Towers of beer
This is the second episode of the Prague chronicles, in which our 'heroes' endeavour to have a cultural experience, or two, whilst also enjoying a beer, or twelve. All of these things took place, but possibly not in this order.
Friday, Prague: I'm up with the larks - presuming that Czech larks rise at 10am in order to look at a disappointing continental breakfast. This is the last time that the breakfast room will 'enjoy' the presence of my travelling companion Shane who insists upon trying one of the congealed mini-fried-eggs. I will suffer for this later.
Having been in Prague twice before we had a rough idea of our bearings, we also had an indestructible map and a plan. The plan was to head toward the castle to find a funicular railway and an observation tower - two attractions which we'd conspired to miss on previous visits, despite once walking straight past both of them.
It was a fair walk to Petrin Hill, which resides on the other side of the river. Naturally we stopped for a beer. CafÃÂ© Hugo served a nice pint of Bernard and also had wi-fi, enabling me to link my iphone back to base as the wifi in the hotel had temporarily wiped out my e-mail and contacts the night before, a somewhat frightening experience. Friday, first beer - 11.30am, it would be a further 17 hours before we drank our last and returned to bed.
The Petrin Funicular was fairly unimpressive, providing only the opportunity to laugh at the grumpy guard, who also happened to be the driver. I suspect driving 383 metres up and down a hill all day would possibly make me grumpy as well. It also saved us from having to walk up the hill to the tower, something we'd done on our last visit without even spotting it.
The only reason I was aware of the Petrin Tower at all was thanks to other people's photos on flickr. Even now we are somewhat bewildered that we had previously managed to walk so closely to it and not see it, though we had hangovers, snow and Siberian nuns to contend with last time. I have read somewhere that Hitler considered the tower to be an eyesore and committed himself to destroy it, for some reason he never found the time.
The photos may not do it justice but its description as a mini-Eiffel is not far wrong, perched on Petrin Hill it has the same 'height' and provided great views across this fantastic city. I could've done without the climb though.
From the tower we departed in search of a monastic brewery. The Monastery was easy enough to find, but we initially struggled to see the bar and almost wandered into the monk's offices, only to be deterred by an elderly lady who had surprisingly good English - though she failed to understand our dour black-country-tinged requests to find beer.
Eventually we stumbled upon the beer room and restaurant, enjoying a few glasses of their own-brewed brand, St Norbert. We also partook of some local delicacy which appeared to be bread and pickle with a dry potatoey spread. I'm not sure I'd recommend it.
The monastery was close to Prague Castle, an essential destination. The castle grounds sit so high that they offer spectacular views over the city; they also incorporate St. Vitus Cathedral which provides further proof that the devil may have the best tunes but God has the greatest buildings.
Around the slope from the castle grounds we located our next drink, though the pub itself had few signs. The Black Ox had been recommended by our indestructible beer map, without which we'd never have found it. The Black Ox's main features were two medium sized halls with high ceilings, and two large gentlemen with beer tabards and bad body odour. serving the pints. One would pour and slam them down for the other to pick them up and deliver them to you.
It was a great pint in a great atmosphere - even given the b.o. The barmen had a table adjacent to the bar where their mates were sat, and between servings would pour themselves a pint to enjoy with them. This was apparently a normal Friday afternoon in Prague, one of the many reasons I love it here.
Into the old town we headed for one of our original favoured bars. There's no real reason why the Corsair, known by us as 'the dark bar' because it's dark in there at any time of day, should be one of our favoured bars. It's small it is in a back street, it's cosy and it's now a tradition - we go there whenever in Prague. A pint of Krusovice Amber later and having had to endure a Diana Krall-sound-a-like (possibly Diana Krall herself) singing about 'secrets like peas' we departed to head into the night.
The evening, without notes, is something of a beer-sodden blur. We headed to the far side of town to check out the atmosphere out there - looked in the windows of many a busy restaurant, and passed them all up to sit in a pizza cafÃÂ©. I ordered an inedible chicken pizza (too dry) to go with our bottle of wine (sacrilege) before finding a trendy bar that appeared to have some name related to ducks. The staff all wore uniforms featuring webbed-foot-prints.
Liking to mix our chalk with our cheese, our next choice of bar resembled a working men's club. All the customers appeared to be in varying states of inebriation, age and status. We watched with interest as a dreadlocked youth staggered around into people, had to re-order our beers as we hadn't done it properly first time, and then sat bemused as a bloke tried to pack all his xmas shopping into one plastic bag despite there being two empty bags beside him. His mates finally made him aware of this, but only when he'd spent five minutes cramming everything in, the bastards.
Our interest in the same man had initially been motivated by the fact that he was wearing some kind of leather holstered belt, filled with miniature bottles of spirits. There could easily have been twenty full bottles around his waist in this utility-belt, the like of which I've never seen before but would welcome as a Christmas present.
The Beer-Factory on Wencelas Square was our next port of call. A basement bar with beer taps on the tables. We were obviously drunk enough to try and sneak a few cheeky free ones, which didn't work as they brought along a bill.
Heading back to the hotel we wandered into another basement bar where someone had been celebrating his 19th birthday. The celebration was ending with him asleep with his head on the table. A couple of games of bar football, drawn 1-1, were followed by the arrival of three black guys - one of whom greeted us like long-lost friends before exclaiming to Shane that he hadn't seen him for years. This, at least, was true. They danced amongst themselves to 50 Cent, we drank and eventually headed for bed.