Walking down the cobblestone street, encountering a lightly-flowing stream of other winter revelers, bundled against the cold bite of a December night, we head towards a faint glow in the distance. Snow crunches under my feet like it has a million times before; it’s a comforting sound. Nature tells us something with her snow. She tells us that no matter what we build, no matter how we tear her up and cover her in asphalt, she can always beat us. This snow crunching, it’s a natural sound, and no matter where I walk in this wintry city, there is the telltale crunch. For me, it’s comforting to know that we are still humbled by nature and her snow.
The buildings on either side of us begin to give way and open onto a city square. There are many squares scattered around the city. Some small, some large. One one side of one there is a giant, unused cathedral. The other side of another, an old Victorian-era building, its interior re-purposed into a gorgeous, modern shopping mall. Old Town square is surrounded by inconspicuous buildings: old residences or shops, five or six stories tall. But at the head of the square, there is a massive, two-steeple church. It looks all the more impressive in the night, the twinkling sky a perfect backdrop for its massive steeples. Leading out one side, a gently curving cobble-stone street lined with trees, themselves covered in Christmas lights and snow.
Ahead of us is a scene out of a fairy-tale. A Christmas market had sprung up in Old Town square, and the place was alive with people braving the cold, or maybe thriving on it, and coming together in the name of holiday spirit. To spend time thinking on what makes this time of year special for us ruins the magic of the moment. All I will say is that before me, there was not a hint of, “evil commercialization,” or, “desperate consumerism.” In the moment, all that mattered was the faint sound of a chorus caroling, their song drawing me in, a fish hooked but with no reason to struggle. If the holiday spirit wanted to consume me, I would go willingly.
If the sound lured me in, the food is what held me. Hot drinks, cocoa and grog, would stoke the body’s inner flame, keep the soul burning through the cold evening. Goulash in a bread bowl, is there anything better? Some gentlemen laughing as I bemoan the loss of a piece of my brat to the snow-covered ground (though if I were in Kenya, I would have picked it up and ate it). Around me, each of the vendor’s booth a possibility of finding a treasure. Their red roofs glowing from the stall’s light, covered lightly in white snow, contrasting against the green of the Christmas tree on center display. Glassware for which Prague is famous; amber jewelry, another local specialty. Of course, extra thick gloves for the equatorial visitor.
Leaving was difficult. To have all your senses robbed of their previous delights is just a cruelty. The walk home held no such promise of warm goulash, or the sweet sound of carolers. The lights on the metro far too bright, far too purposeful. The fleeting magical moments of the Christmas market were gone. They never seemed to make their way across the seas to the United States, and that’s a shame. I am just happy I got a chance to experience them this one time, and consider myself lucky on this.