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Travel Image: Zizkov Prague
 Photo: Garth Leach
Travel Image: Zizkov Prague
 Photo: Nicolas Metivie

Prague: Bohemia Lost (cont.)

I ask my host what the future holds in store for Zizkov. “Instant yuppification,” he sighs, and tells me that The Prague Post, the city’s English-language newspaper, recently declared Zizkov 2004’s most up-and-coming neighborhood. “In the 15th century, the gypsies were expelled from Bohemia. In the 21st century, the artists are being forced out,” he says.

Though melodramatic, his appeal to history is apt. When King Zikmund of Bohemia ejected the Romany people, they fled to France. They became known as 'les Bohemiens' – and their exotic, unconventional customs gave the word ‘bohemian’ its modern meaning.

Jan is soon hungry, though, so it’s time to head north toward the infamous Zizkov Tower – a rocket-shaped television aerial, known locally as the Prague Prick. In the shadow of the tower, in a quiet little square, lies U Sadu. Jan assures me it is a typical Czech pub. Upstairs it seems anything but. Relics from the country’s gritty communist past press in from all sides. Everything from traffic signs and vacuum cleaners to helmets and gas masks adorn the walls and ceilings. Downstairs things are a little saner, with fashionable artists drinking draft beer around wooden tables or playing pool and darts.

My host is eager to introduce me to the delights of Czech pub snacks, and two plates of strange-looking cheese soon come my way. First up is nakladany hermelin – camembert pickled in oil and herbs – which is alarmingly alluring, though I can’t imagine what the Frenchmen at Le Clan would think of it. Next comes pivni syr, or "beer cheese". It looks like a mushy orange baseball. To my surprise, though, it complements a basket of brown rye bread, sliced onions, and a pint of Pilsner Urquell like nothing else on earth.

Suitably refueled, we head to U Vystreleneho oka. Its name means “The Shot-Out Eye” – a tribute to the one-eyed general Jan Zizka, who led the Hussites to victory over the invading papal forces in 1420.

Inside the pub, apathetic students loiter at the bar alongside leather-clad bikers. Cheap local pilsner flows continuously and there’s more beer cheese to be had. My host wants to toast Jan Zizka. “He may have kept the crusaders at bay, but he would have been no match for the stag parties,” someone quips. Indeed, thousands of westerners flock to Prague each year, all too happy to dabble in the city’s vices.


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