There are places you feel you know almost intimately, despite never even having been to them. You’ve heard stories so vivid and colorful they seem like actual memories. Dlouhá street, famous for its vibrant, Ibiza-esque nightlife, is one of those spots. So, naturally, we ventured there to cross-examine our perceived knowledge with actual knowledge.
If you’ve ever listened to mainstream Czech radio, chances are that at some point, you’ve stumbled upon Evropa 2, a massively successful station specializing on bad EDM, cheesy local pop-rock and Ed Sheeran. According to one of our friends, Dlouhá is the geographical embodiment of this. Now, we’re not talking about Roxy: one of Prague’s most well-known and well-established clubs is located there as well, but the point of this article lies elsewhere. You see, most people (locals and tourists alike) associate Dlouhá with late night partying in bars where you’d hear less of current electro and indie trends and more of ‘yo gurl, shake dat ass’.
Therefore we had to split the whole area into two segments:
1) Roxy & places to visit before and after the gig, like restaurants, lounge bars and such;
2) this article.
Armed with intimate knowledge of Sir David Attenborough’s movies and their focus of mating rituals of several animal species (which helps us understand what’s going on there), we ventured off to Facebook to gather some inside info.
“The area between Harley’s, James Dean and Kozička is often called Bermuda Triangle. It’s really easy to get lost in there,” goes one of the patrons. Our eyes were set on these places from the very beginning, so we immediately knew where to go.
After deciding to ditch El Mojito, Vanity, Follow Me and 80’s (you can’t explore every bar named like early John Travolta’s secret hideout without losing your sanity), we started off at Fano – a pub that describes itself as an ‘art café bar’, which is a rather clever decoy considering that you’re more likely to find random drugs on the toilet there than anything remotely resembling art or coffee. We’ll talk about Fano’s unique vibe later on; all you need to know now is that it’s a popular drinking spot among local garbage men, there’s a huge Santiago Bérnabeu poster on the wall and its website looks like it was designed by a reverse Marty McFly.
The plan for our evening was simple: We’d set off a base camp in Fano, pick out three other bars and employ what Girl describes as a ‘diving method’: take a deep breath, storm in, absorb as much as possible and leave the fuck out of there before the place swallows us whole.
It was a chilly Friday evening. We were sober. That was an integral part of our plan: everybody can just get drunk and explore places outside their comfort zone. Alcohol nullifies second hand embarrassment. We didn’t want that, so sobriety was crucial to this concept. Given that Harley’s Bar – one of our possible picks – is a potential fire hazard (Girl’s ex-boss told us that there’s only one narrow staircase leading out of the cellar where the bar is), we finally arrived at a conclusion: James Dean, Bombay and Kozička. Those were the three chosen places. The adventure began.
First Stop: James Dean
Naturally, we researched a bit before going to Dlouhá ourselves. It turns out that James Dean is that kind of place where people sometimes just happen to be, without actually intending to do so. One of our contacts explains: “I’ve given this a lot of thought, but I still sincerely don’t know. Let’s say I drink at Národní st. Then I decide to go for a walk… then cut and I’m at James Dean. Dlouhá has a great advantage in that there are lots of ATMs, so I guess people just tend to instinctively go there.”
"Once I was there and a drunk Indian guy wanted to be friends. I did not, so I simply out-drank him and took a hike. But it was kinda nice. I felt like a posh eighteen-year-old girl. Nobody’s even treated me like that before," he muses, adding that he’s in fact a tall, burly guy with a long beard, which is mathematically the polar opposite of a nubile schoolgirl (go figure).
The funny thing about James Dean is that it’s actually two separate places – a rather classic (albeit a bit fancy-ish) pub and a dance hall, the latter located underground and guarded by several fiercely looking bouncers. Given that a lot of people attend both of these places, we are utterly fascinated by the bouncers' ability to keep pub- and club-goers separated from each other. Their choreography would left a ballerina speechless. How is it possible that a guy who looks like he’s punching concrete walls to submission for fun can move around such a crowded place so delicately? We have no idea. It’s a bigger mystery than the fact that the club DJ plays a rockabilly version of Robbie Williams' Angels, complete with people doing sing-alongs and clapping joyously like scouts on a field trip.
Another mystery: A good rule of thumb is to expect that when there are go-go dancers, people will pay attention to them. In James Dean, this was not the case. Instead, a group of jaunty thirty-somethings in plain pastel shirts stole the spotlight, probably because their choice of shirt colors ensured that everybody will see them from a mile away (Boy is dressed in a black turtleneck, which makes him look like a ghost).
The philosophy of this place is firmly embodied right there on the wall: 'Dream as if you lived forever, live as if you died today.' Everybody here looks like they’re living by this motto every day. Well, everybody except the waitress who has to navigate the space balancing a large bucket on her arm; while others are dancing, she has the unfortunate job to fetch all the empty glasses. Which here is a rather Herculean task, given that the floor is exceptionally slippery. As we leave, the DJ plays Rock Around the Clock, but it could be literally anything else – people at James Dean react solely to the rhythm, completely disregarding such trivial details as melodies, tunes or (god forbid!) lyrics. Ok.
