Wooden Ornaments


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The best places to find authentic wooden ornaments in the Czech Republic
Besides anxiety concerning transportation, currency exchange, and safety when traveling abroad, a problem many travelers seem to have is figuring out what to bring home as souvenirs. Chocolate, wooden Christmas ornaments, souvenir t-shirts: none seem quite good enough to properly evoke a wonderful trip abroad. Handing out knick knacks upon homecoming to those left behind is a way we try to bring our traveling experiences to those that we love. But sometimes, if the presents are poorly made, the memories we may impart are anti-climactic or cheap compared to the actual experience. That’s one reason why, on my last visit to the Czech Republic, I fell so in love with wooden ornaments as presents for family and friends: they are beautiful, authentic, and are sure to make my friends love the country as much as I did.


In the Czech Republic there is no shortage of traditional handicrafts like wooden ornaments at traditional festivals—especially during the Christmas season. At the Saint Wenceslas Celebration and International Folk Music Festival each Fall in ?eský Krumlov, there are many options for those looking for authentic souvenir wooden ornaments. Amidst the picturesque homes, winding river, and castle upon the hill, a traditional craft and food market abounds. Whether looking for delicious bur?ek (“young” unfermented wine, only available in the fall seasons), handmade pottery, or wooden ornaments for Christmas, it’s possible to find something for everyone.


Since the town of ?eský Krumlov itself is largely populated by Roma people and small farmers (after the city restoration project of the early 90’s), festivals like this allow folk music, dancing, and handicrafts such as traditional wooden ornaments a way to stay alive. The 2009 festival had one man sitting at a loom weaving. His whole booth was covered with blankets, table runners, napkins, and scarves—thick wool, beautiful colors, and remarkably soft textures. A few booths down an elderly woman in a colorful peasant skirt is cutting pieces of nougat off a huge block of the stuff.


Next to her, a few booths were full of numerous wooden ornaments for Czech Christmas trees. Strands of wooden beads and piles of painted wooden cutouts decorated the stand, smelling of gingerbread and cinnamon and reminding one of Christmas, even in the middle of September. Some of the wooden ornaments were small angels with plain wooden faces and cornhusk bodies and wings dangled on ribbons, blowing in the wind, each little piece with its own shape, color, and character. It’s easy to want to pull out a few hundred koruna and buy the lot, watching them all hang from the branches of a deep green tree.


For those not traveling around the Czech Republic, or only in town during the holidays, Prague itself has much to offer. There, wooden decorations and markets go up at the beginning of December. The huge Christmas tree is erected in the middle of Old Town Square and is lit in a big ceremony. There’s an audience assembled to watch the lights go on, tinsel and stars mixed with wooden ornaments and traditional glass balls. And at the foot of the tree is another marketplace. There are a few dozen in Prague that time of year: at the foot of Wenceslas Square, at Nám?stí Míru, in part of Havelske Trziste, out in Holešovice and beyond.

Each market is filled with food and wine and cheap trinkets, but some stalls take the opportunity to retain some traditional craftsmanship such as exquisite carpentry. Marionettes are still made in the traditional way, and the blown and cut glass is as authentic as ever. Even small wooden Christmas ornaments are carved by hand and are traditional in their own quaint way, turning the rough wood in one’s palm, it’s almost possible to believe that the bustling holiday market is transformed into the street of a small village a century ago. More than keeping train ticket stubs and framing photos in front of main attractions, finding traditional souvenirs to bring home preserves a part of the culture of the place, its taking remembering what makes up a country and bringing it home.