Prague Twin

Monday, April 24, 2006

Beer Gardens

When you live overseas, you tend to get the same questions from visitors over and over again. I don't blame them for not realizing I've had the same question asked at least a hundred times: I try to answer them each time in a novel way.

The question I get the most is "What is the main difference between the United States and the Czech Republic?" This is a really tough one because so many things are different, it's hard to know where to start. There is one thing, though, that I think encapsulates the core differences in a nice, neat little package. That's the beer gardens.

There are two beer gardens within 10 minutes walk from my apartment (there is the first difference: I walk to them). The closer of the two is called "Parukarka". It is located near the entrance to a large park at the top of a hill. There is a little bar inside a very small building that would be better described as a shack. You can get beer, wine, and shots inside the dingy little shack. A deposit of about $1 is required for each glass. Two 17oz. beers, with deposit runs about $4. After you purchase your drinks, you are free to roam around the park with your glass of beer. The deposit hardly covers the cost of the glass, but most people bring them back.

There are some benches outside and some people are smoking weed while they drink. I've only seen one glass get broken in the last 5 years. Usually on a nice summer day there are a couple hundred people around, but since all the beer comes from the one little shack, the wait can get really annoying.

On those days, (and any other for that matter) I like to go to "Reigrovy Sady" which is a more traditional beer garden. There are picnic style tables in a gated area. This beer garden lies in the middle of a beautiful park that has some of the best views of the city. The garden has mature deciduous trees that create an excellent canopy. The place seats at least 1,000 people, and they pack it out when the weather is good. There are several points where one can buy beer inside the gated area, so service is rarely a problem.

"Reigrak" (as it is commonly known) doesn't charge a deposit because the area is gated. However, plenty of people walk out with beer glasses. Some come back, and some don't. I guess they write off lost glasses to the cost of doing business. Officially there are no dogs allowed, but they put water buckets out for thirsty dogs anyway. I suppose they just want to reserve the right to throw someone out if their dog causes a problem. Weed is definately allowed. Marijuana is semi-legal here, meaning casual use and possesion of "a small amount" is allowed. There is a lot of smoking going on at Reigrak every day and every night. Despite this, the clientele is extremely mixed. Families with babies and small children visit, elderly couples visit, high school kids visit, but about 80% are of course 18-35 year-olds.

Now you might think that it's strange that people walk around a public park with glasses of beer, or that people are smoking weed without a care in the world, but that is not the main difference between the Czech Republic and the States. The main difference is this....

In the 7 years I've lived here, I've never seen a fight at either of these places. At Reigrak there is about 1,000 people a night getting totally drunk and there is absolutley no security whatsoever. No I.D. control, no police, no problems. This saturday, the finals of the Czech Hockey leauge were on the big screen. Despite an extra 200 excited people, still no problems.

People are free to do as they please, and yet they are generally very well-behaved. It is almost as if they know what kind of freedom they have, and they don't want to ruin it.

At least that is my theory.

12 Comments:

  • I've seen one fight and a dozen arguments in the last couple of months and that's just in the staff lunchroom at my workplace!

    But we're a combative bunch in the NYC public school system. Or just crazy.

    By Blogger reality-based educator, at 2:41 AM  

  • That is a great picture!

    I thought everyone from NYC is crazy.

    By Blogger Praguetwin, at 9:55 AM  

  • Put 50 people from any city in the United States that has a hockey team in a bar during league play offs and see what happens.

    I thought I might see a fight at our last union meeting and they weren't serving drinks. Maybe the new contract would have looked better if they did.

    God Bless America, God Save The Republic.

    By Blogger David Schantz, at 3:01 AM  

  • Prague sounds like a really neat place. I've traveled a lot in Europe and Asia but have never been to Prague, or much of Eastern Europe. Czeck beer is excellent. Pilsner Urquell is about $9 a sixpack here. I hope it's cheaper over there.

    By Blogger Tom Harper, at 3:43 AM  

  • Beer...ick! I'll take a shot, please!

    Personally, I'm not familiar with the local bar scene. Why pay twenty bucks to get drunk, then have to worry about getting home, when you can pay ten bucks, stay at home, and have the alcohol last the night (in my case, several)? Never understood the bar crowd. Then again, I never really faced the whole drinking alone thing... Maybe that's it.

    By Blogger Stephanie, at 10:57 AM  

  • David,

    Imagine, here it was the finals and both teams are from Prague, so the crowd was mixed.

    Tom,

    Prague is very nice. If there was a beach here, I wouldn't even think about leaving. Half a liter of Pilsner Urquell in a restaurant is about a dollar. There are certain places that have it in a huge tank in the cellar that gets filled once a week. It is to a keg what a keg is to a can. Mmmmmmmmm....

    Stephanie,

    Blasphemy! Although if you have only had beer in the States, I understand. It isn't about getting drunk, it's about making a fool of yourself in front of as many people possible. The beauty of Prague is that you can walk home, or take a tram (which runs all night), or break down and blow $4 on a cab.

    By Blogger Praguetwin, at 4:51 PM  

  • I hope to one day visit that part of the world. I can't get my wife interested in anything besides wanting to go to London...

    great blog

    By Blogger Donviti, at 6:59 PM  

  • If blasphemy is that easy...

    Beer is bitter. The better the beer, in my experience, the more bitter. I don't like drinking bitterness.

    By Blogger Stephanie, at 3:18 AM  

  • Ah Stephanie,

    Beer was not meant to be bitter. Come to beer Mecca someday and you will see.

    Donviti,

    I'm not a big fan of London. Too big, too expensive.

    Welcome and thanks.

    By Blogger Praguetwin, at 9:59 AM  

  • Oh yes, beer is the essence of any Czech culinary attitude. I noticed it when I was in Prague and during my stay in one of Prague hotels, went out every day and was drinking beer every day. It is produced according to Czech methods worldwide and its quality is respected everywhere. No wonder that the Czech Republic has the highest consumption of beer per citizen on an international level. The most expensive beer I had during our visit was 50 crowns (about one pound sterling and that was at the opera).

    By Blogger Chuck, at 1:19 PM  

  • I’ve been to Prague many times and I never get sick of it. I love the small streets and the mystic environment, its like magnet to me. Walking from street to street, even if alone always makes me feel so small but at the same time so well connected to the city. I found the city very safe, as you can check in this link form the government. I never had a problem for being out until late and alone or ever saw any incident.
    What I also enjoy in this city is the night life, the Prague music clubs are all so cozy and have such a nice environment and decoration and make you want to stay long. If you or any of your friends want to go there again I leave you here a nice site with good clubs to go.

    By Blogger Lili, at 11:43 AM  

  • It sounds great,.
    Thank you for posting this..
    God bless!!!

    By Anonymous prague lodging, at 4:44 AM  

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