Loos · Pubs

Loos v Oslu

Friends, today is a special today, and this is a special blog post. I’m sure you could sense it as soon as you clicked on whatever link brought you to my door – this isn’t the typical Bland Blog installment. Why? Because this is my first CROSSOVER post. That’s right, today’s literary gobbet from me doesn’t just fit into one of the headings above, but two. Hold back you’re excitement.

Sure, most crossovers refer to collaboration between two independent sources, but I think that when you have the content, you don’t need to borrow from other people.

Today I’m continuing my hunt for a local and my quest to review every toilet in the greater Prague area. In my sights: the Belgian beer place confusingly called Los v Oslu. (My clumsy translation is Elk in Oslo. Oslo, famously, is not in Belgium.)


I was first attracted to this cosy pub when I discovered that it a) boasted a whole bunch of non-Pilsner beers and b) was located within spitting distance of my flat. What more could you want?

I really loved the decor of the place – it’s the most recognisable pub I can remember visiting in the Czech Republic, all dark wood, slightly sticky tables, and low lights. It reminded me of a generic Cumbrian pub that caters to tourists on weekends and mardy locals throughout the week. I could imagine them having a deal on kids’ Sunday roasts and legislating on whether muddy dogs were allowed. I felt very at home.

The menu was extensive – for food at least: two laminated brochures appeared before both of us. Vegetarian options, as is common in the Czech Republic, were few, although, perhaps steering into the Belgian theme, the menu did feature some dishes I’ve not seen anywhere else in the city, like two kinds of mussels. I winced at the sight: seafood dishes aren’t at all common in Prague, for the very good reason that Czechia’s landlocked. The beer menu deviated from Belgium altogether, offering the standard Pilsner Urquel or Kozel with a cheeky Flying Cloud IPA tacked on the end.

I opted for an IPA and a goats’ cheese salad, and my friend went for chicken wings. Disappointingly, considering it sold itself as a specialist beer place, the ale tasted claggy and I didn’t consume it with my usual gusto. It left a filmy aftertaste which I only later budged by consuming a lot of imported milkshake stout at my kitchen table. Resigned, it was with a heavy heart and compromised palate that my friend and I agreed not to order a second.

Whilst the beer left much to be desired, I was open-minded as I headed into the toilets. After all, some of the worst pubs I’ve ever visited, as far as drink/atmosphere are concerned, have still provided a decent urinary experience.

The ladies’ consisted, as is conventional, of two small rooms, the first containing a sink, mirror, bin etc, and the second housing the loo itself. To my surprise, however, the lock was located on the door from the sink room to the corridor, rather than between the two bathroom spaces, leaving the user with the sensation of entering a toilet suite. Given that it was a quiet night at Los v Oslu, I enjoyed this luxuriousness, but it did occur to me that it would be frustrating on evenings with higher toilet traffic.

I am not, and I hope no one will contradict me on this, a stickler for consistency, so the contrast between the bar and its toilets didn’t faze me. As I say, the pub itself felt traditional, with its varnished wood and spindly chairs, and its fragrance of beer spilt long ago. The toilet suite, however, was modern in the extreme: an ocean of glistening black tiles offset by the gleaming white john and the minimalist toilet brush. It felt like I’d been transported from the loos of a disappointing bar to some kind of luxury hairdressers’ for the super rich. I was dazzled and amazed by the contrast – the journey that the good people at Los v Oslu took me on really was a trip to see how the other half lives. I’d go even further: I felt like I’d stepped onboard a rocketship.

This second photo better encapsulates the contrast: on the right, a high-tech metal door, a gleaming sink. Steel so brushed you can see your reflection in it – literally. The blue of my Sweden-themed t-shirt appears on the door like a meteor blasting through space. Truly a journey to the cosmos.

On the left, the characteristic stained wood. This, too, is a journey, but rather than blasting off, we’re setting our sights on the past – childhood memories of teas at pubs, of being allowed Coca-Cola and not understanding the appeal of beer.

