Because Prague is a old city, unless you happen to live in a new, modern block, it is most unusual to have anywhere to park that is close to your home. I do have a garage, but it is some distance from my apartment. For this reason, I usually park my Harley on the path right outside my front door. Nobody in his right mind would leave anything so valuable and so comparatively fragile parked on the road itself.
For some inexplicable climatic reason, it is quite rare to get snow in the Czech Republic before mid January. However, just before Christmas in 2013, quite literally out of a clear blue sky, several centimetres fell all over the city. When snow is threatened on a forecast, I usually move the motorcycle inside, but on this occasion, I was caught out. My Street Bob was covered in snow.
On a whim, I fetched some tinsel from upstairs, draped it over my handlebars took a photo.
Lucie and I ended up circulating the shot as our Christmas card to all of our friends.
Unwittingly, I had sowed the seeds of a new “tradition“.
Early in 2014, for reasons discussed elsewhere on this site, I traded the Street Bob for a Fat Boy.
Having commented above on the rarity of pre-Christmas snow, it will probably not surprise any of you unduly to discover that, once again the weather beat me to the punch and one morning I walked out to find my Fat Boy neatly sprinkled with the white stuff ! Out came the camera to capture the moment before I rode it to the garage. At least our Christmas snap was sorted !
Having persuaded me to paint myself into a corner with regard to our Christmas card, nature decided to make it hard for me. It was bitterly cold, but the forecast contained no suggestion of any snow.
Luckily, Prague has plenty of illuminated Christmas trees and I did not have to ride too far to find one !
In early December 2016, I had one of those moments of serendipity that I am fortunate to encounter from time to time. I was driving in my car (sorry, purists, but that does happen) and due to an horrendous traffic jam caused by a bin lorry, I tried a little trick to make progress. Thus, I was in a street I rarely drive down, at the precise second when an assistant came out of a second-hand shop, with a Father Christmas outfit on a coat-hanger – and hung it on a stand. I screeched to a halt, ran in, bought it for six-hundred Czech Crowns (about nineteen British Pounds) and was gone again in time to be in front of the bin-lorry that was still jamming everything else up.
And what a find ! This was not some cheap thing, this was a proper, thick cotton jacket and trousers in a (thankfully) generous size. It had a wool fringe for the white-trim and a proper hat. I was meant to have it !
Of course, this meant that my long-suffering wife had to be pressed into something similar for that year’s picture.
Most people know that Prague has a tram system. However, a fact that a lot of people are unaware of is that the extensive network of tram tracks are regularly lubricated by the “Mazačka” or “Greasing Tram” which has the effect of significantly extending the life of the rails. Attached to the Greasing Tram, facing backwards, is an HD camera which provides a continuous, rolling view of the city as it recedes into the distance. As someone who does a lot of driving and is, thus, continuously seeing the city coming towards me, I find this fascinating (and spend far too long watching it ….).
A thought occurred and just before Christmas, aided by a computer literate friend (Lucie had politely declined my pleas) to take screenshots, I donned my Father Christmas outfit and set out after the tram. Of course, this was far from being as simple as I had imagined. It was very hard to keep up with the tram and the traffic regulations for it are different. Every time I got near and was trying to manoeuvre into shot, I had to stop at a traffic light and it was gone again. I chased it for about two hours ! My life was further complicated by continuous requests from pedestrians, not ALL of them with little children, for pictures and “selfies“, I must have done at least fifty !
In the end, with the light fading, we managed these. Sadly, another thing I had not realised was that, once I was alongside, I was hardly in shot !
I did not think the above pictures were worthy of our Christmas card though. In the anticipation of doing something a little bit different, I had thoughtfully (if that is the word), ordered a “Rudolph the red-nosed Reindeer” outfit …….. This is widely known, now, amongst our acquaintances, as “Randolph the rude-nosed red deer …”
With the long-suffering Lucie pressed into service as Father Christmas, a friend took this picture ! I think it is fair to say that the outfit was much looser on her !
The problem that you face, when you take a “road” like this is that people start to ask you, possibly as early as in May, what you will do next !
Normally quite shy, Lucie seemed to be on board and so, undaunted, we assembled a proper “Elf” costume, right down to the stripy socks and the curly shoes.
