The weather is improving in Prague, warm days and balmy nights – a welcome change after the Siberian cold snap of February. Many of the country’s tour companies and attractions are opening over the next few weeks for the start of the high season, making this an excellent time to visit.
But if you do come to Prague during the Easter season, what can you expect? What is there to do? Well, we here at Prague Trips and Tickets thought we’d give you a round up of some of the things happening throughout the city this April.
In the main squares, such as the Old Town Square, Wenceslas Square and Namesti Republiky, you’ll find colourful markets selling traditional Czech foods and wares, as well as souvenirs, gifts and flowers. On the Old Town Square you’ll also find regular performances by musicians on the outdoor stage, so it’s a great place to walk around and soak in the atmosphere. The markets are open from the 24th of March until the 15th of April, the week after Easter.
One of the most common items you’ll see on sale are kraslice, decorated eggs, often with incredibly delicate and detailed patterns and lovely bright Spring colours. Painting eggs is probably the most widespread Czech tradition at Easter – the ones you’ll find in the stalls and shops are often done with bees wax, watercolours and various other media but you’ll also find kits and stickers in the supermarkets if you fancy making your own.
You might also find the stallholders trying to draw your attention to long braids of willow, sometimes decorated with colourful ribbons, which are also on sale. These are part of another old Czech Easter tradition, and are whips called pomlazka. Their origins go back to pagan times in the Czech Republic when braided strands of willow were used to ward away evil spirits. The wood itself is thought to have special properties, bringing health and youth. Boys traditionally carry these – at one time making them themselves, but now it is common to buy a ready made whip as well – to go around their town or village on Easter Monday, where they’ll sing traditional Easter carols to the local girls, whilst whipping them lightly on the legs with his pomlazka, supposedly to bring good luck, health and chase away evil spirits. In return, the girls give painted eggs and ribbons to tie around the pomlazka. (Nowadays, however, money is often the reward the boys want rather than eggs).
Further out in Prague at the exhibition ground in Holesovice, Prague 7, you’ll find St Matthew’s Fair, which has its origins at least as far back as the 16th Century, when the first mention of it was made. There are over 130 rides, stalls and attractions on offer at the fair, which nowadays is more of a modern funfair with carousels and bumper cars to enjoy, amongst others. The fair runs from March 3rd until April 22nd.
Although some attractions and smaller shops close on Easter Monday (9th April), which is a public holiday, most of the city’s venues and sites will remain open, and as always there is a wide choice of entertainment available from the various theatres and concert halls around the city. 2012 in fact marks the 170th anniversary of the birth of one of the Czech Republic’s most famous composers, Antonin Dvorak, and so several performances of his works are scheduled throughout April, including the Prague Symphony Orchestra’s performance of ‘Stabat Mater’ on April 6th at the Municipal House, Prague 1 (tickets on sale until April 3rd). There’s also an exhibition about Dvorak’s life and work at the Czech Museum of Music, from March 1st until June 3rd. On display are personal items, original manuscripts including that of the ‘New World’ symphony, as well as interactive displays of Dvorak’s music. Besides the Municipal House, many churches across Prague hold Easter concerts throughout April.
Easter in the Czech Republic is meant to be a fun and colourful time, and though you might find Prague a little busier than usual, it is worth braving the crowds to experience these wonderful traditions. So from Prague Trips and Tickets and McGee’s Ghost Tours of Prague – Vesele Velikonoce!