I also enjoyed the fact that the frame for adverts was left empty. Rather than forcing us to consider eg affordable broadband, half-price electronics etc while on the potty, Los v Oslu invites us to take a moment of quiet reflection. Something we can all learn from.

My experience at Los v Oslu was, then, pretty strongly mixed. Beer- bad. Food – meh. But toilets? An epic journey that takes us from the cosmos to our own memories, from a high-end hairdressers’ to, yes, ourselves.

PS Girls’ toilets only. I can’t speak for the boys’.

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living abroad · Loos

Lehká Hlava, Lehký Měchýř

Despite the fact that Czech traditional cookery revolves around pork fat and meat weighed by the kilogramme, Prague has a surprisingly vibrant vegetarian and vegan scene, which caters to locals and Czechs alike. Indeed, I was once told that Prague has the greatest number of vegan restaurants/capita of any European city. (I am, however, sceptical of this: for one thing, I haven’t bothered to Google around for the truth, and, for another, Prague is so small that winning anything ‘per capita’ doesn’t mean a lot.) Whilst the centre is full of meateries boasting traditional pork-based fare, the trendy outer areas are replete with avocado and meat substitutes. It was at I.P. Pavlova, for example, that I first tasted the joy that is deep fried cauliflower, and the pretentiously punctuated, uncapitalised ‘coffee room.’ in Vinohrady boasts two different kinds of avocado on toast.

Lehká Hlava (cz: clear/light head) is amongst the new generation of upmarket meat-free establishments catering to Czechs and tourists alike. I visited a few weeks ago and loved everything about the experience: the quirky decor, the friendly staff, the menu jam-packed with veggie and vegan dishes (including an incredible tofoie gras)…

Still, I know that most of my readers aren’t Prague based, and I don’t want to bore you with a gushing review of a place you’re never going to visit. Instead, please enjoy this detailed review of the toilet at Lehká Hlava. Strap in!

Also, and I appreciate the number of people who will get this is limited, I’m incredibly proud of the pun in the title: Light Head, Light Bladder. Love it. You’re all welcome.

The first port of call in any toilet review has to be the john itself. The unit in Lehká Hlava was outstandingly clean and equipped with a blue toilet duck. I was delighted, as the toilet blogging community has long accepted that blue is the optimal colour for any toilet cleaning products, and the bright white loo practically dazzled me.

The seat is at a slightly jaunty angle – this is no bad thing, as it lends the throne a certain whimsical character, which stops the tableau from falling into the trap of being offputtingly sterile. The pipe you can see on the right was somewhat rusty and aged, but in a pleasant way, like a disused locomotive or abandoned farm equipment. Overall a very decent unit.

I liked the contrast between surgical white wall tiles and rustic terracotta flooring; it reminded me of the food in Lehká Hlava itself – familiar flavours, with a modern twist.

The rustic/modern dichotomy was consistent throughout the bathroom area, as illustrated in the contrast between the Apple-white radiator unit and the tactile metal lock. I spent a few moments sliding the lock back and forth (you have to allow yourself some treats in this life), and I’m pleased to say that it was easily manipulable (it felt well-oiled) and pleasantly clunky.

Although the corner sink sacrificed comfort for space-saving (notice the awkward positioning of the soap dispenser, itself disappointingly service station-esque) the hand washing area contained this eye-catching piece of architecture. A mosaic arch was an original way to encourage patrons to spend that little bit longer lathering up. The arch itself, whilst ambitious, relies too much on spackle, as demonstrated by the sub-par tile:cement ratio. Still, an inspired creative choice.

The nature of the corner sink-mosaic arch combo was such that the mirror was unconventionally placed: not over the sink, as is usual, but on the wall opposite. Not unusable, but certainly frustrating; it would be difficult, for example, to use the sink as a makeup shelf, and washing your hands whilst also considering how cool you are would be nigh on impossible.

