Seeing as I’m leaving Prague in a few weeks (maybe permanently… more likely just for six months), I thought I should do justice to some of Prague’s most shudderingly bleak bar spots. Now, there’s a lot to choose from, and everyone who’s lived here as his or her own personal nominations. My friend always talks about a neighborhood bar he ventured into only to kill time one afternoon when he’d locked himself out of his apartment…. only to discover that Tuesdays are ‘Topless Barmaid Night’ there… and ‘Topless Night’ also extends to include afternoons… and the barmaid on duty at the time was old enough to be someone’s grandmother.
I promise no such NSFW delights here, but focused on a few places that I’ve noticed while walking around or that are (cough, cough) familiar to me from personal experience:
1. 777 Bar, Vršovice
If your idea of a good time is a window-less octagonal bunker settled in a totally residential, out-of-the-way neighborhood, then you’re in luck:
You might reasonably assume that this bar is simply closed for the afternoon and will later throw open its shuttered windows to take on a more welcoming persona. You’d be wrong, though:
The signage on the far left side of this picture indicates that it is ‘Nonstop’ (Czech parlance for ‘open 24 hours’… and also a notable teenybopper anthem). Indeed, the open door reveals that this place is in fact as open for business as it will ever be at the ripe hour of 3pm on a Sunday. I must admit that I was legitimately frightened to venture inside, but did take a peek– it looks like the indoor portion of Zeitgeist, except pitch black and with no customers.
It’s common knowledge in these parts that a lot of the more improbable bars around (especially the ‘Herna bars’– i.e., ones that advertising gambling) are just money-laundering operations for the mafia (the adjective ‘Russian’ is usually thrown into this equation as well, but I have no way of evaluating how widely this assumption applies). But, then, the stubborn question persists: why stay open all day and night if your bar is simply a ruse? Sadly, braver souls than me will have to venture inside to investigate the truth…
From a design perspective, I love how the ‘777’ theme is suggested mainly through ‘bang’ graphics on the shuttered windows… but then is also reiterated on the weird banana crescent sign hanging over the door.
2. Hostinec U Starejch Hadru, Vršovice
OK, this place is (regrettably) familiar to me, since it’s open late and in the neighborhood:
I think this means ‘Tavern of the Old Rags’, although I could be wrong about the ‘rags’ part. One thing that is certain is that the distended Scooby Doo-style haunted-house lettering creates an accurate premonition of the terrors that await you in this local speed metal bar.
The thing that really sets this establishment apart is the fact that it’s encased in a metal cage and the bartender has to actually personally emerge from behind the bar to let you in with his key (no buzzer). It’s essentially like checking into prison for an evening:
Once inside, you’re free to gaze at the exit and dream longingly of freedom…
… but to get out, you need to ask the bartender, who is apt to momentarily disappear behind these two regulars:
Once back on the outside, I didn’t know how to adjust to the real world again (as lamented by so many reformers of the criminal justice system) and immediately committed a petty crime in order to get back in.
3. Ventilation Duct, Hlavni Nadraži
On the way to investigate Wolf Prefa (see below), I passed this place, which at first glance looks just like the sister bar of 777 Bar:
As it turns out, however, this structure exists only to release air in and out of the underground metro system that runs right nearby. Interesting, right?
4. Wolf Prefa, Holešovice
Also not a bar, as it turns out. Bear with me here:
If you take an international train into Prague, you will arrive at one of two stations. If you come into the more obscure station of the two, Nadraži Holešovice, one of the first things you spot from the platform is the fantastically forbidding structure:
Without really thinking about it, I’d half-consciously assumed that this must be some disused nightspot– the homespun lettering is something I can only associate with nightclub, rather than a legitimate business. Obviously, I was forgetting the fact that, during Communist times, homespun lettering was A-OK. Anyway, upon closer research, this turns out to be the headquarters of a semi-disused cement factory.
One more bleak view, for the road: