Absinthe makes the heart grow fonder

Day 6 - Prague

The aroma of wild pig filled our nostrils as it slowly roasted in the midday sun. Unfortunately rather than being on a spit in a beer garden it was instead on a central reservation as we crawled past in traffic. Bade farewell to Wrocław and the Monopole and our short stint as high rollin' ballers we made a westward turn. Small villages dotted the, pig notwithstanding, beautiful Czech countryside as it swept out and up and down to our either side. There was a crispness to the landscape, the air seemed fresh and clear, everything just so. I have good memories of Prague have been taken here as a surprise for my 30th birthday. The three of us had seen one or two mediaeval city centres at this point but for my koruna Prague's remains one of the most visually arresting. The cobbled streets and castle perched high above, saints peering down at you from Charles bridge, one of ten crossing the Vltava here. It also retains the, not inconsiderable, appeal of cheap living costs. Accommodation for the night came in the form of the Mosaic Hostel, an eccentric establishment notable for people suspended from umbrellas Mary P style around the place.
A pleasant stroll along the river in the burnished light of late afternoon found us in the shadow of the castle for dinner. A wasp dived like a stuka into James' pint of radler which was thereafter guarded by the effective combination of napkin and knife. Presumably he intended to use the napkin as a net to capture the next wasp before delivering the coup dé grace with the knife but no more turned up so we'll never be sure. Walking back along the opposite bank Matt asked a, thus far, uncharacteristic question, "drink?" The proximity of a WC might have been a factor but never one to look a gift horse in the mouth we readily agreed. Boats, swans and swan boats pootled around next to the pontoon we were drinking our pilsner on and the DJ struck up with a strange cacophony of sounds that I suspect he recorded himself. In a basement. At his mum's house. She probably said it was excellent. Mums say things like that even if they aren't true. I could stand no more of the aural assault and we found a quieter time in the garden of a microbrewery. The Czech Republic has a zero alcohol limit so James was onto the soft drinks lest he be pulled over early the next morning. The drink of his, or rather our, choosing was kofola, a dark sticky liquid tasting of indeterminate herbs and bitumen. I don't know why he wasn't enjoying abstinence but the beer myself and Matt were drinking was excellent. The spirit chaser we were drinking, becherovka, was not. There was one stop left before the hostel, we happened to be passing an absinthe bar and there was that question again, "drink?" The proprietor had clearly spent a fair amount of time chasing the fairy himself and talked us quickly, enthusiastically and barely coherently through the menu. Whilst the top of the range stuff promised a changed perception of colours, hallucinations and other effects noticeable only to your friends, it was £30 a go. We picked more modest vintages from lower down the menu called 'King of Spirits' and 'Absinthe 55'. Rather than the ice method used in Stockholm to prepare the drink we opted instead for the fire. The absinthe is ignited with a slotted spoon above it and a sugar cubes atop that. You wait for the sugar to melt, the flames to go out and the feeling of being punched in the throat and stomach simultaneously to subside after you've necked it. Czech please! (had to do one)

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