Our Prague apartment

Prague off the beaten path: Veverkova street

Prague off the beaten path: Veverkova street

Letna, the district we love and recommend for a visit, has always been a place that attracted creative people. Heck, it’s the district that the National Gallery and the Academy of Fine Arts call home, after all. It is also the district of our rental apartment, so it must be good, right?

Recently, a small section of a small street in the middle of Letna has become a tiny hub for young creative types: the Veverkova street. A stretch of no more than 50 meters between the Kostelni and Milady Horakove streets accommodates a handful of places that offer fun shopping and eating opportunities. And because shopping and eating are two of our favorite things especially when we travel - and because Zuzi bought two Christmas presents for Jan there - we have to write about these venues. Some may be familiar, some may not. But they are all small, authentic and creative in their own right and create a sense of a small community.


Prague souvenir tips: Lemonade Joe

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"Alcohol - when served in small doses - does not do harm in any quantity." - Hogo Fogo

If you are a regular visitor of our Prague blog, you may have noticed that we sometimes suggest an unorthodox souvenir from Prague. Something you may not have through of buying but something that says more about the Czechs than the Russian dolls and other tchotchke sold on the streets in the tourist centre. Something fun, something memorable. Today's suggestion is a classic Czech movie that most Czechs can quote line by line. That's also why it is included in the Czech DVD collection in our rental apartment. The movie is called "Lemonade Joe", and it's a Czech country and western comedy.

Yes, a Czech country and western movie. You see, the Czechs (just like the Germans, to some extent) have a strange, romantic fascination with the Wild Wild West. Starting from the Winnetou series by Karl May to modern-day Czech country and western music, the idea of riding a horse through the open range seems to be very, very appealing to many Czechs. Country Radio is one of the most popular radio stations in Prague and the Central Bohemian Region (which is a telling sign of the "high standards" Czech radio stations aspire to in general). And this is a fact that has not changed under the Communist Era, either, although clearly it was a bit suppressed. Still, the "tramping" movement was very popular, giving rise, in many respects, to the environmentalist "Brontosaurus" movement of the 1980s. 

Today's pick from our rental apartment's Czech DVD collection would be, in our opinion, the perfect "weird" gift that would lighten up any theme party at home wherever you may come from: the 1964 Comedy from the genius Czech comedy director, Ondrej Lipsky, "Lemonade Joe", is a true gem. You see, Mr Lipsky was spoofing western movies before it was cool and before anyone has ever heard of the Blazing Saddles.

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Shot is very stark sepia colors to add the feeling of an old movie, Lemonade Joe is essentially the story of good and evil: the teatotalling Joe, as the sharpest shooter in Stetson City, persuades the regulars at the Trigger Whiskey Bar that alcohol is not the way. However, the owner of of the bar, and his evil brother, the villain Hogo Fogo, plot revenge. Add romance, heartbreak, never-ending gags and action... and have we mentioned this film is a musical? Yes, the movie has everything. Without trying to give away any spoilers, let's just say the movie ends with a Wayne's World-type of mega-super-happy-ending that even the most cynical of Hollywood producers would find tacky. Yes, this movie makes fun of everything and just does not care.

However, it does include an all-star cast from the 1960s, including sultry actresses Olinka Schroberova (former Miss Czechoslovakia who later escaped the country and married John Calley, the producer of the Superman movies) as the wife-to-be of Lemonade Joe, or Kveta Fialova, one of the most famous Czech actresses of the second half of the 20th Century, as Tornado Lou, the fallen woman and the star of the Trigger Whiskey Bar who is looking for a "champion of her heart" who would "make her better". 

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What makes this movie a classic and why is it so loved by the Czechs? The film makes fun of everything: drunkards, dogmatic prohibition types, salesmen, villains, blondes, sharpshooters and femme fatales. Every cliche from your standard country and western movie is exaggerated to the point of parody. Money rules Stetson City. When Mrs Goodman realizes that Lemonade Joe is nothing but a salesperson for Kola Loka soda, she first expresses her never-ending love for Joe but then swiftly demands a cut from his proceeds (in a really cute way, though).

Then there are the songs: "Jo whiskey, to je moje gusto" (which roughly translates as "Whiskey, that's my cup of tea") is a staple song of any party of youngsters, including the high school prom (the legal age is eighteen here, you seniors can and do drink at their prom). The main villain, Hogo Fogo (which is the Czech equivalent of "Fancy Schmancy") is a great source of very funny and smart one-liners, too. But what wins every viewer's heart is the absurd but smart humor and a sense of funny carelessness. The Czechs adore this movie, and so will you. Trust us!

You can but the DVD ("Limonádovy Joe" in Czech) with English subtitles in any bigger music store. We would try Bontonland Megastore at the bottom of the Wenceslas Square or Musicland in the Palladium mall. Have fun!


Introducing: Our Taste of Prague apartment for rent!

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Our Prague apartment is not just a place to sleep and store your luggage. You can relax, stay in late or come in early, breath in and out, and soak in the atmosphere of the place and the city. With us, you'll have breakfast in the local cafe, see a movie in the local cinema, ride bikes through the local parks, and enjoy Prague as only the locals can.

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Our lovely Prague apartment on the fourth floor (don’t worry, there’s a lift) of a functionalist building in Prague is available for holiday and short-term rentals. The two-bedroom flat is located in the Letna district of Prague 7, just a few steps from the Prague Castle, the National Art Gallery, Incheba Expo Prague, Sparta football and ice-hockey arenas and the recently reopened National Technical Museum and within walking distance from the historical and business centre of Prague. The apartment is situated in one of the city’s most favourite, atmospheric and vibrant neighbourhoods. There are two wonderful outdoor oases within walking distance of the apartment – the Stromovka Royal Deer Park, great for picnics and sports, and Letná Gardens with beer spots and excellent views of the Vltava riverbank and the spires and towers of the historical centre. The building is easily accessible by the public transport system.

