A Different Kind of Celebration

This past Sunday, October 28th, was the 100th anniversary of Czech and Slovak lands, and I feel very privileged I could be here to witness this celebration! However, my expectations of the celebration were a bit far from reality…

[For those in need of a short history lesson: Czechoslovakia was officially declared a country in 1918 due to the fall of the Austro-Hungarian empire; it remained a country throughout World War II, then peacefully split in 1993 because the Czech lands and Slovakia essentially just grew apart (I won’t get into the details). Because the split was so peaceful, Czechs and Slovaks are very interconnected to this day, and I probably meet an equal number of Czechs as Slovaks in my classes as well.]

There were a lot of special occasions happening this weekend like fireworks, parades, free museum entries, and the re-opening of the National Museum that had previously been closed for 6 years.

I was excited all Sunday, noticing the colors of the flag everywhere and everyone in good spirits. However, when I arrived to the parade and saw the masses of people, the atmosphere changed. I came in with the expectation that this parade would be similar to a Fourth of July parade in the United States- colorful floats, lots of food, and just general fun. When the parade started, it was much different.

People stood still.

Quiet.

No candy was thrown.

Decorative parade floats were nowhere to be seen.

Smiles weren’t on everyone’s faces.

We stood and watched all the military march by, followed by all the military vehicles, and we all stood solemnly, remembering all of those who fought for the country and didn’t win.

IMG-6212
Crowds in Prague during the Military Parade

In the grand scheme of things, 100 years isn’t very long at all! Most countries are far older than this. Czechs and Slovaks had a far longer and less convenient road to becoming a nation. Since these countries are still new, the losses that it took to get to where we are now are still fresh. Instead of deaths due to war happening centuries ago, it was just a couple generations ago.

The United States has a lot to celebrate because, well, we won a lot of what we fought. It hadn’t even crossed my mind that Czechia and Slovakia didn’t have such a simple history. The time before 1918 was filled with a lot of struggle. With empires taking over, religions being oppressed, cultures and languages being pushed away, this time was far from peaceful.

This parade was an eye-opening experience to show how the wound that these countries acquired in the recent past hasn’t quite healed yet.


Hannah Langford

CZECH REPUBLIC – MASARYK UNIVERSITY, 2018 FALL

Hannah Langford is taking a break from studying Integrated Sciences at DU to study history and culture at Masaryk University in Brno, Czech Republic. She’s looking forward to exploring the unique geography and outdoor opportunities in the area and the surrounding countries. She’s also looking  forward to eating a lot of chocolate.

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All About Czech FOOD

In America, we have a little bit of every type of food. Italian, Japanese, Thai, Greek, the list goes on. Let me ask you this: have you ever seen a Czech restaurant? Because I never have. So, I wasn’t sure what to expect in the Czech Republic. Czechia is not a place globally known for their food, therefore the food isn’t really a common presence in other countries. So, I’m dedicating this blog to give a very basic breakdown of the food you can find in the Czech Republic.

Overall, there’s a pretty nice variety, but traditional Czech foods are pretty common anywhere you go.

The traditional dishes are all very heavy, and are typically made from lots of hearty plants because of the cold climate here. The most traditional meal is Svíčková, which

Svickova
Svíčková

is braised beef or pork with dumplings and a sauce. Oh, and cabbage. You can’t forget the cabbage. There are many other meals that are different variations of this- different sauces, either bread or potato dumplings, filled or unfilled dumplings (typically unfilled), different meats, different cabbage, etc. This is typically served as a lunch food because lunch is the biggest meal and it WILL keep you full for the rest of the day.

I’m no food reviewer, but I’ll add that I find this meal delicious. The meat is always cooked so delicately that it pairs well with the dumplings, and then the acidity of the sauce and cabbage cuts the savoriness and helps bring out the flavors of the meat. A very good balance, I highly recommend trying to track some down.

Now, in general, the heartier the plant is, the more common it is. Czechia is a very “meat and potatoes” kind of place for just that reason. Pickled things (especially cabbage) are also common.

To sum it up:

  • Red meats are more common than white, like sausages, braised beef, roasted pork
  • The most common vegetables are root vegetables like cabbage, carrots, onions, potatoes, cabbage, celery, and cabbage. Oh, and did I mention cabbage? I never knew there were so many types of cabbage before coming here!
  • Fruit, as far as I can tell, isn’t very prominent here. Fruit gelato and marmalade, however, is very common. It could be because fruit season has already peaked, but besides cranberries and the occasional banana, I haven’t seen a whole lot of fruit offered in restaurants.
  • Another interesting thing is that all the bread here is rye bread. Rye has been a traditional crop in Central Europe since the middle ages, so everything made in the stores will have at least 30% rye in it, and caraway seeds are a common addition as well.
  • Finally, let’s have a chat about cheese. Cheese might as well be its own food group
    Fried Cheese
    Artery-Clogging Fried Cheese

    here because it is very common and very popular. By a landslide, the most common type of cheese is eidam, which is originally from the Netherlands but was modified (by reducing the fat content and using the German name) and is now a proud Czech specialty. I’ll also add that cheese isn’t so much used as a topping as it is the main dish. We’re talking about fried cheese, people! My goodness is it amazing. I can affirm that you will likely feel your arteries begin to clog as you take each bite, but it is 100% worth it.

 

Now for my favorite part of any meal: DESSERT!

I absolutely love dessert. Favorite meal of the day, no competition. When I got here, to make the adjustment process easier, I told myself that whenever anything bad or inconvenient happened that I would make it better by getting dessert. So, I’ve had a lot of desserts.

By far the most common dessert products you’ll see will have wafers of some sort.

Colache
Poppy seed Kolache

Wafers have been a Czech specialty since the 1800’s, where the thin, crispy, and slightly sweet wafers were handed out to spa guests. Now they’re in around 75% of the treats here.

If you’re looking for hand-crafted desserts, you find a lot of flour-based creations. So, you see a lot of cakes, pastries, cream-puff looking things, etc. There are so many desserts that I could ramble on about, but I’ll stick with my current favorite: kolache. It’s similar to a Danish in that it’s dough with cream cheese, but it’s the filling that makes the difference. Poppy seed is a very common dessert filling here, and the traditional kolaches will have poppy seeds or jam in the middle.

I can go on and on about all the amazing and unique foods I’ve tried here, but I think the best option is to just come and taste for yourself. I’ll be happy to share!


Hannah Langford

CZECH REPUBLIC – MASARYK UNIVERSITY, 2018 FALL

Hannah Langford is taking a break from studying Integrated Sciences at DU to study history and culture at Masaryk University in Brno, Czech Republic. She’s looking forward to exploring the unique geography and outdoor opportunities in the area and the surrounding countries. She’s also looking  forward to eating a lot of chocolate.

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