Tales From the Solemn Streets of Scratchbury

Earlier tonight, I was walking to the wine potraviny. (potraviny = Czech bodegas … there are four or five per block all throughout Prague … THEY ARE EVERYWHERE!)

We’ve assigned it that prestigious title because the wine selection is good, international, and awfully cheap. That last one’s the important part. And it’s the perfect distance from the front door – Maybe a six-minute round trip in total. Far enough that you feel like you’ve gone on a bit of a journey, but close enough that you don’t have to put socks on. The street is filled with restaurants, pubs, wine bars, and other potravinys with big glass windows to look into as you pass by. The building facades are old, new, art deco, and communist all smashed together in a mosaic of interesting that entertains you while you walk.

Our wine potraviny is right underneath a gigantic bridge called Nuselsky Most, or Nusle Bridge – named for the neighbourhood it hangs above. It’s a massive concrete viaduct that runs almost perfectly perpendicular with the roads below, boxing in our area. At first the bridge stood out of place to me – a giant grey behemoth of engineering hovering above our every move. But, after a few weeks, I grew to like it. Like something out of an old & twisted fairy tale, it seems so out of place that it becomes fascinating – contrasting the old buildings and parks below.

It was also – at one time – one of the world’s premier bridges for suicide. By my count its 300 deaths are a distant second behind the Golden Gate Bridge, the current, untouchable champion.  Though, for my money, the fact that there are so many shops, restaurants, and flats below make the Nusle suicides much more interesting to ponder when compared to … say …. a dull fall into the San Francisco Bay, only to wash ashore bloated and boring a few days later, if at all. Yawn.

In 1997, there were barriers installed on Nusle, making it near impossible to jump, but during the seventies and eighties it must have been a real boner for: city clean up crews assigned to the neighbourhood, parents wishing to shield their young children from the reality of death on their way to school or the playground, restaurant owners, and roof-top patio enthusiasts in the area.

Indeed … nothing like sitting on your front porch to see the sunrise with a steaming cup of joe in hand, only to see the flailing silhouette of some unfortunate bastard who’d had enough come screaming past you at 80 km/h and – in a flash! – he turns the sidewalk into a Jackson Pollock with his entrails.

But, I digress. If given the time, I could spend all day waxing introspective on the probability of seeing at least one person take a header off of one of my favorite neighbourhood landmarks … if only I’d lived here twenty years ago. Could’ve scraped some brains off the concrete and into a mason jar. Call it a dark souvenir of a Prague time gone by.

Hrmm … Let’s try and get back on track, shall we?

Our wine potraviny sits in the shadow of Nusle Bridge and, assuming that it’s been at that location for some time, may have even had jumpers land on the sidewalk out front. If you consider the tendency of bodega owners to go ballistic from a dog pissing on the sidewalk in front of their place, just imagine the reaction to this!

Standing immediately under the bridge at night gives off a slight vibe of a crummy, industrial future from a bad 80s film, and I kind of dig that. Directly under the north end of the bridge sits a big and beautiful park, which is contrasted by a greasy strip club and possible bordello under the southern end, complete with neon red lights illuminating from the 2nd floor windows.

To date, every time I step into potraviny for a bottle of wine the interaction I have with the shopkeeper is exactly the same and I funkin’ love it. I’ll translate for any non-Czechs…

Vino, huh?                              

Vino, yah.                               

Osmdésat korun.                   

Diky.

Wine, huh?

Yup, wine.

80 crowns.

Thanks

Simple. Consistent. To the point. To me, that’s potravinys in a nutshell.

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