The sun has just come out over Prague’s Old Town Square, and the Easter market is now looking a lot less sodden - and a lot more appealing - than it was five minutes ago. So, I’m going to take advantage of this little window of good weather to ask some of the people shopping at the Easter market about what they are buying, and some of the stall holders about the traditional crafts that they are selling.
“We are selling real eggs, which is an Easter tradition here.”
Can you tell me a bit about this tradition?
“Each pattern is particular to a different region of the Czech Republic, and it is a typical tradition for Easter. The eggs are decorated by wax, paint is used, and needles can be used to score the eggs.”
Then, in your house, where do you put these eggs?
There are lots of food stands at the Easter market on the Old Town Square, selling drinks like mulled wine to keep you warm, as well as very Central European looking large chunks of pork. But you can also buy some regional delicacies to take away with you and eat over the Easter period, as stall-owner Magda Slamová explains:
“We have here typical Hungarian sausages, but these are not normal sausages which you find in the shops, because in the shops you don’t usually find all that good quality stuff. Here we have sausages from real meat – horse, beef, pork. Also we have cheese – goat’s cheese and sheep’s cheese – these are both Hungarian.”
But what about Czech Easter, what is traditional Czech Easter food?
“Oh, you’ve got me there! It’s typical to drink at Easter in the Czech Republic. But no, I would say that Mazanec, which is a sort of sweet bread with raisins in, served with butter, is typically Czech. Or those little sheep cakes that you see – they are also typical, but I can’t think of anything else. Eggs, I suppose. Basically, the typical Easter tradition is to paint eggs with wax and then colour them with your kids at home.”
Have you been selling lots of sausages and cheese in the run up to Easter?
“Yes, we’ve been trying to. But the weather is not really cooperating, so, it can be hard when it is snowing.”
And it must be hard for you to keep warm in this hut. Do you have a little heater or something?
“No, but we’ve got a little bit of Becherovka – though don’t tell anyone!”
Perhaps one of the warmest places to stand at the Easter market is next to the blacksmith’s stall, where several muscley men show onlookers how to make bells and other metal goods over a blazing fire. Tomáš Pitín is one of the craftsmen:
Can I ask you what you are making here?
“Some bells, candlesticks, and holders for bells.”
And are these particularly Easter-ish, is this an Easter tradition?
“I think it is traditional – it is a Czech tradition.”
Are you normally a blacksmith?
So how did you end up here, then?
“It’s my hobby.”
What about business this year? Has it been good so far?
“No, not really. I don’t know why, but maybe the tourists visiting are not as rich as they were last year.”
But what about the tourists visiting the market themselves? What do they make of it? I spoke to a group of people visiting from Britain:
What do you like the most about the Easter market?
“The colour of the market - and it’s so well organized. It all looks really nice and the hot apple drink is really, really good.”
And is there anything similar in Britain, because I know they have those Christmas markets there, but what about Easter?
“Well, it is nice to see that they have bothered about Easter here. And the way they have decorated the trees is lovely. They don’t seem to celebrate anything like this back home – not market-wise, anyway.”
“Yes, I don’t know what it is, but I bought a crystal that twirls round over there for my little boy. And I bought myself a nice ring, and a glass bauble thing, so yeah – I’ve done alright.”
The driving snow we’ve had in the last few days may have done its best to put people off coming to the Easter market, but judging by the general atmosphere of the place, as well as the testimony of those present, it seems to have done little to dampen the mood.
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