The final aspect of the bathroom was the most exciting. Yes, even more thrilling than the rustic-modern twist; still more exhilarating than the corner sink within its tile grotto. It’s not many toilets that include a secret cave, and I can only salute Lehká Hlava for including one here.

I was overall pleased with the bathroom. Although I generally prefer an over-the-sink mirror, the architect’s daring adventures into arches and nooks won me back. Would certainly recommend.

Bland Stuff

Look At This Bat I Made

Still full o’ pins.

Bland Stuff · living abroad

ways in which I have refused to integrate into Czech society

Sure, I live here. Alright, I earn Czech money and pay Czech taxes. Yes, I’ve been known to speak the odd word of Czech. Fine, I’ll admit it, I’m sitting in a Czech cafe right now, drinking a Czech coffee and eavesdropping on the Czech conversations of my (presumably) Czech cafemates. But, despite this, I am not Czech, and there are elements of Czech society which I have roundly rejected.

I…

will not enjoy Pilsner;

Lads, I love beer. At any moment in time, I’m either drinking a pint or wishing I were. My fridge is full of rainbow cans of various craft beers I’ve collected from expensive bottle shops in distant corners of Prague. I have a beer-based tattoo.

You might think that Prague would be the perfect city for me, then. After all, Czechs famously consume more beer/capita then any nation in the world.

Unfortunately for me and for everyone who spends time with me, I’m bored of Pilsner. Pilsner is the Czech beer: it’s in every pub, cafe, workplace and school. It’s essentially a really nice lager that goes well with most food. The problem is that I’m sick of it: it’s the most generic beer I can imagine. It just tastes like the word beer. It’s so nondescript that I can’t think of any way to describe it except by writing beer and underlining it a few times.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing bad about it. It’s just that I’m by nature a stout drinker and I’m living in the land of the ležák. It’s something I struggle with every day.

I’m vegetarian;

And I’m getting more militant with each passing day.

This is specifically tricky in the Czech Republic, land of pork. The classic Czech vegetarian option is breaded cheese deep-fried and served with potato salad. I love deep frying things as much as the next gourmand, but you can only have so many mozzarella sticks.

will not take ová;

Czech surnames change depending on whether the holder is male or female; women’s names usually take the suffix ová. I thought this was a fairly inoffensive, cute eccentricity until I learnt about possessive nouns – it turns out that the ová ending essentially denotes belonging to

I realise the irony of rejecting this; my name is Daniels which, although I’m no etymologist, surely means belonging to Daniel, essentially Daniel’s.

Still, though, I’ve stopped giving my surname as Danielsová on principle. It means that I get some weird looks (although, admittedly, people being confused about my gender is a by-product of my whole androgynous thing), but I’m just not a fan.

and don’t own slippers.

Slippers are a cornerstone of Czech culture. I will not expand on this, because I don’t want to.

Bland Stuff · living abroad

ways in which I have integrated into Czech society

As I’ve already mentioned a million times on this blog, I recently moved to Prague to pursue my dream of gentrifying East-Central Europe. I’ve been in the Czech Republic for about six months now, and whilst I’d hesitate to identify myself as convincingly European, despite what my passport insists, I am conscious that certain aspects of my behaviour have changed in my jaunt on the continent. Although hindered by my shocking Czech and general standoffishness, I am slowly integrating into Czech society in certain specific ways.

I…

don’t buy public transport tickets;

The Prague public transport system is a mixture of underground, buses, and adorable trams that look like they’ve not been updated since 1968 (pictured). Since I started working largely from home, the frequency of my rides on the rails has diminished massively. I no longer rely on the tram for my income, but rather consider a trip on the metro a sort of weekly treat.

The network is relatively reliable, at least compared to its Sheffield counterpart; and, like its Yorkshire equivalent, it’s incredibly open to abuse. Unlike the larger public transport systems I’m familiar with, both Sheffield and Prague rely on a largely self-policed ticketing service. You buy a ticket from an exciting yellow machine with pleasingly old-fashioned buttons, validate it onboard using another exciting yellow machine, and present your validated ticket to representatives of the law on request.

