It was Lock in Lee that said to me three years ago (2004) that someday we should go to Prague. I don’t know why, but we always knew it would happen. So there I hopped off a plane (delayed by two hours) to find a flight had just arrived from Nottingham. Wearing a graceful Lomas era (98′) Northern Ireland football shirt, I walked out to the welcome sight of Lock in Lee, who just to confuse me hadn’t arrived from Nottingham. He’s a Nottingham Forest fan who lives in Birmingham. Lee and I had spent 48 hours in the Big Brother house together in Bournemouth’s internet ‘Lock In’. He won, I took home a bronze. We’d been mates ever since and we party up towns wearing smiles and “making other people’s lives perfect.” (as a gay Tornado Indian said). That dynamic duo was in action again for the next four days: Prague you can have us.
And they did. From the first suburban pint in a place called Tornado Bar, to the final send off to Kolesovice Train Station (where I met Canadians and English), it was a barrel of laughs, despite some unexpected robbery, police escorting and a few unfriendly Czechs.
We are football fans and went to see Sparta Prague v Slovan Liberec on the second day. The ticket cost 62p, now this was the top 2 teams in the Czech League, so if that was say Man Utd v Chelsea in the UK, it would be more like £62, 100 times the price. We also grabbed a beer for £1.10 and took our cheap seats. The game as a spectacle was low key, Sparta running out 1-0 winners, marginally, but it was the crowd chants that got me and Lee!! We saw an Alan Smith lookalike on the Slovan Liberec side, to which their fans started chanting “Smith’s not dead”. It was classic. The Sparta fans in retaliation decided to inform us of the death of their pets by singing “My dog died”. Slovan, who were playing in yellow, then sang “Prague, youre not yellow” back at the Sparta fans. It was classic and finally, the Sparta fans hit back at a tiny player on the Slovan team, with the repeated song “Small man, Small man!”. Of course none of these were the real chants, all of which were in Czech, but we found it hilarious. We then headed out to party up Prague.
We met some English, Australian, American and Palestinians who we clubbed with in two separate clubs. I hit the gin and tonics and was seen topless in the bar at one point. It was a great night, I met a lovely American lady called Hannah, who in the summer heat of a drunken time lapse we parted ways and somehow lost our destiny to stay in each other’s company. Hannah later invited me to Arizona. We’ll meet again, hopefully. Next day we did Charles Bridge properly, as well as the Old Town, the Square, the Astronomical clock and the highlight for me was the sex museum. I stripped naked in the sex museum for a photo opportunity. It was caught on their camera! Nothing had been more liberating since Lawrie McMenemy left the Northern Ireland managers job. That night, Lee and I both pulled a Czech girl each for good measure, we did ask them for marriage, but they took our rings and headed off into the night. For the record they were called Veronika and Christina. We always found an open bar, no matter what time of day or night it was, and Lee with his awesome punk haircut was an instant hit. I had to get my bum out to gain attention. And that I did…Most mornings we crawled back to the hostel for 7.31 am, while most were grabbing breakfast. We then would sleep till about 10.30 and head off for the day, catch a few minutes nap here and there while soaking up another welcome beer. Of which Ginger’s Beer was one of our soothing favourites.
Lee also dandered off on the second night up some side street and shouted to me “Jonny, it says Glentoran up here!”. “Yer Ballix” i retorted back, thinking some kind of joke, but alas it was. JJ Murphy’s pub in Prague were showing the Glentoran v Manchester United (125th Anniversary of my Belfast team Glentoran) match live the next night!! Amazing to find out, so I told the pub landlord Derek, we’d be in to party it up with flegs and my Glentoran Shirt (albeit the Andy Smith era tap…). The match finished 0-3 to Manchester United, the obvious favourites. I had said that if Glentoran scored I would strip naked in the bar for a laugh. This was probably because I fancied the young barmaid Sarah, who had already pushed her breast against me whilst looking through my digital camera photos. I think I missed me chance for sex there and then.
We also tried a tour of the river, which is called The Vltava. This was an awesome relaxing cruise under the many bridges. A bar on board, also meant more souping up for the dynamic duo. Some of the bars we were in were very different, including Cross Club, a nightclub which you can only enter if you have a dog with you. (My Dog Died). Wouldn’t you know it I’d left the wife at home that night. We also did the Lennon Wall (a white wall which had been graffitied so much by people signing), which we both signed and the famous La Bodeguita Del Mediro bar, where I sank a bloody Mary and spoke to an English guy from Basingstoke. Talking to people brings a double smile.
