Mushroom Tour Day 9: Prague – Wednesday 17th April
The morning begins with one of the many computer sessions, where we regress into the cyber world .We spend almost an hour stuck to the laptop screens, emailing, blogging, tweeting and face-booking. As we leave Bohemia, we make a detour through Zvikov castle, above a dam, at the juncture of the Vlatava and Otava rivers. It’s Wednesday morning, there are no tourists, and the place is almost ours entirely. Fred has a nap in the castle garden, Zac goes for a swim in the river (30 seconds – its 6 degrees!), and Jiri practices the clarinet. We take it really easy, stopping over for lunch in a village where we get the cheapest lunch in the whole tour, that comes with incredibly mean looks for ordering tap water.
We’re on the way to the Czech capital, Prague, where Jiri has been teaching for a few months now, and where he sparked a controversy by writing a very critical review of a jazz concert commissioned by the Czech president in which some of the most established Czech jazz musicians played. Some people took it badly and are resentful towards this “nobody” who has come from Paris with his high standards. Now he is bringing his band of Westerners, and we might be highly scrutinized. Maybe for this reason, as we approach the Prague’s ring road, Jiri thinks he missed and exit and gets really stressed about the possibility of being late (“stupid, I’m so stupid!”). We make it in time to witness a beautiful sunset by the Moldau. The venue, the Jazz Dock, is a slick green and pink neon light cocktail bar by the riverside. Neither the venue nor the audience is particularly akin to our music. In such a sophisticated jazz club, Zac wears his wife beater (as we like to call his white vest – Fly Agaric would like to express their total condemnation of gender violence and any behaviour promoting the female oppression in the strongest terms possible) “it’s too hot in here, man” he offers. Jiri’s friend Rudy, a former colonel of the Tiger fighters from the Czech Air force, comes to give his support and we drink to his name-day. Some of Jiri’s students come to the gig and make a recurring remark about the band, something along the lines that there is a secret code which we follow in our improvising. Whatever that is, we don’t know.
We don’t hang around too long in the Jazz Dock, as we only have one night in Prague, the capitol of lager. Many of our friends have seen us pour beer in a weird cider-like manner, purposely getting as much foam as possible, knocking the glass against the table, moving it in strange ways, waiting for it to settle, and repeating the procedure 3 times before drinking. All of this is a crude imitation, a way to honour the memory of drinking beer in Prague, in places like our bar tonight, the Lokal, one of the top dispensers, which have one employee purely dedicated to the art of pouring one beer from one tap all night long, nothing else – he doesn’t serve, doesn’t work the till, doesn’t do spirits, and he doesn’t care for customers much. His only worry is getting that perfect foam. We have all experienced this before and we remember it nostalgically in London, so arrival of the first round is quite a highlight of the tour. Our old friend Aneska orders an even more extreme version of the foamy lager, called “milk”, which consists mostly of foam.
To top this off, we order an assortment of delicacies, including pork cheek, sausages and the star of the evening, the beer cheese. This delicatesse consists of a plate of cheese, chopped onion, sprinkled paprika and chilli, sprayed with beer and mashed into a glorious paste, the beer cheese. Not only does it look convoluted, it smells so much that a couple of locals ask us what the hell we’re eating. They’ve never seen beer cheese before and they don’t approve. By this point in the tour it’s hard to string a sentence without Inspecteur Clouseau making an appeareance (“Yes I know that, that’s vat I’ve been trryin to tell you, you feul“), and the walk home reaches new hights. Back in the flat, we put on youtube to get down some new Clouseau lines ahead of the long drive that awaits us tomorrow.