FROM PRAGUE WITH LOVE
Following the second year
of our course, my girlfriend and I took an Erasmus year with our two
friends. We applied for Prague and luckily enough, all four of us
got places. We began the year in two apartments in the same building
but on different floors. I have to admit, it was a fantastic year
and if any of you are considering it I honestly recommend it. It
went by so quickly and I have so many great memories of the time we
spent out there. The international community was so close knit that
at come June it was such a shame to consider that we were all going
back to our home countries.
To celebrate our year
together, I proposed that we throw a goodbye party at our flat. Of
course everyone agreed and thought it was a good idea. So we spent a
day preparing the apartment, buying Czech beer (Kozel, that stuff is
amazing), getting snacks etc. We asked everyone to turn up at eight,
knowing that being millennials they’d get here for nine instead. We
promised that since it was the last party any of us were throwing it
would be the wildest one, it would stand out in our minds when we
all thought back to the twelve months we spent away from home.
Dead on eight the buzzer
rang and Sara pressed the button for the door. Five minutes later
there came a knock at the door and I got it. It was the Germans;
Jannik, Finn, Hanni and Hanni’s boyfriend, Tom. They were
immaculately turned out with smart casual clothes and neatly combed
hair. Rolling my eyes mentally, I let them in and took their
jackets. We opened up a few of the beers and they sat neatly on the
couch and made polite conversation. Sara was still getting ready in
our room and I didn’t know them as well as her so it was somewhat
strained to speak to them.
With hands clasped neatly
together they didn’t touch the arrangement of snacks I’d put on the
coffee table. Eventually Sara was ready and appeared with a glass of
“Oh you guys didn’t have
to go to all that effort.” She said, placing her glass on the table
and switching on the stereo.
“We wanted to. It will be
nice for everything to go out with a bang.” They laughed and I drank
more of the beer. Half an hour later, the buzzer went again, so I
stood vigil by the door. I opened it to Alan and Dave, our friends
from Exeter who’d come with us. Since the weather had been so good
they’d spent the afternoon in a beer garden watching the football
and were a few pints below sober. They came in with sandals,
sunburns and untucked shirts. When the Germans saw them they briefly
looked horrified but regained their composure. Alan was carrying a
keg which he put down in the walk-in kitchen.
A couple of others turned
up quickly after that and we hung around on the couches telling
stories about mutual friends and just reminiscing about the year
gone by. Silly stories involving drinking and running from the
police in Prague who infamously hate foreigners. The number of times
Sara and I were told that our ticket was valid and we had to pay an
on the spot fine in cash was enough for us to throw the whole thing
in and buy a pair of bikes. Cycling around was lovely but in the
touristy area near the Karlův Most it was impossible; too many
narrow alleys and too many people. Plus the cobbled streets make you
saddle sore fast.
Dave was just reminding
Alan of the pub crawl we did starting at the Švejk themed bar where
we took along two packets of soft mints. Whenever Alan was
distracted at the bar, we plopped a mint into his pint. This had the
effect of making it foam up, looking like it’d been poured badly, so
Alan would order another. Me and Dave were laughing over the pizzas
we had and watching it happen. Eventually Alan got sick of this and
downed the recent minty pint, following this by vomiting pure pizza
and foam in the smoking section. Dave took one look at his stomach
contents and said “Mate, you need to chew your food.”
The Germans laughed
politely and I left to let Ram in. He swaggered into the kitchen and
placed a pack of Camels, bottle of tequila, a bag of lemons and a
salt shaker he’d swiped from a café on the counter.
“This is what I do
I tried to tell if he was
joking, but his sunglasses made it difficult. I sliced a lemon and
we did a couple of slammers as he told me a story about a strip club
he’d been to here and how they compared to the ones back home. I
don’t doubt that he was telling the truth; he knows much more about
this thing than I do. There were a couple around but the one time
I’d taken Ram, Phillippe and their friends on the offer I found the
place so skeezy I didn’t stay for long. The whole idea of if made me
uncomfortable. When Sara heard me getting back early she asked what
was wrong and I fibbed about leaving my wallet at home.
Back in the main room the
party was starting to take off a bit more. There comes a point in
every evening where the volume of the music is louder than the
conversation and we had just crossed that threshold.
Seeing me coming from the
kitchen, Phillippe and Simone left the balcony, dragging the
cigarette smoke inside. I watched Sara get up and close the screen
door. The couple approached me and drew me into tight hug.
“How’re you guys doing?
Can I get you anything? A drink?”
