Václav Havelka leads the guitar band Please the Trees, whose fourth LP Carp picked up the prestigious Apollo prize for Czech LP of 2015. The Krkonoše-born singer and songwriter also collaborates with lots of other musicians and regularly promotes concerts by major independent artists. Our tour of “Václav Havelka’s Prague” begins in a passageway between the streets Spálená and Opatovická that many residents probably have no idea exists. It’s home to Super Tramp Coffee, a newish café with wonderfully peaceful outdoor seating.
As a former barista and caffeine addict, one of my first priorities when coming to Prague was to find a good coffee shop, also known as a kavarna in Czech. Along the way I have discovered several distinct and delightful differences between American and Czech coffee culture. Coffee culture in Europe as a whole seems to be held in higher esteem than back in the States.
Twelve coffee houses in the Czech Republic will join celebrations of World Poetry Day on Saturday with a special offer: visitors will be able to pay for their coffee with a poem. The pay-with-a-poem initiative, which has now been adopted in over 1,000 coffee houses the world over, aims to bring poetry back into our increasingly hectic and consumerist lives.
Saint Petersburg-born actor Ivan Shvedoff has appeared in dozens of TV shows and films, including the likes of the fourth Mission Impossible movie. Most recently he has had a small part in a new Cold War project helmed by Steven Spielberg. Shvedoff has been living here in the Czech capital since the late 1990s, specifically in Vršovice. And it is there – in a cool, newish bar named Zenit – that our tour of “his Prague” begins.
Few people are as qualified to provide an insider’s tour of the Moravian capital as Michal Kašpárek, author of the guidebook Poznej Brno (Get to Know Brno). On a warm evening recently, Kašpárek took me to a hopping pub in the city and a former “workers’ colony” taken over by alternative types. But we started out at a table outside Café Falk, near the university’s Arts Faculty.
Poet, novelist and translator Justin Quinn has called Prague home since 1992. A professor of English at Charles University and the University of West Bohemia in Plzeň, the Irishman has lived in contrasting parts of the Czech capital, from Malá Strana (which we’ll visit later) to the concrete jungle of Jižní Město. But our tour of Justin Quinn’s Prague begins at another old ‘hood of his, Nusle – specifically at the foot of the Nuselské schody, or Nusle Steps. Why there?
Formerly a sleepy, in some parts grimy, neighbourhood, Vršovice has in recent times become one of the liveliest districts of Prague. Much of this activity centres on Krymská St., home to the very successful Café v lese and several other relatively new businesses. One of the people responsible for the rejuvenation of Vršovice is Kateřina McCreary, owner of the popular café-bar Sladkovský. When we spoke there, I asked McCreary what had inspired her to open the place three years ago.