18 Jan 2016

The Tram Beer Challenge (1): Karlovo nám.- Perunova - I.P. Pavlova


So here I am, crossing the street to the Karlovo nám.–Moraň tram stop, eager to start the Tram Beer Challenge.

The trees and roofs are still clinging to the snow that fell earlier in the week, as if they were relishing in the feeling of it, unwilling to let it go. Soon, however, the snow will turn into what many Czechs unlovingly, and accurately, call sračka. In the meantime, I'm enjoying it—when was the last time it snowed like this? Last winter? I'm not sure, nor am I about the previous one.

I don't have to wait, I see a tram coming just when I step on the pavement: the 10 to Sídliště Ďáblice. I count the stops; I will have to get off at Perunova. Bugger! I know all the pubs there, they're in the guide (and those that aren't, aren't worth a visit). Wait! There's this one. It's a bit further than I'd like, but I haven't got much of a choice, have I?

As I start walking down Chorvatská, I realise that this may not have been a very bright idea. To get back to the tram stop I will have to go up the hill, on the icy pavement, with several kg of groceries on my back. And they wonder how I can stay so lean.

I must've walked past Restaurace Orion a thousand times on my way down to Vršovice, and not even once I thought of going in, even if the patio in summer looks very nice. No patio today, I'm afraid. I'll have to go inside.

It's a lot smaller than I thought! Can't be much wider than a train carriage, if that much. There aren't too many people (though I doubt this place could ever fit enough people to be considered “many”, at least not inside). I'm hungry and I take a tiny table in one corner of the main room. The beer list is of the Gambrinus-Kozel-Urquell persuasion. I get a Gambáč—is what everybody is drinking—and fried feta with chips (which turns out to be excellent, really).

The TV's on, but it's not on a music or a sports channel. It's showing the last few minutes of a documentary about the Costa Concordia shipwreck. It's as sensationalist as you'd expect. The only interesting bit is right by the end, when they speak—all too briefly—about the project to salvage the wreck (ever since I worked at the construction of a power plant, I've been fascinated by large-scale engineering projects). Another documentary starts after a few ads; one that couldn't be any more out of place. It's about Lebensborn, the program of the SS to have Aryan soldiers shag Aryan girls to produce Aryan babies who will take over the world, or something like that. It's a serious topic that we should all know about, but it's not the kind of thing you want to watch or listen to while you're trying to enjoy a beer; it almost makes me wish they had MTV on. (On a side note: if you think of it, the Nazis are some of history's biggest and most pathetic loosers. They had their asses handed to them in the war they started, which resulted in their country being occupied and split for more than 40 years and have become a lazy, though legitimate, descriptor for evil. Who can possibly be inspired by them? Idiots, that's who.)

After I finish the second beer and pay the bill, I leave trying to decide whether I've liked Orion or not. Beer and food were more than fine—better than I'd expected, perhaps—but the place hasn't got much of an atmosphere going on (and I doubt it can improve much at a later hour); though once the weather gets warmer, it can become a good spot for a quick pint al fresco—I must make a mental note to check it out then.

It doesn't matter which tram comes first—10 or 16, on either direction—they both follow the same route, at least for the required number of stops, which is now four.

I see one approaching, the 10, it will take me back to where I came from. Not all the way back, I'll have to get off at I.P. Pavlova.

I can't be arsed with U Graffů, in the square proper. I'll go down Lublaňská. There's an “Irish” pub and one that looks a bit tourist-trappy. No thanks and no thanks. The one with the Gambrinus sign at the far end of the block it is then.

As with Orion, I've walked past Na Břežance loads of times, but never went in. Time to change that.

This place is alive, really, really alive; and packed. I'm lucky to find a free table in the fairly large main room—the taproom is full and the Salónek seems to have been reserved for a school reunion of class 1917.

Whereas service at Orion was slow (but in a good way), here is fast and very attentive. It takes me no time to order my beer: Gambrinus 12° Nefiltrované.

Before they bring it, I notice a woman at a nearby table eyeballing me as if she was trying to figure out where she knows me from, hoping she actually doesn't. It creeps me out a bit, I must say. I try to forget about her reading my book: Clive Barker's “Galilee”. (I'm enjoying it less than I did when I first read it about 10 years ago. It feels a bit as if Neil Gaiman had tried to write a Jackie Collins novel.)

By the way, the beer: the flavours are dominated by a mild, yet relentless note of why-I-will-never-be-a-fan-of-Lambic. I want to get something else for second course, but I'm reading as I empty the glass—I'm still averting the gaze of that woman—and I only manage to nod to the waitress asking if I want another one, before she disappears with the glass.

Frankly, I don't care. The beer was still drinkable, barely (and the second tastes better, actually), and I'm liking it here in Na Břežance. There's nothing different or new, nothing remarkable, nothing I haven't seen in countless other pubs in town. It might be the familiarity, or that the place is still full; and noisy. There's no TV in sight, nor any music I can hear; only the sound of people having a good time. The best music any pub can have.

I almost order a third pint, but I have other things to do. Some other time, perhaps.

Restaurace Orion
50°4'26.674"N, 14°27'33.972"E
Říčanská 7 – Praha-Vinohrady
+420 702 806 632 – restorion@centrum.cz
Mon-Sun: 11-23

Na Břežance
50°4'26.618"N, 14°25'52.757"E
Lublaňská 49 – Praha Vinohrady
+420 222 514 124 – 222 514 124
Mon-Fri: 10-24, Sat-Sun: 11-24

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