– or: Why It’s Legitimate For Me to Spend 20% of My Money on Beer –
All the photos in this post (and, indeed, most of my other posts) were taken by the very talented TestExplosion.
Recently (read: four days ago) I moved to Prague. Typically disorganised and, if I do say so, almost wilfully scatty, I’d not sorted a job or a place to live before I flew out; the only foreplanning I’d done involved booking a mildly well-reviewed hostel for a week and spending hours getting the font on my CV just right.
As you can imagine, the lack of forethought, combined with my frankly mizerný grasp of the Czech language, as well as general heartbreak about leaving St Petersburg, has left me feeling pretty tiny in a big world. Add to that a less than ideal hostel situation and incredibly hot weather (which, as we all know, makes me grumpy), and you’ve got a Ro feeling like the last Smartie in the tube of Smarties.
What I need is a home away from home. A local.
Thanks to incredibly good fortune and a friend well into craft beer and places where you can smoke indoors, my local in St Petersburg was, and I don’t want to overstate this, heaven on earth. After four months of regular visits and God knows how many roubles, Blinders Bottleshop really did feel like a second home.
Honestly, it felt like my first home, with my actual bedroom taking second place and the café that made incredible pasta a close third.
We were on ты terms with the barmen (read: tu, tú, ty, Du), they let us stay way past closing, didn’t complain when we (read: I) left origami cranes all over the bar. At a certain point, they told us that if we ever wanted to drink before opening, we should just knock on the shutters until someone let us in.
My happiest memories of St Petersburg, almost without exception, happened in that small, dark, slightly cramped and beer-smelling room. A great deal of my Russian language skills are thanks to the exposure to authentic (and, sometimes, extremely colourful) Russian I got chatting to locals and visitors.
What makes it all the more spectacular is how welcome we foreign students felt in Blinders – and, as a group, we couldn’t be more foreign: gay, black, pink hair… In a lot of parts of Petersburg, we were singularly out of place; but at Blinders we were accepted and welcomed. Honestly, I tear up thinking about it.
And that’s what I want here, too. A place where misfits of all descriptions can go, enjoy an incredible pint, and talk for hours about absolutely nothing.
It’s a tall order, sure. I’m searching for somewhere to rival my favourite place on earth but, by God, I swear I’ll find somewhere, even if I have to try every pub in Prague…