter. Now I am aware that Prague and Moscow have different climates but this is the nightmare scenario I have in my head that makes me shop for sweaters in the blazing sunshine.

I’ve also realised I need a new pair of winter boots. Czechman disagrees, even though the pair I currently own are two years old and have a hole in the front. When I complain that a replacement pair will set me back 3000Kc (I take my mother’s advice and only wear footwear made from leather) Czechman makes the following suggestion.

‘Can’t you just paint over it?’

Am I alone in thinking that this is taking thriftiness just a little bit too far?

Back to the winter. I’ll knit socks. I’ll buy thermal vests and longjohns and for the first time in my life, have a decent excuse to wear them. I’ll sit very close to the radiator when indoors, drink numerous cups of tea and pray this winter, unlike the last, is a mild one.

prague snow

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