The interiors are just as interesting as the surroundings. Seasoned travelers ourselves, we have been taking close notes wherever we stayed and then brought them to Klara and Hana of the SMLXL architects. Together, we have created a place that has everything you may need, and more. And because we wanted to connect the interiors with the exteriors, we have asked Ilona and Luke of Tomski & Polanski to create a map of the district on our wall.

The amenities:

  • 57 square meters / 614 square feet, fourth floor with a balcony
  • Custom-made king-size bed for two (180 cm wide) in the bedroom
  • Custom-made sofa-bed for two (170 cm wide when unfolded) that matches the main bed
  • Free unlimited wifi
  • iMac computer with online access and printer/scanner for your use [perfect for Skyping, printing your boarding passes or e-tickets you may purchase]
  • Digital cable TV [about 80 channels, including all major international and US channels]
  • Overhead projector and screen with home theatre/stereo system with a BluRay/DVD player, iPod/iPhone dock, and a nice selection of Czech and international DVDs and CDs
  • Full kitchen with induction hobs, oven, microwave oven, dishwasher and Nespresso coffee machine
  • Czech designer tableware, all the pottery you may need
  • Washer/dryer with all the detergents; electric steam iron and board
  • Bathroom with a shower and two sinks, hair dryer
  • Linens and towels
  • World power adapters

Letna Apartment DVD Collection: Waiter, Scarper!

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As you may know, we have a cool, newly refurbished rental apartment in the Letna district available for rent. However, the apartment goes beyond providing mere accommodation. We have conceived it as more than just a place to store your luggage and sleep in during the night. We want our guests to get immersed into the Czech local culture and society, to get an insight into how the locals live and how they think. In short, we want our guests to understand the Czechs.

That is why the apartment includes many audio CDs and films on DVD that will help them understand the "Czech experience" in the 20th Century and at the beginning of the new Millennium. In a series of posts, we will be introducing some of these films and albums because we think they would make for a cool souvenir that truly goes beyond mere tourism and we do not want to keep the movies that we love to ourselves and the guests that visit our apartment only.

The first movie we will write about may not seem like the first candidate (having won no Oscars and so on) but if you talk to any Czech, they will be able to pull out quotes from that movie on the spot and confess it's one of their favorite movies of all times.

Vrchní, prchni! (English title: Waiter, Scarper!)

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We used to give this movie on DVD to our guests on the tour as a present, until we bought off all the cheap copies originally sold as an insert in a magazine. We do not know if any of the guests have actually watched it, but we still think that the movie is a great window into the ordinary lives of Czechs and Slovaks under Communism in the early 1980s.

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The plot is very simple [spoiler alert!]: Mr Vrana, a book seller, is a victim of his own sexual fantasies. Even the title sequence, in which women in bathing suits swim in a pool, turn out to be the creations of his imagination. And Mr Vrana is not afraid to act on these fantasies. This has a sad effect for Mr Vrana: he has to pay a lot of alimony payments to various women around Prague. In a desperate attempt to get more money, he begins posing as a fake waiter cashing bills in restaurants and cafes in Prague, and later throughout Czechoslovakia.

Now, we have to set one thing straight right away: this is not drama - this is a laugh-out-loud comedy. We see the main character first getting mistaken, by a mere coincidence, for a waiter in a motorway restaurant, then seeing him embarrassed when comparing his life to all his successful classmates at a high school reunion, and finally the first, shy tryout "jobs" in a few restaurants. What follows is a transformation into what becomes known as the "Phantom of Restaurants and Cafeterias" (to explain: "Restaurants and Cafeterias" was the quite apt name of the only company in communist Czechoslovakia that owned and operated… you guessed it… all the restaurants and cafeterias). He has to hide his "side job" from everybody, including his friends and family, and, of course, the police. This leads to many funny situations, especially as he keeps bumping into his rather obnoxious and nosy neighbor. We won't spoil the ending for you, you'll have to watch it for yourself.

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While being primarily a comedy, this film offers a serious glimpse into a much larger problem that has plagued the Czech and Czechoslovak society to this date: corruption and back-hand deals. After the Soviet occupation, it seems that the people turned to themselves and just focused on playing the system and the black market to their own advantage. The aim was to take and to take. A very popular saying at the time proclaimed that "who does not steal from the state, steals from his own family", and, unfortunately, many people have failed to abandon this policy after the old regime collapsed. There is a perfect scene in the movie where the main character twists a very popular fairytale (pigs in the rye) to his children: the pigs who disobeyed the orders and ate the rye were killed. But so were the other pigs, and the pigs who ate the rye could at least say they got a taste of the rye. Get rich or dye trying.

Consider the following scene (please fast forward to 8:20 in the video): at a high school reunion, an old classmate explains how he makes big money by striking backhand deals and bribing his suppliers. We are proud to be independent ourselves and are strictly against any bribery and backhand deals, but we are afraid half of the tourist industry here in Prague still works along the same lines.

Anyway, the movie is a real gem and we definitely recommend it (heck, that's why we chose it for our DVD collection in the rental apartment). If you decide not to stay in our apartment, you can still buy it on DVD with English subtitles (which range from inspired to just ok). We probably recommend the Bonton store at the bottom of the Wencesas Square. Enjoy!

Have you seen a Czech movie you liked? Let us know!