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Prague: Day Two, Part Two

After the Jan Saudek Gallery, we enter the square and go sit at tables facing it; an Italian sandwich joint. We bask in the sun, mulling over sandwich, beer and coffee, and then wander off to get lost again eventually back in Mala Strana and we meet up with C and decide to do a beer tour. Three beers in three pubs plus dinner for around the equivalent of $20. For this we have to walk back to the main square and wait under the Astronomical Clock. During the time we are there an old woman comes by and stopping not too far away starts yelling loudly at the church. This goes on for quite a few minutes. She is upset and angry and we’re not sure if she is ecclesiastically upset or just deranged. Is she a paid performer? An inmate who is out? We find out later that she is both a fixture and a lunatic.

Soon the beer tour group have come together, all men but for C. Apart from the three of us there is the leader Martin, two Americans and an Australian. We find out through the course of the evening that our guide is a student of small island ecosystems but for these few hours he will tell us a little about the buildings we see and more about the history of the city. One of the Americans is teaching English in Stuttgart and he is friends with the Australian who is in finance. They have been friends for a long time and get together every couple of years to travel. The Australian travels for months at a time every few years. We end up talking a lot about culture (Australian fiction and film). The other American started off in college studying biochemistry then joined the navy to continue his studies but ended up as a navigator on a ship in Holland and now was taking a short holiday before going to Washington where he was entering the ministry and being trained to do volunteer work in Afghanistan. All of these were open, friendly and intelligent men. I thought that we were so lucky to end up with such a group, so conversant in many areas. It might have been just as easy to have ended up with a stumble of loud goofs, a few of which we had already seen. We found that the age of the ugly American had been eclipsed by the age of the even louder, uglier and worse dressed Britons and Germans. The Brits were possibly aging football hooligans and the Germans tended to run in groups wearing odd attire like lime green shoes.

The idea of the tour was that you go to a pub and have a beer, then a different pub and a different beer, and finally another pub with beer and food. These were all supposed to be relatively nontourist places and so they seemed. The beer was unremarkable (good beer in comparison to here but run of the mill for Czech beer; we had Urquell, Budweiser and Starongen; like Germany most pubs only had one beer to be had). C and I had goulash again. As we walked down one street, Martin pointed out a restaurant that was a real neighborhood restaurant, so much so, that only people from the neighborhood were allowed to eat there (there had been an exception when Havel took Clinton there a few years back).

After this we headed back to our place and stopped for a last drink at Joe’s which was just below our place. C was convinced to try a special mint tea which only two people in the world knew how to make and they were both working that night (we went back other times and no one there knew what to do about that drink). It really was an amazing concoction with crushed mint leaves, honey, hot water and a few unknown things. They said others had said it cured things. On the wall beside the bar was a casting call for all types for a Morgan Freeman movie that was shooting in town. We just weren’t around long enough to take advantage of that.

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