We had taken a red-eye from Yerevan and arrived in Prague so early our hotel room wasn’t ready yet. We were battling exhaustion, sitting in the lobby struggling to stay awake, snapping our heads back when they sagged into slumber. Our room was finally ready and we shuffled our way upstairs and dozed off immediately.
A while later, I was gently woken up by some musical sounds. There was no radio in our room, and the tv wasn’t on. The singing voices were faint and distant. I wondered if I was dreaming. The singing continued so I got up and followed the sounds to the open window where they seemed to be coming from. I looked out and saw an empty patio. But the voices persisted.
My sister and friend finally woke up and we were all starving. We stepped out of the hotel and there was that singing that had woken me up. This time it was a lot louder, much less distant. Right next door seemed to be where these voices were coming from, and it was a beer hall to boot. So obviously, we went in.
Inside the bustling beer hall we were greeted by all dark wood, communal tables, waitstaff buzzing about and an accordionist weaving his way through it all. We sat down at one of the communal tables and were handed menus. A very tall waiter came with three half litres of dark ale, placed it front of us, ignored our polite refusals, scribbled it on our tab and promptly walked away. “I guess we’re drinking beer,” my sister said, while we clinked our steins and ignored our empty stomachs.
We placed our food orders and took in the atmosphere. The singing voices could be heard again, and it made me smile. I don’t often get woken up by groups of people singing beer drinking songs. It was very fitting and actually quite nice.
“It’s tradition,” said the waiter who suddenly showed up at our table holding a tray filled with shot glasses of a light amber liquid. “What is it?” I asked. “Becherovka.” He stood looking at me, stone faced and slightly intimidating, so I caved and took a shot, once again ignoring the fact that I hadn’t eaten for most of the day. The herbal concoction was so pleasing I went for a second one. You know, for that extra kick of tradition. We all silently hoped our meals came soon.
And then, within minutes of quenching our thirsts in the only way we were provided with, I broke the land speed record for getting tipsy. It was lovely. Basking in the glow of the herbal after taste, surrounded by drunken groups singing a few tables away, savouring the wonderfully dense bread dumplings, I mentally put a check mark next to Prague.