In unseasonably nice weather, for a December’s day in Prague, another friend captured this moment !
In 2019 we took a grand trip Harley in Australia. You can read about it elsewhere on this site if you have a mind to.
Part of this trek included a visit to Uluru (Ayer’s Rock) in the scorching heat of the Northern Territories. When we were parked in front of that stunning monolith, Lucie produced a pair of Father Christmas hats from her rucksack. Thanks to the assistance of another tourist, we were able to use this slightly unusual shot as our Christmas greeting !
Well, there is not much I can say about the year 2020 ! Everyone knows what it was like !
We had bought another Harley, a Heritage Softail, because we so liked the one we had in Australia. We took delivery of it in the first week of the Covid-19 lockdown and, because of border closures and everywhere being rightfully closed, apart from a brief trip to Germany, we hardly rode it at all.
But, we needed a Christmas photo. So one cold and dull Sunday morning we rode down to the Vltava river and put on our costumes. Fortunately one of our friends was riding his bicycle along the river bank and was able to take a “socially distanced” photograph !
Another year of not really doing anything significant. Apart from our brief trip into Austria and Slovenia on our second “Hundertwasser” tour, our fun had been limited to a few day trips around the State.
Still, December arrived and, despite continuing social restrictions, various Christmassy themed things appeared around the city and I began to search for a “backdrop“. Dopravní Podník, the umbrella organisation which runs public transport in Prague, joined the fun and two of its “standard” trams, working a selection of regular routes were adorned with thousands of lights. One of these seemed like a likely target – but then the “Mazačka” (or “Greasing Tram“) appeared on the rails, not only lit up. but also painted with Christmassy scenes ….. Bingo !
We made our plans, consulted the timetable and arranged for a friend to come and take the pictures.
The chosen day, a Saturday, was cold, but bright and sunny. Quite near to where we live is an end of a line point, where the trams turn around and wait briefly before setting off again. This seemed an ideal place to catch the tram at rest, so we met there. Of course as soon as we dressed up, people seemed to appear out of the ground and we became the subjects of a lot of ‘phone based photography and were probably posted elsewhere on the internet long before the the “Mazačka” arrived, precisely upon schedule.
The driver, Marty, was extremely co-operative (Thanks Marty !!) and seemed to love the attention himself ! We took a number of shots.
In the sunshine, the lighting was not that prominent and we decided to return after dark in order to try and capture the full glory. Marty told us when he would be there again and we headed home to wait it out.
After dark we returned and quickly discovered how difficult it is to take a good picture in the foreground of something that is truly lit up like a Christmas tree just behind you. Our first attempts were a dismal failure. The tram was there, but we were all but invisible against the glare ……
The ever helpful Marty suggested that on his final visit of the day, about thirty minutes later, we could take some better shots in a more sympathetically lit part of the turn-around. There is a basic, but small little pub on the site so we adjourned there to await the tram’s return. Yes folks, the three of us, in full “regalia” waited in a bar (we drank fruit tea !) for half an hour ….
Eventually, the “Mazačka” reappeared, Marty parked where we were lit, to a point, from in front and we took this !
What fun !
Having, as it were, made a rod for our own backs, we spent quite a time, as Christmas approached making plans. There were quite a number of seemingly suitable places and I went around, scouting possible locations and examining things like accessibility, light levels at night, etc., and eventually we settled on a spot.
Then it snowed, fairly seriously ! OK, so we live in Central Europe but, in truth, it is very unusual for the city of Prague to get much more than a dusting before the end of the year. But this time it snowed, it turned very cold and froze hard so the snow stayed – and then more snow fell on top. With time running out and no sign of a thaw, we were left with no option but to, once again, resort to the little road outside of our garage. At least it was seasonably white !
To keep a bit of variety going, I was once again Father Christmas, but Lucie agreed (only slightly reluctantly), to don the “Randolph the rude-nosed red deer …” outfit. See 2017).
Our good friend Rod was recruited as photographer and our neighbours were again treated to the sight of us acting very strangely indeed.
We took two pictures. The first was for our non-motorcycling friends ……
The second was more “HOG” oriented and was distributed to the members of HOG Prague !