“We shall make two
coffees?” Simone suggested and I showed her where everything was. In
the meantime Phillippe attempted to start chatting to me about
Neo-Hermeneutics but those two tequila slammers were swimming warmly
through my bloodstream so I didn’t follow. It was a relief when the
kettle clicked and I could escape and finish the coffee before
leaving the two of them to talk about whatever that was.
Around midnight the music
was still loud, but not loud enough to disguise the knocks at my
door, which is weird because I don’t think anyone buzzed. I pulled
back the door two reveal two stern looking policemen standing there.
“Dobrý večer.” I said
nervously. “Er, mohu vám pomoci?” While my Czech has improved,
that’s not saying much. I’m still pretty hopeless.
“Vaše strana je příliš
hlasitý. Všichni z vás dělají příliš velký hluk. Ostatní lidé v
tomto byt si stěžovali na nás. Každý musí odejít, ted!” They were
talking too fast, so I called in for Sara who spoke Czech better
“Do you, er, Angličtina?
“You are being too noisy.
The people either side are complaining.” I know that at least one of
the buildings next to us is deserted, but whatever. “Everyone must
leave. We give you half an hour.” One said in heavily accented
“I’m sorry.” I said
“We’ll keep it down, please, just give us another chance.” The other
one spoke. He was shorter and had a smoker’s voice.
“Lissen! Ve do not climb
all zees stairs because ve feel like eet. Ve vere up heer last
“Right, but that wasn’t
us.” I interrupted but the man kept going.
“Fur uz to be coming up
heer ever night and to let the noise go on, ve look bad, ok? Stop
eet! Pack that stuff up. Stop making noise you guys!” At this point
we were joined in the corridor by Sara and Pavel, who was munching a
bun. Fuck knows where he’d got that from. Pavel is one of the few
people we know actually from the Czech Republic that we are lucky
enough to count as a friend. I’m not sure he even studies at the
“I sort this.” He says
and sends a text. Then he gestures to the policemen in the corridor
and starts speaking rapid fire Czech, occasionally winking at me and
giving me the thumbs up. I have no idea so I leave him to it and
turn down the stereo, for which I am booed. I shrug and wait with
Sara for Pavel. Ten minutes later he re-enters and removes his shoes
by the door.
“I sort it.” He said and
I hand him a drink for his troubles.
“But how?” Sara asks
Pavel just shrugs “I know
some people.” We press him for more and it turns out that his father
knows the police chief of this district or something like that. He
sent a couple of messages to his dad who passed them on to his poker
buddy or whatever and the situation went away. I am amazed at his
connections and ingenuity but that’s pretty much the only thing
surprising about this scenario. The party shall go on.
And it did. At two in the
morning we were still going. I left Sara and Hanni on the couch
telling lewd jokes. The rest of the Germans had gone home to bed by
now. Phillippe and Simone were still debating on some such or
another. Alan was passed out by the stereo and someone had taken an
artistic sharpie to his face. I was surveyed the place, swaying a
Ram was leaning on the
open window with his bottle of tequila which was half full or half
empty depending on what type of person you are. Dave and I grabbed
him and tried to pull him inside, worrying about his teetering
position. In a contest of drunk Ram versus five floors up I think
the concrete below would win. He struggled against us, but we tugged
him inside and locked the window, placing Ram in the kitchen.
As if to thank us, we
flashed a white bag at Dave which wasn’t salt. I left them to it and
rejoined Sara, who still hadn’t used up half her bank of dirty jokes
I’d heard her tell me, so I reminded them of a few. Pavel was on his
mobile phone next to me.
At half three there were
more knocks at the door. It was either Simone and Phillippe managing
to have locked themselves out or the Spanish guys we invited, who
still weren’t here. We had graduated to Absinthe which Pavel had
brought for us as a goodbye present. I hate that stuff. Never drink
anything that tastes worse than mouthwash.
Tripping over a pile of
shoes, I made my way to the door. The people behind it were neither
French nor Spanish. They were Czech. More importantly they were
Czech police officers again, those these weren’t the same as before.
I leant against the doorframe and tried to look more sober than I
was. I don’t think it worked. One big one with a thick black
“Je to tři hodiny ráno.
Vy všichni musí jít hned, nebo jsme zatknout každého!”
I looked to Pavel again
but he was having an argument with the Russians on the balcony.
They’d mostly kept to themselves this evening. Instead, my unlikely
saviour came in the form of Ram who dived at one of the officers,
still managing to keep his sunglasses on. Oh shit, we’re for it now.
Two of the officers
grabbed Ram and pinned him to the ground, which wasn’t too difficult
but he was wriggling like a madman. The third pushed me against the
wall and held my hands together behind my back. As she did so, I
heard someone yelling at me from the stairs.
“What’s going on? We
though there was a party?”
Finally, the Spanish had