Once through the front door we knew that we were in the right place. The hall matched the pictures on the internet. Here we had our opulence, but whoever took the photos was a master at producing tardis like space. What had appeared on the screen to be a spectacular entrance hall in oceans of grandiose space was in fact a long thin corridor of hall with a customer service desk along the right hand side. Next to the desk was a red velvet chaise longue. The crystal chandelier was just as depicted and the walls were covered in rich, red velvet brocade. The desk was ornately carved in a very dark wood and this red wall and dark wood scheme was a theme that would follow us everywhere we went for the next week. The Czechs love it. There was an inviting bowl of sweets placed on the edge of the desk for guests to help themselves. I resisted but this reminded me that after expecting a meal on the flight that never happened, I was very hungry.
Booking in didn’t take long. The man behind the desk was dour. He certainly didn’t go out of his way to make us feel welcome, just asked if we’d like a twin room or a double. We chose the double. He read us the riot act, told us when he expected us to book out, explained the times of breakfast and directed us to our room at the top of the hotel on the fourth floor. He told us that we had to abandon the lift on the second floor and carry our cases up the last few flights of stairs. There were three flights to each floor! This turned out to be false information, the bastard, but we didn’t know that at the time and while I waited outside our door, Russ lugged the very heavy cases up all the stairs. Each floor had its own little balcony and while the view from the back was no better than the view from the front, the height and the warm night air made it charming. I think the receptionist may have had an intercom to outside and had heard us calling the hotel a dump. I’d have been snotty under those circumstances, too.
Our room was not spectacular but to use the same word twice in two sentences purely because it fits perfectly, our little love nest was charming. ‘Little’ being the operative word. Again the photographer was an artistic genius. We recognised our room, this was the one we’d chosen from the pictures all right, but my God it was small. The bed dominated the room. It was enormous. To buy the same bed in England I don’t think you’d have much change in your pocket from three grand. Same red room, same heavy dark wood furniture, drawers, wardrobe, writing desk and ornate bed head all in the same wood, all carved, all matching. We had a raw silk bedspread in red. We had our own computer that never got turned on. We had a safe, Sky television and a mini bar, it was lovely and I was more than happy.
The bathroom was a dream; the entire room was furnished in golden marble. The Jacuzzi bath was small but brand new. Everything was clean and it all looked comfortable.
Greatly heartened we dumped our bags and excitedly went out to explore our local area and get something to eat. We got as far as the first bar we came to which happened to be four doors down from the hotel and the first building on the next block.
We walked through the door and it was like something out of ‘Deliverance’ all the locals turned around to look at us and the conversation stopped. Undeterred we walked through the bar and into the restaurant. This turned out to be one of a million identical bars. They all have the dark wood, they all have the red brocade, each one has a main bar, a snug type room and a larger restaurant and every single one has half a dozen scary looking men propping up the bar with a belligerent, unwelcoming expression.
However this was our first Pragian experience and we were excited. I smiled at everybody and Russ tried to evaporate. We didn’t quite know what to do and stood hovering in the restaurant doorway. What is the etiquette? Do you wait to be seated? Do you take a table and wait for them to come to you? After a few minutes of nothing happening and people staring at us but making no move to come forward, we chose a table and at down. Three seconds later we realised that this was a bad choice, we’d chosen the table right beside the men’s toilets and the smell emanating from said room wasn’t good. It caused more general amusement among the locals when the crazy Brits having walked into their domain then broke into an impromptu game of musical chairs. We made our second choice, sat and waited …and waited…and waited. I looked around and noticed that almost everybody around us was smoking, that was good, at least I could risk a cigarette without being held up against a wall and shot. A lady came over to our table with a notebook in her hands, this looked promising. We lurched into our second parlor game with the natives. This lady didn’t speak any English and we all got into the spirit of a lively game of Charades as we tried to order a double vodka and coke and a beer. When the lady came back with our drinks we played a second round to try and get something to eat. We’re still not sure, but I think the general idea was that we were too late and the kitchen was closed. I think she tried to tell us to go elsewhere and I do hope this was a friendly and helpful customer service suggestion and not an order. I was disappointed about not getting our first taste of Czech cuisine after reading about some of the delicious sounding things to offer from the guide books, but my vodka was very welcome and went down well.
I don’t drink beer of any kind. I hate the stuff and can’t comment on how good the Czech beer really is but Russ waxed lyrical about it for ages. Apparently British beer and lager is infused with a million and three different chemicals and impurities which taint the taste of the beer. Now why the Czechs can make the stuff without all these additives and we can’t is beyond me, but apparently they can. Russ wouldn’t shut up until I conceded and had a taste of the vile stuff. I don’t think I’ll be submitting my C.V. for a position on the Czech tourist board as chief beer taster. English, Czech, makes no difference to me the stuff’s all vile, but to Russ there is a world of difference and he said that his first real Czech beer was fantastic. My vodka was good but at the end of the day it was just vodka and nothing to get excited about.
Russ got very excited about the bill though. One look at it and he had a further attempt to convert me into a lager swiller. The price of my voddie and cola was on a par with British prices. A sad state of affairs that was only to get worse as the week progressed and I was soon to get a hard and fast taste for a new tipple that came to me a couple of days later. However Russ was in lager lout heaven when he discovered that his huge tankard of lager had cost about thirty pence. You couldn’t buy the frothy head for that back home. We finished our drinks as the lady who had served us very pointedly stacked chairs around us despite the fact that it was barely eleven o’clock. Wasn’t this supposed to be the mecca of stag night merriment? We supped up, paid up and went home to bed.
In the mini bar we found one Snickers bar and a packet of salted peanuts.