You’ve walked it a thousand times, so you’d be forgiven for thinking me a patronizing twat who should leave you to wander the city by your own more than capable feet, but I’m only trying to help. Think of me as your human magnifying glass.
I spot what you don’t have time to spot, I try what you don’t have time to try, and while you stride through Prague with your head down and your collar up like some Humphrey Bogart wannabe, I gaze about the place like a gormless fool trying not to get hit by an over-zealous Bike-Messenger.
Talking of gormless fools, have you ever been to The Roxy? This currently-under-threat-thanks-to-meddling-neighbours nightclub and its very cool NoD Gallery upstairs at no. 33 is home to the most thumping bass this side of a scud missile attack. Cover charges vary depending on who’s spinning the tunes, but most nights will bring you into the company of roughly a million happy ravers thrusting their bits in a million different directions. The beer’s cheap and the atmosphere second to none, with more smiling folk than any religious sects I’ve ever been a member of.
If you’ve managed to score with a Roxyette but are worried that she might go off you in the cold light of day where your eyes glow red, you sweat like a buffalo and you’d loses a conversation competition with Rainman, nip across to Bohemian Garnet (Dlouhá 30, 110 00, Prague 1, www.granat.eu) and buy her a new ring.
If all you want is sleep, this place is still a decent option. Friendly more-than-helpful staff, brilliant location, and other good things that I can’t spell, make it a more than acceptable stop-over point.
A bit further on in the direction of Old Town Square is one of those shops that sells fashionable ethnic ornaments and crap clothes covered in beads. The master-mind behind this hugely successful business operation is a man called Clive. After a few months spent carving miniature copies of Charles Bridge in a garage near Haje, he became aware of a gap in the Prague market.
Nowhere could you buy hard-wood sculptures of men with huge heads and big hair, orange elephant book-ends, or tie-dyed dungarees. He set to work, and soon shops were filled with “Asian” memorabilia for tourists who couldn’t afford the flight to Nepal, and weren’t that impressed by Bohemian crystal. All of Clive’s best work is available here, and prices are lower than in similar stores.
Dlouhá is a credit to Prague’s town planners, having everything you could possibly need to experience the highs, lows and mediums of human existence. There are trash cans for your 3-day old gum, there are walls to lean on when your walking abilities become impaired, there’s tarmac for your car, paving stones for your feet, and even people walking in the opposite direction for you to bump into when you need a bit of human contact.
What more could you want?
Even those with vomit stained clothes can try to improve their quality of life with a quick visit to Hotek Antik across the street, a hotel with a twist. The requisite junk shop makes an appearance for those with more space than money. An enormous pile of second-hand ring-binders occupies the left hand-side of the store, and the rest is filled with rust. It’s more of a skip than a shop in fact, but if you look hard enough you may find something that at the very least could be used as a weapon.
There is a nice little antique shop, tucked away at no. 37 should you be craving the creative. Antik v Dlouhá is what it says it is, and stretches back into an unborn shopping arcade. Opposite the entrance is the Tom Tom Club Cocktail Bar, but if cocktails are not your thing, panic not because coffee-drinking is another easy option. Walk down the street and through the door of Coffee Fellows (Dlouhá 20, Praha 1, Tel: +420 222 310 200, www.coffee-fellows.cz) and you enter a world of pastries, coffees, coolness, and the sort of tea that Tesco just refuses to sell. Prices start at around 30 kc, and the atmosphere is free. Music choice is slightly suspect – a mixture of Eurodisco and Czech pop tunes, but cafes were meant to be weird, and you won’t be disappointed here. And if you think that tea tastes like warm piss, stop by next door to Harley’s, a hard rockin’ bar serving up Jack Daniels and tattoos for your dermis.
If you’re hungrier than you are thirsty, potravinys are common for the cheap and easy, but pretty cheap and even easier is Pizzerie U Slona, (+420 222 327 207) at Dlouhá 2. As all qualified pizza critics know, the only moral way to judge this fine Italian product is by the number of olives per square inch of base. This place scores highly, and has the added advantages of friendly waitresses and complimentary cutlery usage.
If you’ve got money and taste (and who’s got both?), the beautifully tastefull home furnishings store opposite has plenty of things worth squandering your cash on. Fancy mirrors, sturdy tables, and plenty of other old things are available here in the shop on the corner of Dlouhá and Rybna. And for those wanting to get in touch with their melodic side, there’s Antonius Music Store at no. 37 (just through that little courtyard, Tel: +420 224 826 481, +420 608 963 943 +420 608 862 583, www.antonius.cz) which sells the whole range of instruments, sometimes second-hand.
A couple of doors down at no. 24 is Ma Maison, a design store which makes a serious business out of being cool in the home. IKEA is as fashionable as a nose-bleed compared to this curvy chaired, bendy lamped centre of style, and if both your shoe laces are tied the right way they’ll let you in between 9 and 7 o’clock Mon. -Fri. and 10 ’til 4 on Saturday.
If you’ve ever wondered what the point of heller was, pop into the hardware store run by two old ladies who were last seen to smile in 1932. A nail to hammer your scrotum to a plank with will set you back about an eighth of a crown, and where can you get entertainment that cheap outside of my apartment?
Dlouhá, or Long Street, has a history of being a fine place to hang out, and is where Kafka chose to write The Trial. In the fourteenth century it was home to 13 breweries, and the Communist Youth Association used to swap amusing anecdotes in what is now The Roxy.
Dlouhá is where it was at, and where it still is. Go there.
Photos: Jeffree Benet