Na zdraví, Neelam!

In The Art of Travel Fall 2017, 13. Thanksgiving, Prague by Maria AlejandraLeave a Comment

I imagined I would celebrate Thanksgiving alone this semester and the idea made me quite sad. Thanksgiving is one of the few US holidays that my family has adopted because of its reimagined, ahistorical significance. My Catholic family loves that Thanksgiving serves as a reminder to give thanks for everything we have in life. Of course, I am very well aware that the conception of Thanksgiving is obviously not as benevolent as it has been made to be but alas. It is also an excuse to eat a lot and not feel as bad about the strain on our pants’ buttons.

Much like the immigrant families featured in the NY Times’ article, “American Thanksgiving,” my family always manages to Colombiafy or at least Latinize our Thanksgiving meal. Yes, we do have a turkey, but we also have pork, and rice and beans, and avocados in there somewhere. Because I have been deprived of Colombian food here—and my family, of course—I was not looking forward to my first Thanksgiving abroad.

HOWEVER, one of my closest friends asked me if she could come visit me during her Thanksgiving break. I did not hesitate to reply with a “HELL YEAH!” I have been looking forward to her arrival for some time now because not only would that mean I would reunite with her, it also meant that I could pretend to be a tour guide of sorts, relive some of my favorite places once more before December 15th (the last day of the program), and take a break from the incoming wave of finals-related stress.

She arrived on Tuesday evening and left this morning. Our Thursday was truly a memorable day, and will go down in my books as one of my favorite Thanksgiving celebrations. We started the day off right by having avocado toast that seemed endless at a local coffeeshop. We then walked all over town, hitting up every tourist point: the Christmas market at Náměstí Míru, Wenceslaus Square, Old Town Square—where we enjoyed a cup of hot mulled wine; the Jewish Quarter, Parizska street (the “5th avenue” of Prague), the astronomical clock, the Charles Bridge— shortly after enjoying some also seemingly endless trdelník (“chimney cake”)—the John Lennon wall, Kampa Park, the ice pub, Národní (“national street”), and the Rudolfinum in which we checked out a very cool exhibit. It was wonderful to see everything with fresh eyes, and catch the newcomer’s contagious admiration. Neelam confirmed the beauty of Prague and revalidated my experience here.

We then walked over to a vegetarian restaurant to enjoy our Thanksgiving dinner. The restaurant, called Estrella, gave us a complimentary appetizer which I deduced was some kind of tofu with a mayonnaise-based dip. (Then again, I do not have a refined palette at all so I could be completely wrong). We then had a mushroom pâté appetizer, and as our main course, endless risotto with some amazing ingredients my unsophisticated tongue could not discern, accompanied by a glass of hot sangria (what a concept!). Seriously, all the food we had seemed to never end. If only her stay here could have had the same characteristic. 

Neelam is vegetarian so everything we ate during her stay was vegetarian. I am the opposite of a vegetarian, if such a thing exists. Raised in a Colombian family, all of my meals have some type of meat in them. Thus, this was perhaps the healthiest week I have spent here because I did not eat any meat! Yet, at the same time, we ate a lot because gastronomy is one of the most effective ways to discover a new place. We also walked a lot. Between Thursday and Friday—our two busiest days—we walked approximately 54,000 steps. So I am hoping that the healthy food and walking negates the amount of food we ate, such that my weight has not been affected at all. I am rationalizing that if I have gained all the weight I avoided gaining this semester, it is ok because it was Thanksgiving anyway! 

Both of us love to dance, so later on Thursday evening we went to Karlovy Lázně, a five-story club: “Central Europe’s largest club”. Writing about my Thursday renders me in disbelief because boy, did we do a lot! Indeed, my Thanksgiving this year was quite eclectic: it was a day of friendship, travel/discovery and knowledge, great food, and moving hips. I am honestly unsure of what I would have done had Neelam not come to visit me. I probably would have stayed in my dorm wallowing in despair at the impending finals doom and lack of Colombian food available to me.   

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