Another interesting thing that me and Lee found was the drink price fluctuation. Outside, random Czech people would come up and ask us if we wanted a beer. Now of course we would, we like beer! But they would then say it’s 75p a pint. That is cheap compared with the £1.89 down my old local (The One Bell in Crayford, Kent). That 75p was the price to sit with your pint in the sun and not have to buy food. Then if you stepped inside, they would expect you to buy food, but only charde 48p a pint. Pretty good, but the food would be expensive. then if you went down the stairs you’d have no view, no food, an empty bar, but could drink for 23p a pint! Superb, so thats what me and Lee did. In other words the same bar would have 3 different tarrifs for beer depending on where you sat. We were never fooled by it, but random British tourists fell for that one quite a lot and would also complain “so much for 25p a pint!”. It is if you look around and bargain. This trick was also used in Latvia, which I visited later, but definitely not something the Polish would use (I found the people in Polish bars to be kind and welcome your company, rather than try to stitch you and buck you out). This Czech only trait put me off the country a little bit. Bizarre, as quite a lot of them speak English, whereas in Belarus nobody spoke English and I warmed to the people more. Morale of this story is I respect friendliness more than honesty. I’d rather be in good company.
A mention also to the lovely English ladies and guys we met, including Laura and Zowie and Nick.
We got lifted by the peelers as well and both somehow got robbed of money, with Lee losing his phone and camera on another occassion. So every silver lining has a cloud. It did rain on us, but not much. I woke up, hangover free and fuelled with Ginger’s Beer ready to leave Lee. Lee would fly back to the UK, I would catch a wee train to Germany. I couldn’t wait to leave Prague, and though I’d recommend it to see, it was the most hostile place to date! (Yes…worse than China and The Russian Federation). “Fascinated by good, destroyed by evil, what is there to believe in?” My 1990s Manic Street Preachers archive is something I’ll be proud of.
Final thoughts on Prague is that Smith is not dead, despite what the tabloids said.
I sat alone at Kolesovice station for 2 hours waiting on a train which didn’t even have enough seats. Onwards and Germany bound…
Bars Visited – Bar in The Sky, Czech Train Bar (near Decin), Tornado Sports Bar, Cataluyna Bar, U Karla IV Bar, Sparta Prague FC Bar, Axa Arena, De Gala Bar, Accordian Restaurant Bar, U Maleho Glena (an Irish Pub), The World’s Biggest Nightclub, Domino Bar, Havana Club, La Bodeguita Del Medio, Jo’s Bar, Cross Club, JJ Murphy’s, Castle Cafe, U Vejuo Du Bar, Zanzibar, Lavka Bar and Club. (We were also in two other bars, of which we havent noted the names)
Beers Tried – Pilsner Urquel, Starbrno, Gambrinus, Krusovice, Velkopopovicky Kozel, Ginger’s Beer, Staropramen, Budvar.
Transport Used – Aeroplane, Train, Tram, Taxi, Bus, Underground, Boat.
Nationalities Met – Israel, Czech, Russian, Indian, English, Republic of Irish, Scottish, Canadian, American, Italian, Spanish, Mexican, French, Australian, German, Austrian.
Strange Currencies – Czech Corunas.
Where I Stayed – Hostel Sinkule (very hard to find and not a great location, but near a tube and tram route, plus 2 nice bars on the corner).
Average Price of a pint – We shall go with 41 pence.
Key Song – Neneh Cherry (featuring Yossou N’Dour) – Seven Seconds Away, Just As Long As I Stay. Also 10 German bombers in the air got a mention on the trams…
Favourite Food – Cheap Pizza by the bottom of the Castle (I needed it for energy one morning!)
Favourite Drink – Semtex (The local Czech equivalent of Red Bull, nice, it worked in the morning, but it wasn’t fizzy)
Favourite Thing About Prague – I enjoyed the banter and many people on Charles Bridge.
Moving Moment – Getting my willy out in the sex museum.
FACT – If you look around, beer IS cheap. We found our cheapest PINT to be 23pence in UK Sterling.