New post from missionary Erin Mackenzie
Posted: 24 Dec 2019 02:43 PM PST
Merry Christmas Eve!
I went running earlier. Outside. Because it’s in the mid 50s. Tomorrow, St. Louis may come close to breaking the record high for Christmas Day (71), set in 1889. After narrowly missing the first snowfall of the year the day I left, it was similarly mild in the Czech Republic…at least compared to what I was mentally and otherwise – I packed my snow boots – prepared for. Hey, I’m not mad.
Jet-lagged after a red-eye flight and with nonexistent Czech (it’s been awhile since I felt the kind of vulnerability that comes with not being able to read the signage around me and needing to seek out English speakers for assistance of any kind), I successfully made my way from the Prague airport to the train station. I had plenty of time, so I walked the few blocks to Wenceslas (as in Good King…) Square.
The Hoffmanns, fellow members of my spring 2018 St. Louis orientation cohort, were waiting for me when I got off the train in Olomouc (pronounced with a “tz” sound at the end, apparently). Commence 24 hours of catching up and hitting their city’s highlight reel.
For one of the most atheistic countries on the planet, there are nativity scenes everywhere, including the shopping mall near the Hoffmanns’ apartment (we cut through on our way to the town’s Christmas market). This one was mechanized, and you can see the skyline of present-day Olomouc in the background on the left-hand side.
LIVE CHRISTMAS TREES!
See? I told you.
My first Christmas market experience! Christmas markets begin popping up in town squares throughout Europe after Thanksgiving. Wooden stalls adorned with Christmas lights sell crafts and foodstuffs, most notably hot drinks like mulled wine. Here, Lucy and I are enjoying a snack of hearty bread topped with griddled cheese and cranberry sauce (the alternative was garlic butter).
Peter and I in front of St. Wenceslas’s Cathedral.
Medallions like these, embedded in the sidewalk, mark the former residences of Jews who were forcibly removed from their homes and taken to concentration camps.
Back to the square where the Christmas market was set up for dinner. The monument in the center is one of Olomouc’s most famous, Holy Trinity Column.
Every Christmas market in the Czech Republic has a bell that supposedly brings good luck to all who ring it. I don’t believe in luck, but who am I to miss out on a local custom?
I slept like a log but was ready to get back at it the next morning. Here, I’m posing underneath the Maria Theresa Gate, which commemorates the 1754 visit of the Hapsburg empress.
One last stop at the Hoffmanns’ favorite coffee shop. My hot chocolate was a work of art.
It came up as we chatted that my visit was just in the nick of time; the Hoffmanns will be repatriating back to the US in March after two years of service (which means my own missionary journey also started two years ago!). As they shared with me about the challenges they’ve faced but also about the relationships they’ve cultivated, it became clear that God will use their time in the Czech Republic to further His mission both throughout the region of Silesia and at their home congregation in Georgia. To Him be the glory!
Early Tuesday afternoon, The Hoffmanns headed to a Christmas party at their local senior club and I, to the train station. Next stop: the inaugural short-term coordinators conference – the impetus behind my trip across the Atlantic.
Until next time, blessings!
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