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5 Souvenirs from the Czech Republic

February 17th, 2012


Photo credit: Czech Tourism

There’s a famous quote by an unknown author, “Take only photographs, steal only time, leaves only footprints.” When it comes to the Czech Republic, by all means take photographs, but you can’t leave this country with just a few thousand pictures. You have to take home some souvenirs!

Hand crafted and an integral part of Czech history and culture, here are 5 Souvenirs worth the extra baggage fees.

Bohemian Glass


Photo credit: Le Petit Poulailler on Flickr

Famous for its colour and durability, Bohemian glass (or Bohemian crystal) has been continually manufactured in the Czech Republic since the 13th century (it was produced in regions of Bohemia and Silesia), when glass workers discovered that potash, combined with chalk, created a clear, colourless glass more stable than that imported from Italy.

The designation “Bohemian crystal” emerged around this time to distinguish the Czech product from glass that was being produced in other countries. Pairs of vases were produced either in a single colour or two-coloured glass and decorated in thickly enamelled flower subjects.

During the second half of the 19th century, Bohemia was ready to export their glass all over the world.

Reverse glass painting is also a Czech speciality, where the images are carefully painting by hand on the back of a pane of glass before the painting is mounted in a bevelled wooden frame.

Marionettes


Photo credit: CCarlstead of Flickr

The history of puppets in theatre in the Czech Republic is long, and can be traced back to the early part of the Middle Ages, with the first mention of marionettes appearing around the time of the Thirty Years War.

Throughout the 19th century, puppetry developed separately from the emerging mainstream of actor theatres, and puppeteers were relegated to performing outside of theatre buildings at fairs and markets, etc, and were classified along with bandits and gypsies. But as the art form faced competition from other theatre forms, such as vaudeville and music hall, the artists adapted to the changes, and reinvented their art form to attract new audiences.

Czech puppets are elaborate, intricate works of art carved from wood or made from plaster. They represent different characters, from devils, witches and wizards, to clowns, jesters, kings, princesses, and even Czech “celebrities”.

Spa Wafers


Photo credit: Stephen Depolo

Your sweet tooth is in for a treat. Originally meant as a light, delicate cookie so that they were easy for folks who were ill to swallow and digest, spa wafers have been around the CR since 1856, when large scale production on the thin cookie was begun – the taste and shape have remained the same since.

While the wafers are available at spa towns throughout the Czech Republic, the most famed can be found in Karlovy Vary. The large, round, delicate cookies come in many flavors, like vanilla/nut and chocolate, and are made fresh on the street by vendors or can be picked up at local grocery stores.

Wooden Toys


Photo credit: CCarlstead on Flickr

While everyone is ready to jump on the latest-and-greatest technology bandwagon when it comes to children’s toys – don’t discount how much fun a kid can have with something simple.

Still very popular today for their charm and durability, the Czech Republic is well known for the quality of their traditional handmade wooden toys, a craft which goes back hundreds of years. You can find them in a variety of shapes and forms, from simple pull toys and dolls that bounce, to puzzles, wooden mobiles, toy cars, and trains.

Becherovka


Photo credit: Czech Tourism

Looking for a cure-all? The Czech’s have discovered one in Becherovka, an herbal bitters produced in Karlovy Vary by the Jan Becher Company.

Becherovka is flavoured with anise seed, cinnamon, and about 32 herbs, with an alcohol content of 38% (that’s 76 proof!). It is often used as a digestion aid, and in several former Eastern Bloc countries, it has been used as a home remedy for arthritis. Traditionally, it’s served cold. If you’re feeling fancy, add some tonic water and you’ve got a beton (that’s Czech for “concrete”).

Worth noting: there are only two people in the world who know the secret of the entire production process, and they’re the only ones allowed to enter the Dogikamr room, where, once a week, a mixture of the many herbs and spices used in the drink’s creation are prepared.

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