It’s the sort of street that no self-respecting umbrella wielding tour guide would bother with – not because it’s dull or dangerous – but just that no-one famous was thrown out of windows on to it, and it’s not too strong on statues. It’s ideal for a more genuine glimpse of Prague life, however, and if you’re too shy or lazy to venture out of Praha 1, walk this way and immerse yourself in all that is Czech.
Soukenická means ‘woven’, and if I was inclined to labor my point to the brink of irritation, I would describe the street as a sort of intricate tapestry of a nation.
But I won’t.
It’s not the most beautiful street in the city, but it does have a genuine charm, so slap a postcard of the castle on your head and live for the risk. No culture can continue for long without food, and you can chomp away for hours on Czech cuisine within the brick confines of Soukenická.
To start with, for those with simple needs and not a lot of cash, I went into Mervartovo Pekarstvi (No. 24), which is a bread shop. Point and grunt at things for a couple of seconds, and suddenly, for practically no crowns at all, you’ve the proud owner of a loaf that’s so big you could hide behind it.
At number 3, you can chew happily on dead bird a la Czech. Have an entire bird or a dainty thigh, depending on how chicken you are, and pay upwards of 50 crowns for the privilge. There’s a Hare Krishna vegetarian restaurant called Govinda (no. 27, open Mon-Sat, 11am-5:30pm) further down for those who prefer bloodless food preparation, and 100+Kc.
If you want to spend more than that, go to Cerberus (no. 19, open Mon-Fri 11-23, & Sat 15-23, +420 222 310 985), which has an impressive menu, (try the rabbit with pears and cranberries for 245Kc) but not such an impressive atmosphere. Bring an iPod. If you want to piss your money away instead, there are a number of bars to choose from.
Right at the top of the street at No. 2 is Cafe Four, where the background music was a Czech version of the very worst of Andrew Lloyd Webber, but was played quiet and didn’t intrude too much on my damn fine coffee which cost just 15 crowns. They like to charge extra for those plastic things with a single drop of artificial milk in it, but it’s still quite a cheap place just to sit and watch old people slipping on the icy cobbles outside.
These old people are more than likely to be on their way to Výčep Soukenická Hospoda at Soukenická 17, a pub which looks like somebody’s kitchen with a cash register. It’s open from 10am to 9pm, and serves Staropramen for 25Kc, and most of the customers had at least one part of their face missing.
A couple of doors down is U Sportovce Pivrnce (no. 4, open 11-23), a large, cheap and bustling place where they serve up frothy pint of Radegast. The place has framed cartoons on the wall which are probably quite amusing, but it’s worth visiting just to witness the loudest telephone on the planet. If you’ve got a mobile phone, sit on the left side of the bar and dial +420 2 2481 6608 or +420 2 2481 6089. If not, get a friend to phone at an arranged time, and let the noisy fun commence.
If you don’t consider that to be the best use of your time in the pointy city, why not pay a visit to the friendly folks at Futurista, (Soukenická 8, Tel: +420 222 311 453 www.futurista.cz Metro: Náměstí Republiky)? Its a groovy home design shop, with lots of great ideas and items at prices you can afford. We’re talking unique furnishings, artwork, for everyone whose thought of shopping at Ikea is akin to getting a quicky through a gas station glory hole.
But if you want to actually have sex with the Czechs rather than watch other people doing it, make yourself more attractive by buying a new electric razor or hair dryer at Braun (Petrske náměstí 5), which has a load of reductions at the moment, is nicely priced.
Or head on over to Salon Esela (Soukenická no. 22), for some pampering treatments, or to buy things for the girl-friend or to remind yourself what looking groomed feels like. Prices start at just over 100Kc, and a lot of the top brand pruducts are available. To make yourself even more beautiful, hairdressers will re-sculpt your head for as little as 500 crowns.
If you decide or have already decided that Prague’s the place for you, you can even deck out your apartment from the stores of Soukenická. Furniture stores a plentiful, and there’s the afore mentioned Braun shop for clocks and a refrigerator shop for refrigerators. For the stain-on-the-wall that posters and photos of the dog won’t hide, back in the day you can buy a big old Persian rug from Buchara Ltd (Soukenická 25, prices start around 10,000Kc), but for the same price you could probably fly a little Iranian man over to your place to make you a new one. They’ve now moved, so if the flying over thing don’t work, head over to www.buchara.cz for the latest offerings and address.
Just opposite is a fantastic little junk shop called Bazar U Kola, selling a million things you’ll never need, and another million that you can’t live without. Don’t be put off by the thick curtain across the entrance – that’s just to protect the two old guys that run the place from the cold. The pair of Aladdins have been sitting and smoking filterless Petra since time began and will gladly help you with anything you can’t reach. I pointed to a mirror hanging by the ceiling that I wanted to buy for 150Kc, and it was only after the octogenarian had risked his frail life climbing up to get it that I realized it was just a frame with deceptively reflective glass.
I was so ashamed at my life-threatening f*ckwittedness that I bought a toaster, three ladles and a large selection of garden tools.
The jewels of Soukenická are a veritable slice of urban life for the Praguester, I’m sure you’ll agree. 300 meters of national exhibit. And in a final attempt to please everybody, if, after walking the street and doing other bits of the city you decide Prague wasn’t worth the hype and is just Disneyland wearing a Kafka T-shirt, there are even a couple of travel agents to help you frack off.
Atis is at Soukenická (www.atis.cz Tel: +420 554 787 888 – 893), Tomi Tour is to the right of Petrske náměstí, and there’s even an ever friendly GTS branch tucked away. If you decide to stay for a while, we’ll be waiting for the green man next month, and heading up Dlouha way. Join us if you can.
Tomi Tour Travel Agency
Pizzeria La Ventola
Relaxing it is, and warm it is too…
Pizza is king at Pizzeria La Ventola (Soukenická 7, 110 00 Praha 1, +420 224 818 892 www.laventola.cz), but the beer’s great too! There’s a decent range of Italian dishes on the menu and the prices are very Czech friendly. There’s also a nice looking bar where you can enjoy fine spirits and wines while awaiting your fellow diners. The music was changeable, sometimes bordering on the dire, but you can put up with that for awesome Italian food at great prices, for crying out loud. Eating too much Italian until your wasteline shows it? Ask them about the calorie consious Healthy Menu.
Salon Portrait (Soukenická 5, 110 00, Praha 1, +420 224 818 776 www.salonportrait.cz) is a very posh looking beauty salon, which you’ll never come out of looking as good as the people who work there. They’ll fondle your feet and cut your hairy bits for a price that depends on need, and they’ll smile as if making you look reasonable is all it takes to make their day. Try it.
Himalaya (No. 2)
This is a restaurant that delivers the real deal. Going through the door is like walking into a giant joss-stick, the spices from the kitchen are delightful. Himalaya is an authentic Indian restaurant that offers traditional Indian cuisine, Tandoor oven, Halal meat, vegetarian meals and more. And you can even go to their website at www.himalayagroup.cz, or call +420 603 146 464 or +420 224 231 581 and order to-go! Their chefs are well expereinced, they come from Himalaya Fast Food up on Mikovcova 7, near I.P. Pavlova +420 224 231 581, +420 603 146 464, so you kow they can satisfy your belly perfectly.