It sounds like a reasonable and decent system, except for one thing: I’ve never seen a representative of the law checking tickets. I’ve lived here, as I say, for half a year now, and at my peak I travelled by public transport a few times a day – and my ticket has never been checked. What does a person do in the face of such a lax system? Stop using the exciting yellow machines.

I’m sure my comeuppance is up-and-coming, and, frankly, I’d not feel at all upset if I were fined at this point. I deserve it. Sometimes I use the first exciting yellow machine just to enjoy the pleasingly tactile buttons, but, largely I’m a criminal.

Anyway, I think this counts as cultural integration because I was encouraged to flout the law by my Czech pals who openly laughed when they saw me buying a ticket from the exciting machine. Peer pressure strikes again.

don’t consume any Czech media;

“Friends,” I ask in my charmingly broken Czech, “can you recommend me a Czech newspaper?”

“Pals,” I inquire in my accented Czech, “what TV show should I watch to strengthen my already mighty knowledge of your language?”

“Chums,” I wonder aloud, “do you know any Czech music?”

The answer to these earnest questions has always been, in this order,

“No.”

“None.”

“No.”

It’s 2019 and, as any language learner knows, a great way to improve your skills is to immerse yourself in the media of your target language. Imagine my horror and disappointment in hearing that my Czech friends get their news from the BBC, watch HBO and listen to Blur. I’ve spoken to the occasional Czech who reads German news, but I’ve been roundly discouraged from opening Lidové Noviny or listening to any Czech tunes – with the notable exception of Plastici.

have a job and a flat and that; 

What could be more Czech than living in the Czech Republic and earning Czech crowns??

Although, if you ask someone from Moravia, Prague isn’t Czechia; just like, to northerners, London isn’t England.

have strong opinions about the whole Czech Republic/Czechia debate.

Those opinions change regularly, but I have them, and I’m fully invested in the polemic.

Bland Stuff

Making a House a Home

Before I moved to Prague about six months ago, I lived in an alternating sequence of student halls, my childhood bedroom, and shared flats. Student accommodation, as even a cursory understanding of the documentary series Fresh Meat will tell you, is a hellscape of ununpacked stuff and unwelcome mould. My childhood bedroom, when I was occupying it fulltime, wasn’t that different.

But I’m a grown-up adult human now. I rent my own flat and I live next door to my landlord. I have to clean my own sink. (In my childhood home, the sink is cleaned by my mother; in student accommodation, it’s cleaned by ??elves??)

Me, smirking

When I first dragged my suitcase across the threshold, I was so overjoyed to have got out of the hostel I’d been staying in that I barely took in the flat itself. All that mattered was that I wasn’t going to wake up to a Mysterious Man going through my stuff.

I spent the first few weeks sleeping in a sleeping bag; it took me over three months to work up the Czech/crowns/courage to buy a duvet – although I did get sheets admirably quickly. I’d never lived in a proper flat before, and I didn’t know what expect. I was shocked that flats don’t come with cutlery as standard.

It took me a good couple of months to collect together the basic necessities (eg knives, glasses, pillow etc); I still don’t have a chopping board. That doesn’t bother me, though: what I’ve been concerned with is making my flat feel homely. And, by God, I’ve managed it. Here are some handy tips for those of you moving out for the first time.

hang pictures

And if, like me, you’re too cheap to buy full size prints, postcards will do.

Pictured: Jerry the cat really digging my Kafka/Havel aesthetic.

There are also companies these days that you can send digital files to and they’ll post you pleasingly tactile, shiny photographs. This system has allowed me to garland my flat with nostalgic and wholesome pictures of my favourite people.

invest in lamps

I’m no interior designer (I’m an English teacher-cum-timewaster) but I’m a big fan of well-lit spaces.

