Don’t fear the cold weather — embrace it!
Hit the mountains, the slopes, the trails — winter doesn’t stop most Czechs from heading to their cottages or ski resorts. And while the country’s mountainous terrain surely accounts for creating a nation of avid skiers (there are close to 300 slopes in the Czech lands) there’s another reason behind the Czech passion for fresh powder: during the communist era most companies had one or more company-owned mountain cottages that were lent out to valued workers for winter activities. People have kept the tradition ever since.
Dress for the elements
Anyone who has spotted a Czech kid in a snowsuit from the first autumn chill — or fought with their significant Czech over a prúvon knows that this is a nation that takes temperature regulation very seriously. At home, the soles of the feet and the lower back should be defended against illness at all times and donning the appropriate weather-proof sportswear (you might have been in Czechia too long if Sportisimo and Decathlon are among your favorite clothing stores) is also important to winter-survival. Keep your extremities warm fashionably with a zmijovka (viper), a traditional Czech hat named for its zig-zag pattern.
Sip baked fruit tea and rum grog
Come winter, most Czech kitchens are stocked with ginger, lemon, and honey for a steamy, sinus-clearing remedy that’s as soothing as it is pleasurable to drink. Adding a shot of rum is another potent and particularly Czech way to warm up. Traditional Bohemia “baked tea” (pečený čaj) made from fruits that have been lightly spiced and baked at a high temperature, is also a must-try.
Start prepping in the summer
Fermented foods such as sauerkraut have long been thought to bolster probiotic health and vitamin-C levels that help protect the immune system during the cold-and-flu months. There’s a reason, aside from sheer industriousness, that Czechs spend summer afternoons pickling and preserving cabbage, cucumbers, and vegetables. If you’re interested in learning how to pickle there is a regular Prague workshop that teaches participants how to pack nutrients and winter immuno-boast into a jar.
Make all kinds of tonics and tinctures
Try bottles of pine needles soaked in dissolved sugar, onion syrup, and other homespun remedies for curing a cough or soothing sore throats during winter. One particularly potent combo is that of the classic Czech Alpa Francovka, clear alcoholic solution of essential oils, herbs, natural menthol and other aromatic substances. It can be found in all Czech pharmacies and is a bit of a cure all for everything from congestion to cuts. When infused with a large quantity of cloves it is said to clear up the sinuses.
Practice the Czech version of hygge
Prague-based Dane Peter Bach Lauritzen defines hygge as a satisfying blend of “tradition” and “good feelings.” And while Denmark is certainly a world leader in its outward enthusiasm for all things “hyggelige,” Bach Lauritzen believes that it is an exportable idea, roughly comparable to the Czech pohoda, or comfort. To cozy up Czech style, take advantage of a Prague sauna, or fill up on winter Czech comfort foods like gingerbread, soups, and potato pancakes. Read more in our article How to Find your Hygge in Prague.