SCHWEIK’S PUB

I’m a fan of The Good Soldier Schweik, but then everyone is, aren’t they, because it’s the most translated novel in the Czech language, and that sly idiot Schweik is known all over the world. Like all fans, I was a sucker for Schweik’s pub in Prague, U Kalicha, The Chalice. In the book, The Chalice is haunted by Brettschneider, a police spy, who arrests the landlord and gets him ten years because flies soiled the Emperor’s picture.

The pub is now a restaurant with a wooden floor and rough simple furniture, and it serves traditional Bohemian dishes with a lot of meat, potatoes, cabbage and dumplings. (The Bohemian Diet is one where you start thin and end up fat.) We looked in in the afternoon, when a few locals were having a drink, and imagined it was still, a hundred years after Schweik, a local dive. Not so: the evening clientele comprises tourists of every nationality except Czech, Schweik fans all, and the staff play up to them in a cheerful, bogus manner. That includes music in costume and loudly banging your glass of beer down on the table. The food is good and seems authentic, though it’s not cheap. (That was goose giblet stew with dumplings, above left.) There are extracts from the book all over the wall, and, of course, a portrait of Franz Joseph spotted with fly shit.

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