Tuesday, June 16, 2015

the course of krymska

Krymska Ulice
Over the past few years, Krymska has sprung from being on the border of Prague civilization, from being a hipster central, from being on the border of everything, from being hipster central, and so on. These days, it's back to being the center of it's own little mustachioed polka-dotted world, just after suffering a five year lull which caused the famous Shakespeare and Sons bookstore to close up shop (a decision they're probably regretting now). There really isn't much there for eating, shopping or other non-beverage activities, but the place is beginning to blossom - though from how most people talk, it has already blossomed and the underground appeal has gone on over to the Letna district.

Krymska is in an almost ideal spot for a cool underground neighborhood. It lies in the middle of the Vinohrady district, which itself is on the graveyard of a medieval winery, where as late as the mid-1800s the land was all covered with grapes. The grapes have since been cut everywhere except in the nearby Grebovka Park - aka Havlickovy Park - and have been replaced with most neo-Renaissance, art nouveau and modernist structures jammed 
together as close as possible. During the Communist years, it was known as a bourgeois, anti-Red hangout area, which is slightly ironic since now it's a bit of an anti-Capitalist area. 

Grebovka Park (Havlickovy Park)
The Krymska district can basically be defined as the area around the tram stop of that name, down Francouska to the Ruska tram stop, then diagonally over to Grebovka Park, up to Donska and back up to the Krymska tram stop. Since it's on the face of a steep hill, it has some excellent views down Donska and Krymska, and within its not broad streets with no parking, there are some 20 bars. Not all the bars have markings on their doors, and some resemble more of a hippy's failed state of a living room, but they are there. Three of those bars are live music venues featuring mostly local acts, two are culturally interesting First Republic type places, there's an art house movie theater bar, a couple places are pseudo-dance clubs, and one bar doubles over as a vegan restaurant with great beer. So as you can see, there's no shortage of a good time revolving around fierce amounts of beer.

The Czech Inn at Krymska
Krymska is an especially great district if you're looking to avoid tourist trap bars, as the beer here rarely exceeds two euros and each place is a bit unique and none of them very clean, as they're all quite dive bar type places, though lacking the foosball and beer pong tables that typical American dive bars would have. At the top of the area is the Czech Inn (+420 267 267 612) hostel, which is in a perfect situation both for the more hip night life and for the touristic places that line tram line 22. It is also the owner of one of those live music venues slash dance clubs, the Basement Bar. One of the best non-smoking bars and live music venues (unfortunately, smoking is allowed in the live music basement section) Cafe v Lese is here too, near the bottom of the district.

During summer days, the district empties out and hits Grebovka park, with one of the better views of non-central Prague, and which has a beer garden and a wine garden, where the wine is made at the local winery, and you literally sip your glasses over the ancestors of your present drink. During winter days, most of the area is silent throughout the day, as regular cafes are pretty rare in the area. It usually picks up at dusk and carries well on into the night, with some of the bars staying open until the morning on the weekends - though this is always weird, since sometimes there is just simply nothing open after midnight, and if it is, it's usually just clouds of smoke and foul odors. This problem of regularity you don't have in the touristic districts, so you are taking a chance here, but if Krymska isn't a good place to end up, at least it's always a good place to start out.

Down Krymska Street during the Korzo Krymska
We live in the Krymska area, so as we were coming home from the African Food Festival, we ran into the Korzo Krysmka, the annual street festival celebrating all things Krymska. All the shops in the area - even the closed ones that haven't seen the light of day since the days of the First Republic - had decided to open their doors and have a big street party that day, inviting local bands and DJs to strike up the entertainment (curiously they didn't invite the best local artist, the Underground Man, but whatever). Mostly there were DJs who would play with a saxophonist or flutist, as that seems to be the party trend in the Czech capital these days - "Look, I can drop a bass beat four on the floor thud and have a guy play Kenny G over it, cool!" I suppose it's better than the Pink Floyd that a lot of the live music scenes here offer, but that all is for another blog. There were a couple of people who weren't no talent hacks, including a band that made Czech folk music into something dance-able and exciting. There were also a few places where hippy guitarists were strumming out their Jack Johnson vibes amidst clouds of patchouli and marijuana.

Most of the festival seemed bizarre and random - random especially since we didn't even know a festival was happening in our neighborhood until the day it happened! Though that was, to tell the truth, most of the excitement of it and of living in this area (Grebovka Park is constantly having a festival it seems). We dropped our stuff off at our house, then started with eating some Mexican tostadas dished out by the nearby Las Adelitas, who had a van parked outside of the Czech Inn. As we sat, a dog chose us to play fetch with, as he very excitedly kept bringing us a stick back and I kept kicking it away. Occasionally he'd bring the stick to someone else, who would ignore him, and so he'd bring it back over to me. 

The Korzo Krymska wrapping up
When the wife tired of me playing with the dog, we went down Krymska street itself, which was filled with masses upon masses of people, found some beer, and waded on down the street. Each of the bars and former bars or possibly still places that were bars but just weren't apparently open bars now had their doors open, taking in visitors, offering beer and weed, beaded jewelry, African novelties sold by Africans, and coffee and pancakes. After my beer ran dry, we went in to Incider Bar, a bar that only serves cider - imagine that! - and waited in line for some thirty minutes. The line was long as it was and some lady was trying to get the very precise flavor of cider and making the order very complicated and in English, which was causing quite the backup. Come on lady, if you're at a festival, the goal of the day is quick and fast so everyone can drink and the bar can sell quantity! Equally bad is when people are ordering cocktails of the Starbucks order at busy clubs, but I won't get into that. Just when you're at a bar or festival, think about what you're going to order and think about the line you're going to create. That's all I ask!

After we got the cider, we went on searching for live music. The aforementioned folk music had gone, and there, again, was only some hack DJ. Look man, you have no turntables, I know you just prepared all this stuff in advance, which isn't an overly hard thing to do given today's automatic beat matching technology. But again, that's what seems to be popular in Prague, and as such, we couldn't find anything really apparent and entertaining. We ended up at the vegan bar, Plevel, having our last call at 10, and then seeing the streets had been emptied out - no noise in Prague after 10 folks! - we went on home.

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