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What to Buy?

For something truly Czech look for handmade goods. The art of lace making is still practiced today and lots of women in the villages still create beautiful, traditional patterns. Wooden toys like dolls and marionette puppets are good gift ideas. If you're in Prague during the spring, look for hand painted eggs or braided birch switches boys use to whip girls' legs at Easter (a pagan fertility ritual).

The Czech Republic has many garnet mines and the stones are used in making all kinds jewelry. Garnets are usually a deep red color but the ones from the Czech Republic are known to have a brighter pinkish tone. Another jewellery item easily found is amber. Amber is not a precious stone but is hardened tree resin. It ranges from a light golden colour to a deep brown and some of it is even green. The variations in the 'stone' caused by trapped plant matter - or even insects - add to the variation. Both amber and garnets can be found in many shops throughout the city.

Buying glass and crystal goes without saying: it is known all around the world that Czechs know how to blow and cut crystal better than anybody. Don't worry about buying a chandelier because you don't want to travel with it; almost all shops will gladly arrange shipping. See our page on glass for more information.

If you visit beautiful Karlovy Vary make sure to pick up those large, round, layered wafer cookies. The kids at home will love them and they're lightweight in the suitcase! Also, look for the ceramic mugs with a built-in straw that doubles as a handle. They're made for drinking from the hot springs but maybe you'll want to use yours all the time. There are ceramic beer 'steins' of all shapes and sizes for sale in all the tourist shops. Beer drinkers at home might appreciate that. Drinkable goods to bring home include Becherovka, the national herbal 'medicine'; Slivovice - hard liquor made of plums; and the infamous licorice-flavored Absinth, banned in many other countries because of its apparently hallucinogenic and toxic ingredient: wormwood.

If you need something unique for a friend who likes to cook, how about a good luck kitchen witch? Flying on broomstick she makes sure nothing in the kitchen burns. 'Mole' is an adorable Czech cartoon character for children - a t-shirt, book or furry backpack will delight the kids on your list. Art lovers will appreciate a box or deck of cards with motifs by Alphons Mucha - he was one of the most celebrated Czech painters ever and was very influential in starting the Art Nouveau movement. Ladies might like linden tree perfume - it's the national Czech tree and smells fresh, green and flowery.

Nesting dolls are beautiful and make great gifts for both children and adults; but they're a Russian tradition not Czech. And then there are all the typical tourist souvenirs - jumping spiders and 'Communist' regalia like furry hats and so on. For the most part these things are imported from China to be sold to tourists here. But if you like it that's all that matters!

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