This lamp cost me 30czk (~£1) from the junk shop across the street. Also, look how incredibly cosy my bed is. That’s where I get to sleep! Every night!

paper sculptures

This one might not be completely universal, but that’s what you get when you take advice from someone incapable of empathy.

Pictured: Jerry the cat ignoring the strings of cranes I spent literally a million years making.

constant grime

Because, otherwise how do you know you aren’t just visiting?

The grime might not be visible in this shot, but it’s there. Believe me.

Bland Stuff

Gleb Pesoc’s Best Tattoos (ranked)

Gleb Pesoc is my favourite name in the world. Gleb’s been getting more and more popular outside of Russia and he’s started regularly ‘touring’ Europe – although I met him in SPb, he gave me my tattoo in Berlin. I’m praying he’ll come to Prague whilst I’m living here. Check his instagram for regular beautiful tattoos and details about his availability.

5. Paperclip

One of the cool things about tattooing is that your canvas is people, and people aren’t all smooth and blank. I really like the way Gleb’s tattoos sometimes include people’s features, especially scars.

4. Dancing girl

This one is just so graceful!

3. Why not?

The croc looks slightly uncomfortable, like he’s embarrassed he’s been immortalised eating this girl.

2. Fire extinguisher


I love the way Gleb uses colour!

1.Birds on a wire

Blue on skin is so striking, and looking at the individual birds blows my mind. They’re all slightly different and each one seems to have its own unique character.

Bonus: Rosie’s chocolate mammoth.

It’s red ‘cos it’s fresh and (bonus info) it fucking hurt.

Gleb stopped about halfway through and asked how I was doing. In my mind, I was thinking about how a half-finished chocolate mammoth would be so much more stupid than a full one. Out loud, I said, “Yep yep good good.”

how to tell if

how to tell if your significant other is a prominent modern artist

That’s right, it’s another stunningly relatable how to tell if from your favourite patchy blogger, Rosie.

Today, let’s cast our minds into the realm of romance, as intimidating and thorny as that might be. It’s easy to feel isolated in a relationship, especially a longterm one. I wouldn’t call myself an expert in matters of the heart, preferring to allow others to honour me with that title, but I’ve spoken to enough of my peers to glean that doubts start creeping in after the few-month-mark: doubts about fidelity, about reciprocity, and, perhaps most worryingly, doubts about whether that sweet guy you’ve been seeing is secretly Banksy.

Whilst I myself am always careful to vet my potential significant others about their affiliations with the art world – my sixteen-point questionnaire about eg gallery visits, radial symmetry, dominance/emphasis etc never fails – some of my friends lack such forethought. They come to me, some weeks or months deep into a relationship, with their heads full of doubt: what if this person is secretly an esteemed anon?

Doubt no longer. This handy guide will clear it up once and for all: is your new beau the sensible quantity surveyor you thought, or is s/he secretly an eminent modern artist?

Do they…

have white hair?

White hair is the most artistic colour of hair known to man. Popularised by Andy Warhol, prematurely de-coloured locks are a sure sign of creativity. It’s theorised that the reason behind Warhol’s snowy head was a constant, edging fear of being stranded without a viable canvas. How can you lose a sketchbook when your very head doubles as a workspace?

own four of everything in different colours?

When they pop to the corner shop for crisps, they come back with four flavours. When they nip to Waterstones for the latest John Grisham, they come back with four spine-chilling tomes. When they suggest a comedy for your weekly Netflix date, it’s James Acaster’s four part ‘Repertoire’. The wheels on their Volkswagen Polo are slightly different shades of black. The amount of money you spend on soup has increased eightfold.

It’s subtle, but this obsession with symmetry and quadruplication may imply an underlying appreciation for pop art.

constantly signing things they find lying around?

“Darling,” you exclaim, “why have you written your name on the bra I left next to the bathtub?”

“Honey,” you wail, “why have you initialled the spoon we use to pry open stubborn jars?”

“William,” you huff, “why have you sharpied on my left shoe?”

