Potraviny - Is that Italian?

Since I've been talking about food for the past couple weeks, I thought I'd share my grocery shopping experience with you.

First of all, remember that we don't have a car, so all the food we purchase has to be carried home with us. To help us out, we bought some "wheels" to lug the heavy groceries home. Meet "Gimli", our grocery cart. We ordered it while we were in Germany in July. The unique three-wheel contraption on the back helps us to "walk" the groceries up the thirty steps to our flat without having to lift it.

Gimli and I walk to the store at least once a week to purchase all the heavy/bulky items to bring home. The other days, I take a couple bags to bring home the purchased items.

It's the custom here to the grocery store on a daily basis. I don't go every day, but at least four or five times a week. These trips are necessary to purchase bread every day since it's made here without preservatives of any kind. That's healthier for us, but also gets dried out, or even moldy, after only two days of sitting on our counter.

Now the potraviny comes in... Potraviny is the Czech word for groceries. There is a potraviny every two or three blocks in the city. On my twenty minute walk to my bank, I passed twelve potravinys (I'm not sure how to do that plural). Of course, several were specialized ones -  Italian. Russian, and natural foods.

We've heard that many of the potravinys are owned by Vietnamese families. In the 1980s many North Vietnamese came here for college and stayed. Those are the families that own the local markets now.

Our potraviny owner family also owns the two shops adjacent to the market. One is a little restaurant that specializes in sushi and the other is a nail salon. The workers are interchangeable on a daily basis between the three shops. Think of the Greek family in "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" to get an idea of how it works.

Pictured above is our potraviny that is three blocks from our apartment. The picture was taken in front of the opening on the street. It is literally one aisle wide - with no door on it. I have no idea what happens in winter.

The produce at our store is wonderful. I can get almost anything I need (except cilantro).  It's the nicest selection of produce at any of the potravinys that I've seen.

When you get to the end of the produce aisle, the space opens up to a regular store. It has most items that we need on a regular basis. I find it hard to believe how much stuff is crammed into the three shelves wide space.

Fresh meat is the one thing that our potraviny does not carry. It has some frozen chicken and lunch meat, but no fresh meat. We do have a meat store on our walk home from the metro stop where I purchase our meat for the week.

The dairy section is pretty well stocked with items that we purchase sometimes daily. There's only so many yogurts that I can carry home with all the rest of the things I need.

The one thing different is the bakery section. As you can see in the picture, the baked items are lying in the open in baskets. That is how we would purchase crescents, rolls, and doughnuts (if we ate them). Every potraviny has it this way - even larger grocery stores like Alberts and Tesco. All bread is just dumped (sometimes still warm) into baskets. The customer then picks out what is needed and places it into a bag to take home.

Every day I see fruit flies and other insects flying by or crawling on the bakery items, especially the ones that have any fruit or jelly filling on them. (I don't purchase any of those items.) We tend to purchase the loaves of bread which are wrapped in plastic bags.

I sometimes think about the high US standards for selling food. The Czech Republic wouldn't pass the test - especially in the bakery area, but the remainder of the groceries are comparable to food in the states.


  1. It sounds like the old neighborhood markets of the 40s in the states.

    1. That's a good equivalent. Because of the lack of cars here, I don't think these will disappear over time, however.


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