Thursday, 22 December 2016

A Tale of Two Drinking Cultures

As I've mentioned before in these blog posts, Prague is a city of contrasts, even extremes, and that's illustrated perfectly in the drinking cultures in the centre of town. Prague has a very old tradition of social drinking typified in the hospodida which is much like the traditional English pub. These are still the best places to aim for if you wish to experience classic Prague.

To many people, especially in the UK, Prague is synonymous with the worst excesses of Stag parties. Cheap beer, tolerance of ‘reacreational’ drugs, and a fairly open sex trade are the perfect ingredients for a lad’s weekend away. It’s not just the Brits (thank goodness); over the past few months I’ve come across German, French, Italian and numerous Eastern European stags.

Many of these stag parties and other large group of males are attracted to music clubs that have sprung up around the centre of town. The biggest of these is Karlovy Lazne - with five floors of different music types. The noise from the club itself is almost non-existent. The problems come when it’s closing time at five in the morning. Extremely drunk (and generally) young men gather on the embankment outside the club and treat the neighbouring residents and hotel guests to loud and poor renditions of classic club songs - the favourite seemingly is "No Limits”.

The singing is generally accompanied by clapping, shouting, renditions of football anthems, and women shrieking. And because of the numbers of people tipping out over the road, honking of horns from angry drivers doing their level best to not run over the idiots dancing in the street.

In the summer months, especially July, when temperatures are still around 20-24C at night, I found it impossible to sleep much more than 5 hours a night, even with the windows closed. Prague’s narrow streets and relatively tall buildings act as perfect echo chambers, amplifying every noise 10 times or more.

There’s a strange irony that concert venues are subject to strict curfew laws - live gigs are almost always over by 10:30pm - but the clubs are exempt and the police show a blind eye to the appalling behaviour of the clubbers. Maybe there simply aren’t enough cells in Prague.

I'm the first to admit that I like a few drinks and occasionally it's easy to get a bit carried away. But I'd like to think that, along with all my ex-pat friends, regardless of their nationality, we respect the fact that the majority of people in the city, just like us, live and work there and behave accordingly.

And I like to remember that on two or three occasions, when the Tartan Army has been in town, everyone I later speak to comments on how well the Scots conduct themselves (regardless of the outcome of the game!). No matter how tanked up you are, there's no excuse for ignoring the fact that you're still a guest in someone else's country...

SlĂ inte mhath / na zdravĂ­!