The last time I took a vacation out of the U.S. was in 2002. At a fundraising auction for the Y I belong to, I won two round-trip tickets to anywhere British Airways flew. The hitch was, you had to connect through London. I considered South Africa, but didn’t really have enough vacation time to make such a long trip worthwhile. And I wanted to go somewhere I hadn’t been before. So after much consultation and research, I went to Prague in March 2002 with my friend Dana.
The tourist season had not yet begun. It was still cold, very grey and rainy. The castles in the countryside around Prague had not opened for the season, and some of the tourist attractions in the city were closed. But it was still lovely. There were free concerts every day in churches and concert halls. The beer halls were lots of fun–we quickly learned how to order in Czech, and there were any number of Americans there as well. The streets were dark and medieval, but the people were friendly and spoke a little English.
We shopped for garnet jewelry, which is a specialty of the Czech Republic, and dined in snug, Art Deco restaurants. We walked the rain-slick streets and went through the remains of the old Jewish quarter. After the horror of the Holocaust, there are almost no Jews in Prague to this day.
One day we went to the Easter fair, which was set up in small booths in the main square. Most of the booths were selling plastic garbage made in China or cheap tourist crap, which you could buy anywhere. But a few of the booths were selling Czech Easter eggs. Some eggs are decorated by making patterns with wax and then dying the shells. Others ar dyed and then hand-painted. Somehow the maker gets the interior of the egg out of the shell without breaking it, I think before dying it. Then a ribbon is glued to the top or strung through a hole at either end so you can hang the egg on a branch placed in a vase. The booths also sold woven branches with crepe paper streamers on the end in their traditional spring colors: pale green, yellow, sky blue, and red.
The eggs were sold in small egg cartons. I brought six home–and two broke in transit. I just opened the carton and looked at them, and another one has broken. Something so delicate was not meant to survive, even wrapped in bubble wrap. My cat would undoubtedly destroy the remaining ones if I put them out. So I’ll leave them in their carton, to remind me spring is coming, and that it is a delicate season.