Friday, 27 November 2009

The Christmas Market

For many visitors to Prague at this time of year, the Christmas markets are undoubtedly the main attraction, and though the tourists won't arrive for a couple of weeks, the stalls - with their bright ornaments and festive decorations - are already in evidence. Of course, it's not only the current spell of bright winter sunshine that draws the crowds, but also the appeal of hearty local food and the apparently limitless supplies of mulled wine and grog.

The Czechs borrowed 'grog' from 18th century English: originally a mixture of rum, water and sometimes lemon juice, it was given to his sailors by Admiral Vernon of the Royal Navy to keep them shipshape (the lemon juice was later discovered to prevent scurvy). Vernon wore a coat made of a rough silk-and-wool blend called 'grogram', so he, and the drink he dispensed, became known as 'Old Grog'. Incidentally, some believe that the English navy was also responsible for the common Czech greeting 'Ahoj!'; others - unlikely though it may seem - that English sailors adopted their 'Ahoy' from the landlocked Czechs.

For those too young for grog, there is always the tasty 'trdelník'. Originally from Transylvania, the sugared dough roll made its way via Slovakia to Bohemia, where it has become extremely popular with tourists in the last few years.  The dough is flattened, baked on a heated spindle (trdlo means 'stick' originally, though it can also mean 'idiot', so be careful when ordering) and then rolled in sugar, crushed almonds and cinnamon. Our young visitor is clearly enjoying his!


Jilly said...

Good Lord, it's 9.30 in the morning and already I'm hungry and thirsty! Fascinating account of the word grog and ahoy. Your postings are always full of such interesting information, Alex. Love the child - looks like a 'pain chocolat' but now know it isn't.

Antjas said...

Grog is especially good when you feel a cold coming on, or is that Becherovka? Both very important medicines.

Alex said...

Hi Antjas - thanks for your comment. You clearly know something about Czech alcohol! Becherovka is named after Dr Becher of Karlovy Vary (Carlsbad) who infused alcohol with herbs and a dose of the famed spa water. It's a digestif, and like grog, good for the health. In fact I think I may need some myself. Thanks for reminding me...

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