More Náměstí Jiřího z Poděbrad

You may think that living in the middle of the city about three blocks from a tram stop and a Metro (underground) station that we get tired of the same urban scene.  You would be wrong because in many ways we see variations every time.

The major differences are as we walk through our local square, Jiriho z Podebrad.  We are frequently surprised by events that we had not heard about and sprang into existence while we slept.  Other times we enjoy watching the preparations days in advance of a major festival.

Below is a video (slide show) of a recent regional food fair; just a typical walk through our local square.

More about daily life around the square:  http://parosparadise.com/CzechMates/2013/05/19/a-day-in-the-life/ and

http://parosparadise.com/CzechMates/2015/03/29/prague-festival/

Christmas Season is here — Like it or Not

Personally, I prefer to wait until a week or two before Christmas before getting into the spirit of the season.  Karin likes to wait until after the American Thanksgiving before getting out the decorations.  This year, however, events are forcing our hand.

International Christmas Festival Prague

International Christmas Festival

There are two Christmas Bazaars that we have attended in the past and since both are good sources of English language books we wanted to participate again this year.  I stumbled on a notice of the first, sponsored by IWAP, International Women’s Association of Prague but we missed the Festival put on by the Diplomatic Spouse’s Association.
By the photo you can see we were in the minority. We did not enjoy this bazaar last time because it is way too crowded.

We very much enjoyed the one we attended on Saturday, 23 November!  First we found some good books, second we discovered an addition to our heirloom collection Czech folk kitchen pieceand third, we won a raffle prize–more good books. Yes, this a very good way to start the season.  I like it!

Christmas basket of books and other goodies

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next up is St. Mikulas Night on 5 December

Read about our first Prague Christmas in 2008

Pig and Masopust in Prague

Masopust like Carnival means good-bye meat.  Perhaps more it means another excuse to party in the winter time.  I know Prague makes the most of it with a whole series of local festivals only loosely connected to the upcoming Lent.  In our research, however, we learned that the charm of a public Pig Slaughter Festival is now an event of the past.

In January I happened to see an announcement of a “Pork Festival” at Namesti Miru near us.  Always up for good street food I put it on my calendar for Saturday lunch. That day appeared with very iffy weather but the square was only two tram stops away so we went. By the time we arrived it was snowing, which added to the charm. Despite the weather there was a good crowd that seemed to be enjoying themselves.

winter pork festival, Prague We did a circle of the booths to pick something to buy. As usual there were no signs in English so we chose a sausage that we could point to rather than pronounce. There was a large selection of pork dishes as well as a beer tent and a small stage with musicians.

Sausage making at Prague festivalThe most popular booth had two pig carcasses hanging and sausage stuffing going on.  Here is a quote from the news report: “We’re making jtrnice – mainly from pork entrails – bits of liver, lungs and pork stock with bread, onions, garlic and other seasoning. We mince it and press it into casings made from pork guts.”

 

Two days later we happened to spot another news article that announced the centuries old tradition of pig slaughtering feasts were now considered outlawed by new European hygiene standards. Farmers can only butcher for their own home consumption; sharing with friends and neighbours would be subject to a huge fine ($16,000).  The fest that we went to was sponsored by the city government and was a sanitized version with no slaughtering on the premises. This type of event especially appeals to the older generation now living in the city. It brings back memories of their youth in the villages. The true winter pig/pork, bacon/ham festivals are declining but still popular through most countries of Europe. They pre-date Christianity, going back to pagan fertility rites.  In Czech villages they act as a family home-coming celebration, much like the American Thanksgiving.

Czech folk art by Josef Lada: Hog slaughter This painting is by Josef Lada, the Czech Norman Rockwell.

It starts with a squealing pig strung up by its hind legs and dispatched by the butcher. Next the women wade in for the ingredients to blood soup, goulash with entrails, head cheese and, of course sausages. Finally different cuts are taken for curing and preserving and the best pieces are roasted for that day of partying.

I have written a great deal about the benefits of eating locally produced meat and vegetables.  Now Brussels bureaucrats are forcing their point of view that pork produced in large factories is better for you than that raised in the field next door.  Our experience watching lambs and kids grow and frolic from our veranda in Paros and then later in the year buying the meat from our neighbor proves this wrong in our mind.  One often reads in the news of recall of contaminated meat from factories or warehouses but not any accounts of bad food that has personally passed the inspection of a local farmer and that you buy in a local market.

I give a lot of travel advice and right now I strongly urge people to look for local festivals and events and participate before they are legislated out of existence or are smothered by worry-wart do-gooders who take the fun out of life.  Another example is greased pig chases. I remember them fondly at the “Aloha Daze” events of my childhood community in Oregon, USA. Today doing a Google search everything I find is past tense from years ago.

I think all travelers enjoy reading travel adventures written during a past era when every where was more interesting than today. Tomorrow may be more sanitary and “correct” than today but will probably be less interesting and exciting. We used to say we want to travel while we are young enough to enjoy it, now we say get out and travel before the bureaucrats homogenize all culture.

butcher with pig slaughter: folk art at Prague festivalNow back to Masopust and Prague:  each neighborhood has its own version of the pig festival and masked parade.  The first one we went to was on a VERY cold day in Karlin.  I am hoping the effigy shown in the left photo was a dig at the EU regulations.

Since then we have seen many roasted pig heads used as decoration and many people in costumes drinking as they walk down the street.  Karin was even accosted on Mostecka street by  Charles Bridge.  It’s all good fun.

 

The short version was originally published as Are We Losing The Charm of Pig Slaughter? on Blogcritics.

Pig's head decoration roast in PragueMasopast parade old town PragueHearted in parade, Prague

Source of News Report quote

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