The Colorful Hunt for Excitement Around MeetFactory

Text: Photo: Libor Petrášek

We all know that MeetFactory can guarantee some quality action. You won’t find many better venues in Prague. The problem is that it’s, like, really far from anything resembling civilization. So, naturally, we ventured out to find something interesting in its immediate vicinity.

When you visit MeetFactory, it’s usually followed by a firm set of rules: You go to the Smíchov railway station (or Anděl, but in that case keep moving fast since it’s basically Prague’s Little Gotham), take a tram or a bus to Lihovar, circle the railway tracks, enjoy the show and afterwards take a taxi back home, because what else you gonna do. You return the plastic beer cup, collect the 40 CZK deposit you’re given back, and that’s about it. Our job in this article is to show you some ways you can entertain yourselves before and after the gig. Trust us; it’s possible.

Note: The railway tracks that go southwards from the Smíchov station are pretty wide, propelling some to cut right through them rather than take the half a mile long way around. This is not a good idea, unless you wanted to sparkle your evening story with fractured skulls and missing teeth. It really is better to just factor for the longer journey while planning; don’t worry, MeetFactory is impossible to miss. It’s the only industrial building around with a huge car plastered on the outside wall.

The great advantage of MeetFactory’s event calendar is its complexity: while the venue is most famous for its parties, there are also live gigs, (mostly experimental) theater plays, exhibitions, site specific performances, the whole bunch. Our editorial team, which will be henceforth referred to as Girl and Boy, knows all of this firsthand. We’ve been to parties so epic that the morning afterwards we felt like someone hit us with the Obliviate spell. We’ve been to performances so meta-conceptual that the mere sight of them caused us to grow spontaneous ankle tattoos and learn seven endangered languages at once. This time, we picked out an experimental installation.

“I don’t get the point of this playlist,” Girl said, after her tries to draw an analogy proved unfruitful. There was an artsy atmosphere, causing us to meditate about the relevance of poetry over a pint of beer. But this article isn’t about the multilayered awesomeness that is MeetFactory; it’s about what to do around there. So, we visited several interested places and drew out two possible ways how to enjoy your evening. Behold!

Option A: The Romantic Pack

Wine Food Market (Strakonická 948/1)

You’d probably guess that when a place is called Wine Food Market, there won’t be many Mohawk-sporting, vodka-drinking patrons, and you’d be right. The place is a lot classier than that, although it still maintains sort of a laid-back atmosphere in resembling a real market (as in, lots of tables scattered through vast open space). The food is prepared on spot and surprisingly not too expensive for its quality. But keep in mind that if you want to feel cozy, the openness of this place (a ‘posh aviary’, as Boy has dubbed it) will hit you with the power of pure agoraphobia.

Wine Food Market’s menu is based on Italian cuisine, so no big experimentation, but that’s perfectly fine here. If you forget your book / phone / significant other at home, you can watch the pizza guy prepare the dough; he’s like a reverse Mona Lisa, so you always see him, no matter where you sit. Also, the place seems to be popular with that kind of middle class salesmen willing to shell out thousands for a designer’s suit and then drop tomato sauce on it while scarfing down Spaghetti Bolognese between business meetings they think are important. But seriously, the food is great; they can even prepare a custom made vegan pizza for you, if you tell them.

Jelica (Na Zlíchově 35)

Another foodie pick is a little more courageous. First, while Wine Food Market lies on your way from Smíchov to MeetFactory, Jelica – a Serbian restaurant – is actually located further away from the city center, so that you’d pass the club first while going there (and, sure enough, the place looks like a portal to Middle-Earth even though you’re still technically ten minutes from Anděl). Well, the trip is worth it. Serbian cuisine (and Slavic in general) is heavily based on potatoes, cabbage, vegetables and spices, so there’s vegetarian and vegan options aplenty, but if you’re a meat-eater, you’re in for a real treat.

It can be easy to miss in Jelica’s early-Truman-Capote-novel-sized menu, but the hidden gem here is the whole roasted piglet (or lamb). Bring your crew, because if you’re the kind of person who could eat a whole lamb on the spot, you shouldn’t waste your time with the rest of us puny humans. People from KVIFF (Karlovy Vary International Film Festival) do exactly that, perhaps in an attempt to recreate Marco Ferreri’s La Grande Bouffe. We tried to find out whether that last statement is true, but to no avail, so we’re forced to assume it is.

Afterwards, when the evening is over, there’s not much you can really do (if you don’t want to keep drinking away, in which case you should be reading the second part of this article). Given its obscure location, MeetFactory is almost always surrounded by hordes of taxis. You won’t get stuck. They need you as much as you need them – frequent MeetFactory patrons and Prague taxi drivers have a beautiful symbiotic relationship.

