Eastern European Expeditions

Eastern European Expeditions: Baby Towers in Prague and Roundabouts in Bratislava

Right, where were we? Something kitschy about Klodzko I think. Anyway, moving on from Wroclaw, I arrived in Prague. You’re probably already overly familiar with the usual suspects there, like the nice bridge, the nice square and the nice castle. Similarly so with the mismanaged pub crawls and nightclubs filled with hen dos carrying inflatable dolls, one of whom’s dancing to Lay All Your Love On Me was genuinely impressive. Geppetto lives on wondrously in Prague. As fun as it is, this isn’t the side of the city I’m going to talk about here, although it’s well worth the visit.

As I disembarked the Flixbus at Florenc bus station, sadly departing with the chick magnet that I spoke about last time, I looked up to see the vibrant façades of Zizkov in the distance. Admittedly, a behemoth of an urban freeway obstructed the view a fair bit, but I could still grasp its beauty without getting too upset about the inhuman town planning. In a groovy twist of fate, it turned out that my hostel was in this very neighbourhood, and so I set off thither.

Hostel Elf was a good place to be, although the giant elf mural that confronts you upon entering is a shock. After a couple of days using it as my base to explore Prague’s centre by day and by night, I decided to venture in the other direction, into the depths of Zizkov, in order to dispel a particularly punishing hangover. Wandering up through the zigzag of terraced streets, their multicoloured fronts greeting me cheerfully, my aesthetic sensitivities were well pleased. Compared to the thronging crowd in front of that needlessly complicated clock, the peace in Zizkov was a pleasant juxtaposition in a setting no less beautiful. Cringe phrasing, sorry.

After a good bit of a walk amidst the aforementioned pretty houses, I made it to the hill’s peak, proudly signified by a radio tower. It was one of those pieces of infrastructure that look a bit space-age that people loved building in the 80s. According to Wikipedia it’s an example of structural expressionism, so there you are. It was a cool sight, although not quite in line with the quaint beauty that led up to it. There was also a fairly dishevelled minigolf course at its base, if you needed to know.

Upon closer inspection of the tower however, I noticed little black metal sculptures adjoined to the tower’s shaft like ants going up a tree trunk. Upon even closer inspection, I realised that the sculptures were actually of babies mid-crawl. Any clear reason for or meaning behind the installation eluded me, but it still left me unsettled yet vaguely intrigued. Just why? The babies didn’t have faces either. They had slots. Maybe something about DVDs and wider televisual entertainment, I don’t know. Deeply strange, but such is modern art. See the photo to get weirded out yourself.

I was so disconcerted that I departed Prague shortly after in search of Bratislava, although the train only made it to a town called Breclav. From there a coach kindly delivered me to Bratislava itself. It’s a pleasant city, lacking in the grandeur of Prague, Vienna and Budapest who all corner it, but making up for it in subtle charm. The Blue Church is an Art Nouveau delight and the views over the Danube from the castle are good, there’s another space age-y tower too at the end of a bridge, although it’s sadly baby-less. Tesco is big there as well.

As always, the follow up to a heavy day of exploring a city is to find somewhere sufficiently local to have a drink in order to complete the cultural imbibe. It was a Sunday, so proper options for getting lit were fairly limited. After dinner in the Old Town (they’re everywhere

aren’t they), my companions and I turned to Google Maps™ to give us a heading. A brief consultation came up with a bar called Steinplatz that was cheap, well-reviewed and open late on a Sunday. We strolled the five minutes to its location but became puzzled when nowhere within a 100m radius appeared to be open. Then, we heard a scream and the sound of glass breaking, emanating from a little hut in the middle of a roundabout. It had to be it.

The hut was a TARDIS of sorts, as all it contained were stairs down into a large, smoke-filled room, decorated in a way not dissimilar to a country pub, into which a good number of merry drinkers were packed. We descended and stuck ourselves onto the end of a table occupied by some middle-aged Slovaks. The ambience was highly enjoyable: the aura of cigarette, rock’n’roll tunes at a sensible volume, and good beer – all beneath a roundabout! The glass smashing incident that had alerted us to its location in the first place was thankfully a one-off, and it was overall a very neat experience. That is, until the Slovak couple were replaced with two annoying Americans, onto whom we tried to foist the bill when it came time to leave, but we were sadly thwarted by a traffic jam on the stairs.

Fun times indeed, but that’s it for now. Until next time, when I’ll either be talking about how overused the Instagram caption “Budababes” is, the Zagreb rave scene or something else quirky. Bye.