A hundred bars in four countries over the course of a year and a half is hardly an astonishing accomplishment; I’m sure there are those who have dwarfed that figure without even trying. I’m not terribly motivated to inflate the number; there are times when weeks have elapsed without me undergoing the grand adventure of breaking in a new place. I have my principles, and I have places I belong.
For the record, this was not the first time I’d been to the beer garden at Letná (rhymes with met yah), but it was the first time since the Bars of the World Tour officially started.
Letná is a park on the hilltop on the steep side of the river. It is in full bloom right now, as the plants jump into summer with gusto. It is not just the vegetation that responds this way, the population of the city comes out in force on those first few beautiful days that tell you that summer is here, and mother nature isn’t just fooling you this time. As this is the Czech Republic, an important part of enjoying any day is having a nice beer.
The line at the beer window moves quickly, and even on crowded days there is room among the hundred-plus picnic tables arrayed along the hilltop, sheltered by flowering trees. The breeze brought with it a slight chill, and there was constant danger of flower petals falling in one’s beer, but those are the hazards one must overcome to survive in a place like this.
There are dogs everywhere, running and playing among the picnic tables, chasing one another and yapping happily. The number of cigarette butts on the ground around the tables is surprising, even for this city.
The view from up there is one of the best in Prague. (The best view is from the TV tower, because it is the only view that doesn’t have the TV tower in it. Remember the giant Iron babies?) The oldest part of the city lies below you, just across the Vltava, and you can see why this town is nicknamed the city of a hundred spires.
On the pathways people stream past: punk kids on skateboards; elderly couples with their little dogs; and long, graceful rollerbladers weaving between them. Many of those who stroll past are carrying beers, and that is no crime here. (Some of them would be surprised to learn it is a crime anywhere.)
A couple of weeks ago I wrote a story that takes place on one of these benches. When I wrote the story it had been more than two years since I had been up there, but it was (almost) exactly as I remembered it. (I had forgotten about the plastic cups. There is another beer window in another hilltop park, where you leave a deposit and get to drink beer in a more civilized fashion. The story starts strong and builds an interesting character, but ends schmaltzy, as so many slice-of-life type stories do.
I did no writing while I was there; I write this from the Little Café Near Home, days after the fact. At the time, I did not think about the milestone that bar represented.
Unless an unlikely acting job materializes, I will be traveling soon to other countries to meet up with people who like going to bars. That is likely to inflate the numbers substantially.