Option Two: The Rowdy Pack

Nagano 98 (Nádražní 11)

The 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan are a huge deal in the Czech Republic. The national ice hockey team, led by resident cyborg Jaromír Jágr and goalie-turned-marketing-disaster Dominik Hašek, won the tournament by defeating Russia in the final, which sparked a nation-wide celebration. And if you step inside the aptly named Nagano 98, a pub located right at the bus station Na Knížecí (near Anděl), you’ll get the impression that some people went there to celebrate right after the victory and have kept marinating in beer and cigarette smoke ever since. Judging by the pub’s website, its creator is one of them.

Nagano is the ideal ‘starting’ place if you want to have a beer or two before heading to MeetFactory. The only exception is when you yourself are the performing artist – it’s entirely possible that someone will approach you and ask you to lend them your instrument, or, at the very least, play some of their favorite songs (which you almost certainly don’t know, but should the situation occur, try some basic major chords in I-IV-V progression to survive). During summer season, a great little beer garden in front of the pub is opened, the interior inside is delightfully retro, and they have wi-fi (which is good, because you really want to check in on Swarm to let your less adventurous friends know you’re a true explorer). They sometimes even give you beer in a plastic cup to go.

Restaurace Oáza (Nádraží 297/1)

“Listen, punks, it’s closing hour.” Our plan to visit the infamous Oáza pub, located right inside the building of Smíchov railway station, was met with stern disapproval. Yet we managed to get the last orders, so we asked for a beer and sat down. The railway station itself is legendarily ugly; it’s probably the only place in greater city center where you can buy a hot dog, some cheap sunglasses, drugs and a ticket to Beroun, presumably in that order. And Oáza reflects this: the place looks like it was forgotten in time, but not in a nostalgic, Nagano-style way; its atmosphere is a more devastated one, like if you stepped into a pub in 1995 and everybody wore tracksuits and smoked cigarettes that smelled like burning carpets. Naturally, when we sat down next to some guy, he started talking to us. He introduced himself as Honzík.

It was Siberian-level cold inside, but Honzík didn’t mind. “I come from the mountains. From Krkonoše,” he said proudly. “And I was in England, in Leeds. I almost got stabbed there. They said I looked like a terrorist, because I have a beard,” he said. “Muslims,” he added, shaking his head. He recommended us to get a beard as well; well, Boy should, he mused, adding that Girl doesn’t have to. Honzík also had the option to go to Scotland, but he passed, noting that “Scotland sucks, and it’s in England, so it sucks even more.” We try to lighten up the mood by saying that Iceland is basically gentrified Scotland, but it falls flat, so we finish up our beers and go outside. Honzík follows.

Bar U veselé kozy (Nádražní 2a)

While we were planning this article, Girl insisted that we had to visit ‘that place right under (MeetFactory) where they drink a lot’. We found it almost instantly. It’s called 'Veselá koza' (Happy Goat) and you’ll get there by stepping out at the Lihovar stop, but instead of turning right towards MeetFactory, you turn left and go downhill a few meters. There is a sign on the wall that reads Lumpenkavárna (basically a slander term right-wing / xenophobic / Communist politicians use to insult critical thinking, which they believe is a social scene). Cool stuff.

During summers, when the large beer garden is open, Veselá koza functions as a legitimate concert venue (mostly punk and underground stuff); we were there in January, though, so everything was happening inside. Which, in this case, means ‘a small room so packed with people there’s literally no room to form social circles’. Everything merges together – the place is popular among the ‘inner city art scene’ as well as local workers. To smooth up the edges, they played Sting when we were there. Smart choice. Sting’s music is so amorphously mind-numbing that it’s physically impossible to have an opinion on it.

“I grew up on Iron Maiden,” Honzík opines, and he pronounces ‘Iron Maiden’ almost properly, adding weight to his claims about being to England. “I’m a Scandinavian type,” he says for some reason. He calls us ‘Lad’ and ‘Lassie’ while fluently switching between polite, colloquial, and outright surreal forms of communication. “I have to survive everything, because when I survive everything, I survive everything,” he adds, and everyone is happy because this was that kind of evening that could only be described via drunken tautologies. Then, he finishes his beer, disappears into a nearby forest and leaves us to go to MeetFactory.

Our final question to Honzík is clear: “Are you religious?” He says he is. “God punishes me,” he summarizes. The atmosphere at Veselá koza is joyous and full of expectations of things to come. The bartender swaps Sting for some other generic bullshit. Midnight is approaching. “This is tits,” says Lassie, and she ain’t wrong.

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