Our first morning in Prague had been a struggle, albeit one of our own making. But we were determined to make the most out of our 800 koruna donation to the Prague Municipality Office and so headed out again to brave the aged concrete of this former Soviet state.
Fortunately we were no longer unaided, with an old workmate agreeing to show us some of the city’s less touristed spots. It had been a while since I last saw Erza, a slew of unpaid parking fines and a drink driving conviction ensuring that it will be a while before he returns to New Zealand, if ever.
But the recognition was instant and we were soon headed in the direction of the old town. Erza and his friend explained that they wanted to take us to a place where you can smoke; Erza obviously remembering a few post-work sessions in the car park behind the bar and the big doobies of summer days in Western Park.
But the shop was shut and we opted for dinner instead, willingly led into the depths of a cosy pub and its smog of cigarette smoke. I copied Erza and ordered the local stew, quaffs of Pilsner Urquell perfect for washing down the hearty dumplings that came with the meal.
After dinner Erza brings out a fat nugget of Czech Republic green, presented in the ubiquitous Kinder-Surprise egg case so beloved by stoners everywhere. The waitress is relaxed about us eyeing the product at the table and Erza assures us that it’s fine.
“Where is this from man? Looks pretty sweet…”
Three months in the Netherlands has the others well schooled in the intricacies of this Czech past time and their questions are more specific: What strain? Indica or Sativa? Where is it from?
Erza’s friend, Icer, is established as the grower but he is less forthcoming than Redbeard and Littlebear would like. Icer’s English isn’t great but there is more to it than that. His eyes are large and sunken, with greyed teeth that hint at more than a casual acquaintance with crack.
While I talk about old friends with Erza Redbeard manages to coax a few more responses from him, and they suggest more than a casual home-op. He admits to employing several Vietnamese but will say little more. Consequently our imaginations run wild. His later consumption of herb does little to refute our half-cut theories of a Czech weed empire, but he is friendly enough and at no point is any crack produced.
We go with the flow and are led to what is essentially a Czech Coffeeshop. It is a small place down a discrete alleyway, and we are greeted by a hideously stoned barkeep. He sits slit-eyed on a stool while his bulldog contentedly roams the maritime themed room. We might be miles from the sea geographically but his mind is fathoms deep.
As we take our first sips Icer skins up a stoogie sized marley. Round one commences and the conversation flows.
Our guides are a bit older than us and remember the fall of the Soviet Union and the late rise of capitalism, now in its early throes. It is fascinating to hear their stories: tales of exchanging your rationed coupons for jeans, a black market in tights, and how the plethora of MacDonalds here reflects the rapid acceptance of capitalism that followed the fall of the iron curtain.
Eating at MacDonalds was a show of status tied up with the glory of America’s opulent hay-day and everything that the Soviet era hadn’t been. I wonder if this same subconscious pairing fuels the Golden Arch’s popularity everywhere; how they must be fighting to untie from inglorious mess that America has become.
A few rounds later and we are on our way, pausing in the alley while Littlebear relieves himself in the cryptically hidden toilet.
While we wait some guy in the apartment above starts to yell at us in Czech. Eventually he tires of being ignored and comes down to give us a dose on the ground floor. Littlebear returns and we move off to a few incomprehensible parting remarks.
“What’d he want man?”
“Fuck him man, who knows – just some shouting shit, um, about like be quiet and like you should leave. It’s only 11, what the fuck is his problem eh?”
It’s exactly the response we’d give at home, but pressed tightly under a crisp sheet of THC the paranoia lurks, eager to impose. It welcomes the strange language and foreign environ which push you towards collapsing under its weight; some solace to know that it was your usual up tight grump – no heinous cultural faux-pas or disrespect has occurred.
Erza decides to flag sleeping for a few hours more at least and so we follow him onto a tram out to some club. He doesn’t pay and we acquiesce, but not without some trepidation.
The paranoia is kept at bay by a lack of responsibility – it was him officer, he was the ringleader. Take him and spare me my foible, twas but an honest mistake, you see officer this man, this criminal, is part of an elaborate plot to put us to work on his friend’s grow-op, yes that’s right, they have Vietnamese slaves, you see and we would do anything to cooperate. What’s that? Yes, officer, of course, we really appreciate it. No anytime, we really are very happy you showed up when you did – can you imagine the audacity of being a foreigner and trying to scam free rides on the tram, not once but twice, and even after being caught once in the morning? No, it would never do.
But no inspector appears and we happily avoid said hypothetical debacle.
A short ride on another tram later and we are walking down what seems like a random suburban street, the only tell to the contrary the low thump of bass in the distance.
Club Kross is fairly remarkable and a trip to the zoo for our ripped brains. The entrance of welded reinforcing steel and eerie metal sculpture gives way to a labyrinthine collection of paths and rooms in three stories of low-lit club. We relax on the third floor in a chilled out smoking room, chatting around a bamboo table.
Before calling it a night Erza takes us down to the main bar, a creepily kinetic environment, where the iron aesthetic of the entrance fuses with clockwork sculpture and a collection of green hued lights. We sit smoking against a backdrop of shifting sculpture and throbbing techno. A touch of acid here and one could easily lose their mind.
Fortunately we are more sedated than stimulated and after one last joint with Icer and the barman we are off. On the way out we end up caught in the hypnotic fury of the blacked out rave room. Vampire techno reigns supreme and brief flashes of strobe reveal the adherents of this particular cult, fist-pumping in the darkness.
Struggling with a huge day and heavy handicap of depressants I overcomplicate the trams and we take an unnecessary stop before realising they all run into town at this hour. Then it’s some greasy K-Fry and all the chickeny goodness of capitalism before one final tram home. We don’t pay for any of them. Fuck you, lessons and logic.
Outside the hostel we wind up talking to a couple of wasted locals. The girl is non-descript (I can’t remember what she looks like because I was monged, ok?) but the guy is a sight: long white hair splays out atop his lanky frame and wild eyes peer out above a thick overhanging moustache.
Language barriers run amok but we are hysterical, each laughing to hide our fear that the others were malignant in intent. The Walrus laughs maniacally, reaches into his jacket and pulls out a small gun.
“That’s why I have the protection, you see?”
Luckily he is more relieved than aggressive and they move on to whatever crack dungeon they were headed to. The relief hangs heavy in the air.
“Did you see that bro?!”
“Haha yeaah bro, what the fuck.. Prague aye.”
Prague aye indeed.