At first it felt like something from a Kurt Vonnegut novel...
My best guess was that somewhere along the Yellow line, from Českomoravská, the metro had passed through a chrono-synclastic infundibula.
Yeah, I know it sounds rather ridiculous at first, but how else can you explain the fact that I was standing on the high end of Koněvova street in Žižkov? I had never been to this part of town before and besides that I was getting the eerie feeling that some one was following me.
This area is soaked in death and war throughout history. General Jan Žižka (Žižkov, get it? He's the undefeated general who had his skin turned into a drum after his death), he also only had one eye, and was the leader of the Hussites, who resisted five crusades. The first crusade, which was the bloodiest, came to an end on Vítkov hill (the park north of Koněvova). Vítkov hill now boasts the the third largest bronze equestrian statue in the world, with Žižkov atop it.
Throughout history all the way to modern times Žižkov has been a working class neighborhood known for its dangerous streets and rough inhabitants. In fact Žižkovites are notorious for wanting to secede from the Czech Republic to form an independent republic! Maybe it was all that history that was following me around. I didn't know quite where to go so I just starting walking down the street.
A window crammed with all sorts of things that looked like they had come a long way to sit there caught my eye. After looking up at the sign I learned that this particular store was called Tesco Express (110 Koněvova). The door stood open so I walked into an overwhelming amount of things from far away (Europe to be exact) just like the store window had promised.
I realized that if I ever needed things like; dairy products, toiletries, almost any spice I could fathom, deoderant, beers, alcohol, the occassional mango, bananas, socks, books featuring steamy Czech love stories, cigarettes or anything evenly remotely needed for the home, this would be the place I would come. And I also found out through a little research that the store was partly owned by a man from England (surprise), who goes by the name of Mr. Tesco.
It was time to move on because I was getting that feeling again, the one about some one following me, remember? Mostly because I was hungry and partly because there was a Harley parked by the door I went into Pho Nem in Prague (Koněvova 89) which was a rock bar but now has been invaded by some very talented Asians and their food, with an awesome range of exotic Asian canned beverages for only 30 crowns.
I took a look around the simple and brightly lit place for a while. Then I looked at the other patrons who came in all shapes, sizes and styles until the Wonderfarm Coconut Water was gone. The traffic was streaming when I hit the street. I noticed for the first time that the streets weren't so clean and the buildings hadn't been painted pink or bright yellow like the better known areas of Prague.
It seemed that I'd stumbled upon an authentic Prague neighborhood!
I was feeling a bit sleepy suddenly. It must have been from that chrono-synclastic infundibula. Anyway I thought I might go and check out the Bern Hotel (Koněvova 28/29). I headed on in and inquired about the price which I found to be just a little bit under 30 EUR which was a lot more than I had in my wallet. Down the street a little there is a shop called Ganga at Koněvova 51 which has everything you could ever wish for should you be wishing for Punjabi clothing or the fashions of India.
Down the street at Koněvova 946 is the Erotic City Sex Shop (look for window posters that look more like cosmetic ads than ads for a sex shop). This place isn't your regular smut parlor, they have some nice vinyl and leather clothes if you're into that kind of stuff. Of course they have lots of kinky sex related things too.
U Chlebíčka a Dortíčka at Koněvova 70 was another sweet intrigue on my journey. This place is well stocked with all kinds of tasty treats. Being one of the better sweet shops outside of the Prague city centers, it also boasts a very good selection of buns, breads, those little Czech sandwiches and the coffees are well made and much cheaper than Starbucks.
Tucked in a little alley, which is actually a different street, is U Vystřelenýho oka (U Božích bojovníků 606/3). The name means 'at the shot out eye', literally, in honor of Jan Žižka. This is a nice pub with an upstairs tea shop which is open Monday thru Saturday, 3:30 to 1 a.m. The bar itself is the real flavor of Žižkov, and popular with the locals and musicians alike.
A little way down the street there was a path leading up a hill. I soon realized that I had entered a park (the Military Museum is strategically located there, look for the tank) where people like to walk their very big dogs.
This park is one of the nicest around, especially with autumn painting all of the trees different colors than we are used to. By the way, it's a very big park so pack a lunch and enjoy the view of the castle and the other spires that pierce the sky above Prague.
Down the street a little there is Rock Klub Kain (Husitska 106) which is a nice rock cafe complete with a neighboring tattoo palour should the journey down Koněvova leave you feeling like a journeyman after a long voyage. Music Klub Velvet (Husitská 7), which used to be a disco complete with a transvestite show, seems to have lost its crowd to Blaze (supposedly the friendliest gay bar in Prague) at Husitská 43 but one would have to go into to know just how "friendly" it is...
Perhaps because the thought never crossed my mind I didn't venture into the neighborhood south of Koněvova but if I had this is what I would have found... a predominantly Romani neighborhood. I would've seen the Romanies that live there walking around and conducting their lives.
I also would've seen a few Czechs mixed in doing their own thing. What I wouldn't have found is a dangerous neighborhood full of crazy Gypsy thieves as legend says. Maybe just because of the sheer volume of zastavárny (kind of a Czech blend of a pawn shop/second hand shop/junk shop where stolen loot is typically unloaded), it has a dodgy reputation.
I've heard Koněvova called the Brooklyn of Prague, but Holešovice seems to be fighting for that title these days. I'd say its the closest thing that Prague will ever have to a Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco. Whatever it is, it's well worth visiting... did I mention the comparatively cheap rents, as it's one of the city's undiscovered areas?
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