Second Stop: Bombay Bar
Let’s say you’re just wandering through Prague’s center. Probably looking for some high-end art, or whatever. What would immediately catch your attention? If your answer lies somewhere in the vicinity of ‘a bright orange facade complete with a detailed cocktail menu written on the window’, congratulations, you’re now officially qualified to do marketing for Bombay’s Bar. While other similar places stay hidden, Bombay Bar’s visual presentation screams with the ferocity of a thousand alarm clocks: COME HERE! DRINK! WE HAVE COCKTAILS! EVERY FRIDAY THERE’S GENITALIA PRESENT!
Frankly, the place looks rather cozy from the outside. Kinda like that spot you’d attend for a high school reunion 15 years later, knowing that half of your classmates are spending their time now talking about mortgages and their spouses' chihuahuas while sporting fake tans. But once you step inside, the perception changes: it’s like Hermione Granger’s magical tent. The interior of Bombay looks like a railroad station in the middle of the night – there are like three hundred people and everybody is hammered.
You can literally sense it the very second you open the door. The distance between the entrance and the bar is short, but good luck trying to get there – everyone just seems okay with standing still, drinks in their hands, talking to each other. There is simply no room anywhere, with the notable exception of one tiny place currently inhabited by an unassuming guy that will be henceforth referred to as Kevin.
Kevin might be around forty, but his swagger is akin to that of an up-and-coming rapper. He’s dancing with a lady who is visibly too drunk to be shy, but their awkwardness tells a story: there’s a guy, presumably working in middle management of some sales company, trying to seduce his long-term back office crush, and their mutual chemistry is just too strong to ignore. It looks like they’ve been dancing around each other for a while, until the alcohol-laden atmosphere of Bombay Bar brought them together. And everybody’s rooting for them. You go catch your dreams, Kevin!
“She must talk some language,“ a local gigolo tells his friend in English so broken not even MacGyver would fix it, while the cavalcade of Michael Jackson tunes painfully drowned in house remixes forces us to leave the place. We need to save some energy; the final stop will be merciless.
Third Stop: Kozička
Kozička (‘A Little Goat’) is a legendary place. Especially among local football and ice hockey players, who tend to go there in search for some action. It’s an almost touching example of socio-cultural symbiosis: just combine young sportsmen at their prime with some female models, and you’ve got the perfect tabloid fodder. That’s basically what’s happening there. One of our contacts had words of praise for Kozička, explaining that she went there once to have a shot of vodka at 11 AM and nobody found it weird; nowadays, you can’t do that anymore (the place opens at 4 PM now), but you get the idea.
TripAdvisor tells us that it’s not uncommon for bartenders to be rude there, and there was at least one incident with a bouncer throwing a table directly in the face of a misbehaving guest. We’re kinda wondering how that’s possible, given that the tables there are made of solid metal, but we don’t ask questions. Also, rumors say that young ladies there are willing to exchange blowjobs for cocaine; well. As we said, no questions. Carry on.
As is the case with lots of Prague’s bars, Kozička is located underground. The one distinct feature is the bar itself, which is round-shaped, so drunk people can circle it forever in their fruitless search of an end. Amusing. Also, what’s with all the fake furs? Don’t get us wrong, it’s definitely a better option than to wear a real one, but combine this dresscode with EDM played at an ear-piercing volume and you’ll immediately realize that this place is more like a dive bar that got randomly famous than a fancy rich hangout spot.
Unfortunately, both football and ice hockey leagues were off-season when we went to Kozička, but there were still lots of interesting people – like a bouncer so sad he looked like Mark Kozelek on Prozac, or a fifty-ish-year-old lady drinking wine and smoking ultra-light cigarettes. While action was happening all around here – in this case, that means lots of macho guys drinking Maxi Mojitos straight from the bowl – she sat silently, wordlessly ensuring everyone around that she’s having precisely none of this shit.
It’s time for us to once again return to Fano and end our trip on a high note. Strategically speaking, Fano should be a huge deal: its location borders both Prague’s Old Town (completely with the Old Town Square) and Dlouhá street. The aforementioned garbage men have their table permanently reserved, like a work-class version of Friends, but there’s still a lot of space elsewhere; although the sight of two lovers sharing a pizza at 2 AM in a bar felt a little too surreal.
It’s amazing how Fano gained its reputation as a rather flawless drinking spot, because when you focus on the details, it becomes abundantly clear that this place should not work at all: there is an AC, but its propellers are jammed right into the wall, which kinda defeats the purpose. Also, the machines are upside down. Also, there is a sign that reads ‘DANGER: MEN DOING LAUNDRY’ located right above the bathroom door. We don’t know why. There is no way you could get your laundry done at Fano. What you could (and will) get, however, are scores of even more terrible EDM shit. Nothing says ‘party’ like an atmosphere of people quietly sharing pizza while Avicii plays in the background.
Halfway through the night, we gave up. The party went on till the wee hours, but we felt like we’ve seen enough. If that guy from Bombay Bar reads this, we would like to wish him all the best with that back office lady. Godspeed, noble daredevil! May the swag of Dlouhá follow you everywhere you go. Peace.