There’s something I must confess: I’ve never lived in Prague, proper. When I moved to this country in 2002 I lived in a (now not so small anymore) village a few km northwest of the city. Being born and raised in a massive city like Buenos Aires, village life was a big change, but one that I was fast to adapt and fall in love with.
One of the things I liked the most (besides the clean air and the almost utter quiet) was the pub. I lived a couple hundred meters from the place, so it was great to drop by for a quick pint or five or to take my džbán to have it filled up. I really loved that pub, and so did my wife, so much that we had the reception for our wedding there.
Five years ago we moved not far from that village to where we live now and one of the things I missed the most was having a pub where to go. It’s what Czechs call sateliťák, one of those real estate developments that mushroomed in the outskirts of Prague (and other bigger towns) in the last decade or so, where developers crammed as many houses as they were allowed, and then some, leaving hardly any space for the sort of things that can make a community, which in this country (and especially in this country) would include a pub.
Actually, there are two pubs in the older part of the village, but there was always a problem with them, Staropramen. Now, if I lived a couple hundred meters from any of those pubs, I wouldn’t have minded so much, you know, the where factor, but both pubs happen to be opposite each other and almost 1 km from my door, and the Smíchov swill is not the sort of beer that will make me walk that much (it doesn’t help, either, that neither of the pubs look particularly inviting from the outside).
So there I was, lamenting not having anywhere to go for a beer near home, especially after a day of hard work at home. I always have beer at home (well, almost always), but going to the pub is more than just going for a beer, it’s also unplugging yourself a little from reality.
That lament ended on April 30th this year.
We were at the village’s pálení čarodejnic, the only day in the year where I (almost) voluntarily drink Staropramen, as the festivity takes place on a small meadow next to the village’s pubs. When I arrived this year, however, I noticed something different in the beer some of the people were drinking. It was not the colour of Staropramen Světlý, neither was it Nefiltrovaný. Then I saw a couple of people holding a familiar looking půl litr. Could it be, could it just be? Could the news be so good? I started to wonder. The answer came in a double measure, as if to make sure I wasn’t imagining things: a sign at the door of one of the pubs, a delivery van of none other than Únětický Pivovar.
It turned out to be their desítka. At last I had a beer that I wanted to drink near my home! But the weather took a turn for the worse (if you live here in Prague you’ll have tried to forget what May and, especially, early June were like) and I just couldn’t be arsed to go there. Until a few weeks ago. The weather was lovely, I had finished cutting the grass, was in a good mood and decided to wash a 2l growler I had lying around there and take it to the pub to have it filled up (the old džbán I still holding some kitchen utensils, the pub is just too far for it). What a great feeling! And the experience wasn’t too shabby, either.
The pub in question is located in the building that houses the local voluntary fire brigade. It’s very small and, frankly, rather ugly inside. With a bit of work it could turn out to be nice, but it seems that the owner has run out of fucks to give a few years ago; there’s crap thrown around here and there and it doesn’t seem that the windows are opened all that often. And yet, it’s got some charm, the sort that you must experience with an open mind to understand.
So there I was, growler in hand, my daughter had insisted on coming with me. I went in, a couple of old timers were watching the old telly. A lady (the owner?) greeted us in a friendly way, almost as if I was part of the pub’s regular crowd. She tried to make friends with my daughter, to no avail, she hid behind my legs, pretending to be shy, but at the same time, poking her head and smiling at the lady. The lady asked me how much the growler holds, then poured me a pint to drink while I waited and, before we went to sit outside, she gave my girl some candy.
I can’t begin to explain you how much I enjoyed that beer once I returned home!
A couple of days before traveling to Spain I went again, without the growler this time. I just wanted to have a couple of pints while sitting outside. Once again, my daughter went with me. I joked a bit with the locals as my pint was being poured and then sat to drink it quietly while my daughter picked poppies. Lovely afternoon!
I returned from Spain yesterday. After unpacking and putting the house back in order, the first thing I did was to go to the pub to have a couple of beers. A well kept and well tapped Czech desítka. Now, I was at home.