It's Monday around noon. I've just got a text message from my student telling me that the lesson has to be cancelled. Great news, the lesson is already paid and now I've got some free time in my hands. A great chance to check out Kavárna Liberál.
I spotted it a few weeks ago, while wandering the side streets between Veletržní Palác and Strossmajerovo Nám. It's located at a corner, opposite a small park, and it looked really nice from the outside. I was tempted to go in that day, but I refrained; something told me that this was not the sort of place where you can pop in for a quick pint and then move on.
So here I am at last. A very nice place this one is. Barely decorated white walls, a part of the room has very worn out hardwood floors and the other part, very worn out small tiles. The furnishing is the café standard, in dark wood and it looks that the chairs and tables could tell a few stories. The frames of the windows and the door are also in dark wood, as is the bar, slightly elevated in the far end. Welcoming.
I take a table near the bar and order a desítka from Únětice – sometimes I get the impression that Únětické Pivovar has cornered the market of Prague's cool café-pub hybrids – and try to unwind and soak in the atmosphere.
The beer is in good enough shape and the first pint goes down very quickly, as first pints are wont to do. It's only when I get the second that I realise there's something that's not quite right. I don't feel as I thought I would. Maybe it's the soundtrack – a Beatles compilation. Nothing wrong with the Fab Four – though I'm more of a Rolling Stones type of person – but their songs are a little too upbeat for the place, and the day – it dawned bright and sunny, only to turn into an introspective grey later in the morning. Blues or Nick Cave would be more appropriate, I tell myself.
I'm half down that second pint, having almost decided that there won't be a third, when the magic happens. Yellow Submarine ends and Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da starts just when the waitress is heading towards a table with a young couple, and the wooden heels of her boots hit the worn out hardwood floor in perfect synchronicity with the rhythm of the song. It's hypnotic.
All the other pieces fall into their place when the next song starts: While My Guitar Gently Weeps. I look outside and the world seems that have slowed down just a notch; the only people rushing are those crossing the small square to get to the café, as if they were escaping from something.
The beer tastes somehow better now, and I do get a third pint. When it arrives, I start wishing winter would never end, because it's simply perfect to be sitting at that small table in that café in that corner of the world in a grey winter afternoon. As I sip my pint, I ask myself if it isn't winter what we all actually crave for. Winter is at the same time full of the memories – good and bad – from the previous year and the promises – and the anxiety – of what's to come. It's a bit like the first pint of that new beer you've heard so much about, which you somehow hope will taste familiar enough so it won't demand too much of your attention while you are sitting in a quiet pub or café, listening to music and watching the world outside move slowly, wishing the moment will never end and knowing the next pint will taste even better.
Now I'm in my fourth pint and the soundtrack has changed: pop ballads from the 1980s. The magic is slowly fading away. It's time to leave, I guess.
Once outside, I turn around to have a last look at Kavárna Liberál. Yup, I was right when I first saw it. There is something about it that will make you stay a beer longer, and come back, at least when the music is right.
Heřmanova 6 – Prague 7
+420 732 222 880
Mon-Sat: 9-24, Sun: 14-24