Karin and I have never been big party people so New Year’s Eve is usually quite quiet for us. Our all time highlight was one year in Oregon when our son and daughter-in-law took us to a dinner/dance at Timberline Lodge on Mt. Hood — first class all the way in a magical atmosphere!
Prague restaurants, bars and clubs all have party packages available. We noticed everything from 24 Euro per person at Los Adilitas Mexican restaurant to 380 Euro per person at a posh hotel. The Prague Hilton has a Las Vegas night complete with feathered show girls; I never noticed the price.
Our plan was to have our normal evening in our apartment and then after 10 P.M. wander on down to the river bank near Charles Bridge to soak up the atmosphere and watch the midnight fireworks. Alas, Karin had a cold coming on and wisely didn’t want to go out in the damp and cold. So I shouldered the duty on my own and left about 11 to catch the tram. In the two blocks to the stop I noticed a couple young men staggering along. Each wanted to go a different direction so ended up going back and forth for the 8 minutes that I waited.
At the tram stop I was surprised by seeing a #51 pull up; my only experience on this line was #10 and #16, but I remembered reading something about late night and special occasions having higher numbers. So I got on and stayed on as long as I recognized the next station as being in the right direction. Sure enough at the normal transfer point I got off and switched to #57 which was packed with young people in party hats. Also everyone seemed to be carrying their own personal half bottle of sparkling wine. By the way we recommend the local brand of “champagne” called Bohemian Sekt; it is both good and cheap. We are drinking Mimosas with it as I write on New Year’s Day.
I was wondering which stop would be best but when we got to the National Theatre everyone else got out so I did too. There we were along the river with the side walks full of people and not much traffic on the normally busy road. In every direction you could hear and see fireworks although it was only 11:30. In fact we had a nice little display outside our apartment window about 9 P.M. (Reminds me of the time when our kids were young and I was baby-sitting the neighbours’ kids as well. I moved the clocks ahead two hours so we could also celebrate at a decent hour.)
Charles Bridge and the Vltava River bank is just the focal point of a whole city celebrating. Every local square and park that I saw coming and going home had plentiful fireworks. The official, commercial display at the bridge was just a chorus to the vast array of everyone’s personal display. The intensity increased at about 5 to 12 and kept going strong until about 20 after it tapered back down to just a few each minute. It was huge and awesome everywhere along the open river and the hills for miles. I kept thinking about how many Chinese were working year around just to keep this one city supplied.
One cool aspect that I had never seen before were small hot air balloons (12 to 15 inches tall) carrying a flame that caused them to rise and float away on the breeze. When several were in the air at one time it gave an other world aspect to the whole scene which was already eerie with all the fireworks smoke.
In addition to all the street drinking a great many of the men were smoking cigars, evidently another tradition. Everywhere I looked people were having a good time all in good humour. I only saw one minor argument when someone’s ground twirling sparkler landed on someone else’s ankle. I also should mention that all the bars and pubs were teeming with celebrants as well. Everywhere party, party, party. So home I went to my Czech Mate.
Who, it turns out, had experienced the full scale war zone atmosphere from the relative comfort and convenience of our our apartment balcony as it over looks a park and is around the corner from the Jiriho z Podabrad Square. Like I said, the whole city was alive for this winter time celebration; the choices are endless.
2 Jan Update: Here is a news summary from Radio Praha:
New Year’s Eve celebrations less boisterous than usual
Prague fire-fighters had a busy night on the last day of the year
getting close to 40 emergency calls, mostly to do with firework-related
accidents, such as garbage containers on fire. In contrast to previous
years the vast majority of these accidents resulted in material damage
only, with people suffering only light injuries due to dangerous
manipulation with fireworks. The CTK news agency notes that this may
also have been due to the economic crisis, town halls organized fewer
outdoor events and unlike other years there was no mega-concert on
Prague’s Wenceslas Square.