Sound familiar? Sure, maybe you tend to employ different pet names (‘William’ as a term of endearment hasn’t achieved mainstream popularity yet), but if this is a situation that repeats itself regularly, you might be dealing with an artist.

often struck dumb by everyday stuff?

“Look at the raw, animal emotion!”

Fair play, though: this picture is amazing.

haiku

Twitter Haiku

A real bargain, a
steal. Complete your Christmas tree:
Sight, smell, and now sound.

Bland Stuff

Fantastic Inventions

Lately I’ve caught myself replacing smart comments with cynicism in an effort to seem cool. As everyone who’s actually cool knows, that is annoying and toxic – not to mention transparent – so I’ve decided to cut that out by consciously making an effort to appreciate stuff that’s fantastic.

And, credit where credit is due, humans have thought up some cool stuff. Today, let’s think about words like ingenuity and entrepreneurial spirit as we go through my TOP FIVE THINGS THAT HAVE BEEN INVENTED.

Those white pens you can use instead of chalk on chalkboards

I don’t know if they have a specific name; when I was looking for the accompanying image, I googled chalk pens and was pleased with the results. Google did suggest I might also mean liquid chalk, but surely that refers to the stuff that fills the pen, not the actual pen itself. And, if I’m honest, I’m uninspired by the chalk ink on its own – surely that’s just tipex? The invention that knocks my socks off is the pen as a whole.

Friends, I have a dream. One day, in the far, far future, surrounded by animatronic great-grandchildren, I will settle down with a nostalgic coming-of-age classic set in a primary school of my youth. The protagonist, a scrawny, nerdy girl that resonates with me for reasons we don’t need to go into, will be summoned to the board to complete an impossible sum. 

Blushing and flicking an unfortunate fringe out of her face, our heroine will be frozen by the blackboard, chalk being ground into dust by her nervous fingers. When, under pressure from the watching pupils and authoritarian educator, she finally scrawls a hasty 19 in the empty part of the equation, the chalk will give way, snapping halfway through the tail of the 9 and scattering the board with an uneasy constellation of white spots. 

My grandchildren will turn to me, nonplussed. “What the shit was that?” they will ask.

I will smile, settle back into my automated rocking chair. Despite my grandchildren’s liberal use of four letter words, I am content. My life’s dream is complete: my descendants live in a world where chalk, that notorious bastard, has been rendered obsolete and blasted from the face of history. Truely, a happy day.

Zips

Because, and I mean this sincerely, I can’t think of a better way to close my jacket.

Also, zips are the forerunners of ziplocks, without which none of us would be able to take miniature bottles of shampoo on holiday.

This isn’t related, but I don’t understand why mini toothpastes are a thing. Like, normal sized toothpastes are well within the 100ml limit. The mini ones just increase your stress levels when you realise you’ve packed two brushes worth of toothpaste for an eighteen brush trip. But I digress.

Table hooks

like this, but permanently affixed to the table eg with a screw

really don’t know what these guys are actually called: table hooks is my best guess. The reason I’ve got no clue how to name them is because I’ve only ever encountered these little heroes On The Continent – that is, not on my native island of Britain.

Say what you like about Europe, but they do have bag storage down.

Table hooks are, and this might shock you, hooks attached to tables. From these hooks a sodden traveller can dangle, for example, a handbag or anorak to prevent the item from acting as a mop on a wet pub or cafe floor. Truly, an invention for the ages.

The system whereby the post office texts you to tell you about your parcel’s delivery status

Perhaps it’s overkill to call this an invention, but I’m a fan of it nonetheless. Instead of waiting for a physical leaflet that is vulnerable to all kinds of foul play (rain, jealous neighbour, angry dog), just wait for a cheeky text from your postie letting you know your boxset of NCIS is ready to be picked up. Every time this happens, I sit phone in hand, revelling in the majesty of the automated text message.

Reusable sunglasses

Honestly, those disposable ones were just wasteful.