U Fleku

The crowds stomped their feet and banged their hands against the table to the tune of the accordion. An older couple from the room next door flew through the doorway and bounced along in dance to the clapping of enthusiastic drinkers. The man on the accordion smiled and played the song harder and louder than before. He was dressed up in the traditional Czech dress, right down to the checkered hat he wore on his head. He meandered through the long wooden picnic tables that lined the dining hall. Singing and playing to the crowds of people. Everyone was listening, and everyone was happy to stomp along to the beat. This is U Fleku. 
U Fleku is the epitome of a traditional Czech drinking establishment. This Brewery/ restaurant in the heart of New Town Prague is massive. It holds over 1200 people in 8 different halls throughout the building, each with live music for entertainment. 
Jodon and I were ushered into a mid-sized hall as soon as we stepped into the building. We sat at a large wooden bench with a couple young guys sitting at one end. All the tables in the room were shared. The room was simple and painted white, with large, dark, wooden panels lining the walls up to the 7 foot mark. The ceiling was decoratively painted and from it hung large chandeliers with glass beer steins holding each light. 

The bar served only one beer. A dark, sweet tasting malty brew made right there at the brewery. A waiter walked around the room with a large tray of beers and set them in front of each customer that was empty. It is assumed that you would like another unless told otherwise. Within seconds we had a large pint sitting in front of us. No decisions. No searching through the menu. This is what you get. 

A minute later a man carrying shots of honey liquor and Becherovka walked passed our table.

“Please, try one!” He smiled at us.

“No thank you” I said, knowing a double shot of whatever it was would be a terrible idea before dinner.

“But you must,” said the man “it is tradition”

Feeling a little pressured I grabbed a Becherovka and Jodon grabbed a honey liquor and the man carried on. It was a good thing we didn’t refuse longer, because the man did not take no for an answer at any one of his stops. He emptied the tray within minutes and carried on to the back to fill up again. 

The food was hearty and fast. Large portions of dumplings on the side of Beef Goulash and Svickova. Comfort food at its best. And all the while the accordion played on. 

I can’t say we came across a lot of local bars like U Fleku, but it definitely was a lively experience, even on a Tuesday night. It is what I imagined bars in the Czech Republic or rural Germany to be like. Lively, beer-heavy, groups of people sitting together to eat. If only the beers had been half the price, I would have stayed there all night.  

Prague


Jodon is slowly falling apart like an old man. I poke fun at him for this constantly. But the day we flew from Belgium to Prague it really hit. Walking 30000+ steps a day in new shoes finally caught up. He’d pulled a muscle somewhere in his left leg and was completely incapacitated. It’s a miracle we made it to the hostel in one piece. He hobbled along through the trains and busses and planes and sidewalks until we fell into Mojo hostel on the outside of Old Town Prague. And that was where he stayed, unmoving, for three straight days. 

I felt so bad. Prague is Jodon’s favourite city in the whole world, and there he was, seeing it from the inside of a 6-bed hostel dormitory while I went out and explored. I came back occasionally: bringing food, drugs, frozen peas and pumpkin spiced lattes from Starbucks. But it was little consolation. 

The extra strength ibuprofen and the gel I’d picked up at the pharmacy were making no difference. So after 48 hours of moaning and groaning I found a second pharmacy to ask for something stronger. The lady behind the counter spoke no English. Heaven forbid I have to act out ailments in a pharmacy AGAIN. Mortifying memories of Vietnam and Brazil came back to me. My pharmacy charades have had a low success rate over the years: remember when I was given hemorrhoid cream instead of aloe vera? I can only imagine what was going to happen this time. 

After a couple minutes of acting out a pulled muscle, the lady stared at me blankly. I kept saying “Ibuprofen not strong” and she would repeat the same thing back to me. Then she smiled, opened up a drawer in her desk and handed me a small pack of pills.

“Strong” she said with a grin and what may have been a half wink. 

It was as good as I was going to get. The pills were cheap, it was worth a shot. 

I brought them immediately back to Jodon.

“I’m fairly certain these will do the trick” I said to him

“What are they?” 

“Mmmmm, I’m not entirely sure. But they’re strong”

“Ok”

Turns out these little pills were a miracle. Within five minutes Jodon could move his leg a little without pain. In an hour he was hobbling downstairs to the common area. By the next morning he was walking again. He went from seriously considering taking the next flight home, to suggesting we grab a beer at the beer garden on the North side of town. I was SO happy. 

So we did grab a beer. Years ago when Jodon was here with his friend Mike, the two stumbled upon this large park on the North side of Prague. In the park they had picnic tables set up and they served beer and kebabs from a little stand. The park was up a steep hill and had the most spectacular view of the city. 

We sat there through the late afternoon playing cards and watching the lights on the city shift as the day moved along. It had been a rough couple days, but also a great excuse to relax and get some work done. We decided to book another three days in an AirBNB so that Jodon got a chance to spend some quality time in the city.

And even with a bad leg, we managed to explore the Prague castle, drink beers brewed by monks in the monastery and make a weak attempt to eat 1.5 kilos of pork knuckle at Hospoda Lucerna. Overall I’d say that Prague was a success.