Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Valentine's Day in Prague

By Alyssa Pry |
PRAGUE DAILY MONITOR |
13 February 2009

Valentine's Day is becoming increasingly popular in the Czech Republic. (ČTK)

Valentine's Day is becoming increasingly popular in the Czech Republic. (ČTK): Valentine's Day is becoming increasingly popular in the Czech Republic. (ČTK)Czech pastry producers have embraced Valentine's Day in recent years. (ČTK)

While the grey skies and cold weather of February often cast a depressing pall over Prague, 14 February brings a flurry of red hearts, cheery roses and chocolate. Valentine's Day, a holiday named after the Catholic martyr St Valentine, has only recently been celebrated in the Czech Republic, but its popularity is increasing along with greeting card and flower sales.

The origin of Valentine's Day dates back to the Roman Empire. St Valentine was a priest under the rule of Emperor Claudius the Second. After defying the Emperor by secretly marrying couples so the men would not have to go into the Roman Army, St Valentine was sent to prison and eventually killed. One myth says that while in prison, St Valentine sent a note to the daughter of a prison guard who often visited him and signed it, "Love from your Valentine".

Those words have since emblazoned candy and cards and Valentine's Day has become a holiday of love for those lucky enough to have a Valentine, and a day of dread for those who don't. While the United States has commercialised this holiday and essentially erased its religious significance, the Czech Republic has only recently started to latch on.

Before 1989, Valentine's Day was practically unknown in the Czech Republic. The first of May was traditionally marked as the "day for lovers," with couples flocking to Petřín Hill to meet near Romantic poet Karel Hynek Mácha's statue or kiss underneath a cherry tree, ensuring good health and luck for the year. After the end of communism, global commercialism made its mark and brought with it Western traditions. Although Valentine's Day is not nearly as popular as in Western countries, its popularity is increasing, leaving a trail of rose petals in its wake.

The Czech Republic has the third highest marriage rate in the world, falling behind Russia and the US with 8.4 marriages per 1,000 people according to nationmaster.com, but with a divorce rate of 67%, finding a long-lasting Valentine may be difficult. However, with Valentine's Day on a Saturday, the possibilities to woo your mate are seemingly endless, and restaurants and theaters around Prague are offering romantic and fun ideas to make even a forgotten holiday memorable.

Kampa Park Restaurant, located on Kampa Island near the Charles Bridge, serves Czech and International cuisine and offers sweeping views of the Vltava River, perfect for a romantic meal for two. While the meals are on the more expensive side, (main courses starting at CZK 595) the gourmet food and decedent desserts will definitely call for a romantic stroll across the Charles Bridge to burn off your meal.

Cremeria Milano can be the perfect place to share a gelato or a pastry with your date. (COURTESY): Cremeria Milano can be the perfect place to share a gelato or a pastry with your date. (COURTESY)Cremeria Milano can be the perfect place to share a gelato or a pastry with your date. (COURTESY)

For a more hands on dining experience, take a cooking class with the gourmet chefs from Zlatá Praha Restaurant. The class starts with a breakfast buffet before you head to the kitchen to cook a five course Valentine's Day feast. The day starts at 10 a.m. and ends at 3 p.m., leaving you plenty of time to reattempt those chocolate covered strawberries.

For a more dramatic take of love and lust, the Hybernia Theatre in Prague is performing the musical Dracula. The theater is more casual, so take in the show before heading to one of Prague's many bars and pubs for a post-show beer. If your taste for culture is more refined, the National Theater is showing Swan Lake. Wander over to Old Town Square and share a gelato or delicate pastry with your date from Cremeria Milano.

If your Valentine's Day finds you with friends, rent The Joke, a film based on the novel by Czech author Milan Kundera. After sending a postcard to a friend who jokes about the communist party, Ludvík Jahn is sent to work for the Czech Military in the mines. After watching this movie, you'll feel worse about Jahn than you do about the fact that you're alone on Valentine's Day.

Whatever your plans are for Valentine's Day, enjoy the growing popularity of the holiday by indulging in sweet treats and splurging on the over-sized teddy bear in the Tesco display window. Whether you celebrate or not, it's always nice to feel love.