Imagine mushrooms. Clusters of brown shingled mushrooms with pointy roofs a bit like, um, little wooden huts. Of the type that could be inhabited by elves in stories by the brothers Grimm if they were less organic and mossy and more, sort of, pre-fab. Well, actually, you could just picture clusters of little square wooden huts, but saying that makes me think of rustic, field-bound portaloos. So think mushrooms.
Besides, the mushroom comparison (for ever after known as the mycelium metaphor) allows me to cheat and pretend that some kind of thematic thing actually is happening here, since I have mentioned fungi at least once before. Twice creates a theme. If I bring them up a third time before the end of the year and cook them for hours in a heavy cream sauce on a gas ring with my hair in plaits while maundering on for several days about the twilight of the gods they probably become a leitmotiv. And I win a Xena apron.
Damn. Christmas must be soon, I just made a dodgy Wagner joke.
Anyhow, there are mushroomy clusters of huts all over town now. Brown, wood, small. You know the type. And they have popped up all over the place in preparation for December's Christmas market spectacular. They've pretty much colonised Old Town Square (also known by the hard Czech name, Staroměstské náměstí) and the north-east end of Wenceslas Square (also has a hard Czech name - Václavské námestí, and it's not even square). Both locations are perfectly situated to lure in the ravening hordes of tourists. There's also a row in Smíchov by the tram stop to catch the American students on their way to the Big Shiny Shopping Mall and one in Náměstí Míru so the expats don't have to hobnob with the short-breaking hoi polloi.
A brief informal poll around work revealed that most Czechs view them with disdain and won't be venturing anywhere near Prague central for the next month except maybe to buy their carp.
The Poles think the ones in Warsaw are better and cheaper because the Polish are the bestest merchants in the world evAH and don't you know that even before Solidariność they would trek miles barefoot through howling gales and driving rain to flog a bright-green plastic pencil sharpener with a missing blade to an Albanian who would thank them, dammit, for the favour. And how can anyone sell with Czech food in their belly anyhow? Except maybe svíčková. This food is quite okay and they make something very similar in southern Poland, but the flavouring is much more subtle - they use this special herb and anyhow…
The Hungarian doesn't like to shop, period, he just plays Warrior's Doom-Laden Trek wiv Gory Battles and Barbarian Gurls. The Bulgarians think that the markets are full of over-priced tat they could knit themselves and would rather just stay home where it's warm and eat something good like moussaka with a couple of bottles of red wine and a whisky chaser.
Being an expat who loves to play tourist and is expecting my own weekending visitors, I intend to embrace the Christmas market scene with an awe-inspiring fervour, fuelled by my unbridled lust for tinsel, mulled wine and special Christmas cookies. I also predict that many of my friends and relatives this year will be getting Official Product of the Czech Republic HandMade Bohemian Christmas Themed Gift Objects. Probably ones made of nice, light straw. A shopping extravaganza awaits. More later - particularly about the carp, which requires further elaboration.