The city of Prague has survived centuries of conflict. Preserved in time, despite multiple wars and occupation, it has emerged beyond the curtain with a bevy of stories to share. It’s cobblestone streets, and the historical path they pave, can easily charm the most jaded traveler.
Most women in their 50s go to Prague for the history, culture, architecture and food. Not many, I would guess, go for the legendary Pub Crawl. But having completed a couple days touring and exploring with my daughter, fascinated by the cities history, I was up for a little fun beyond the expected.
“This must be bring-your-mother Tuesday,” a tall lanky dude muttered to a buddy under his breath, as I walked by.”
It wasn’t exactly the glowing endorsement to the clubbing attire I had selected for the evening, but I smiled and brushed it off, knowing full well that I had a solid three decades on most in the room, and my experience had come with a few squint lines. The reality is, there were likely few mothers of the 20-something crowd I was with, who would have dared embark on a night of clubbing, drinking and dancing as part of the famous Prague Pub Crawl, known to be the largest in Europe.
Organized nightly by the local youth hostel where we were staying, 100+ keeners had signed up at 550CZ ($32 CDN) for a night that promised free unlimited drinks at the first bar for one hour, and then free entrance and free shots at the next two venues, and no wait line and free VIP entry to Karlovy Lazne, the legendary 5-story club, by the Charles Bridge, our final destination.
I was coming off what had already been two nights of questionable parenting in Paris, with my daughter on the first night of celebration at the foot of the Eiffel Tower for Bastille Day, followed the next evening by street parties after France won the World Cup. Our heads hadn’t hit the pillow before 3am on both nights, each prefaced with a solid day touring, so it took the summoning of some youthful stamina, along with a one-hour nap, to pull the Prague Pub Crawl off in succession. We had been in Europe only four days, and I had signed her up, otherwise underage in Canada, but looking and feeling worldly beyond her years, for yet another night of dancing and fun. In her eyes I was likely up for “mother of the year,” but clearly the pace of our Europe adventure wouldn’t be sustainable, nor would it fit with my overall vision of taking in history and culture with a healthy dose of hiking and the outdoors whenever possible.
Of course accompanying a teenager on the Pub Crawl was as much about keeping her safe, as it was about having an excuse to go dancing. As age outliers of the group, it was a mutually codependent arrangement.
Going on a city-wide pub crawl with a bunch of young adults was not exactly what I had in mind when during a Christmas eve service last year, I looked over to her and said, “I want to take you to Prague.” I had been overwhelmed with emotion that first Christmas in church after my Mom’s passing. Missing her company and being reminded of our Czech roots by the music playing, had prompted a spontaneous commitment to the trip. I had taken my son to Prague when he was 17 years old, as an athlete to compete at an international sports event. In the back of my mind, there was a travel ledger much less full for my daughter, and I was determined to help her see the world. My own mother had travelled with me in my late teens, and I wanted to create those same lifetime travel memories that I held so dearly, for both of my kids.
So that is how we found ourselves together partying in Prague that night, after a day full of touring and history, with the promise of visiting a concentration camp the following day. Only a mother could have scheduled a trip to Terizen, with its sobering Jewish history, on the heels of a pub crawl. It’s a decision that I will likely never live down, and the photo with her head out the train window, hair blowing in the wind, wearing what she had partied and slept in the night before, has sealed the memory in time.
Chapeau Rouge was our first stop. Looking just like a bar from the outside, the staircases lead deep into the old city’s underground to 3 floors, 4 stages and 4 bars in one of Prague’s biggest and most labyrinthine clubs. The electro dance floor, one floor down, was host to our hour of free drinks. While it was initially a little awkward making conversation, things loosened up quickly. Pat made some fast friends closer to her age, and I became less of an anomaly, inviting more and more engagement as the shots kicked in. Before I knew it, I was fully immersed in girlfriend bathroom talk. And then it was off to the second club.
The M1 Lounge, with a clean, industrial interior, had a laid-back lounge feel until the Pub Crawl arrived. Then the music kicked up as most of our group packed the dance floor. By now many knew each other by name, and much of the introductory conversation such as, “Where are your from? Where have you been? Where are you going? and Where did you graduate from?” had been filled in during the walk between venues, where an audible answer was possible. Thankfully I was saved the “where did you graduate?” question, and had the good sense to not add that I taught in a University School of Business at home.
By the time we hit Double Trouble, our third club, the group was pumped. Double Trouble is located in an ancient brick vault basement in a narrow alley close to the Astronomical Clock. The dance floor was packed, and those still requiring space had resorted to table tops and the bar. As we swarmed the dance floor, a couple of my new found 20-something girlfriends shouted, “I wish my Mom was as lit as you.” Evidently there was alcohol fueling those words, but I had won my way into their hearts, while being mindful to not become the 50-something token party girl in their Instagram story.
Of course the final destination of the whole evening was to end up at Karlovy Lazne. This 5-story dance club is Central Europe’s biggest music club, right by the Charles Bridge in the heart of Old Town. Different themed music played on each level to a packed dance floor. We checked them all out, but several in our group settled on the “oldies” floor with its timeless rock music, an ironic twist to the night, since it was thoroughly my era, but their retro cool music.
Somewhere in the 5 stories and 100s of people, I got separated from my daughter, which threatened to make it bad parenting night number three, but thankfully she was with some of our original group who texted and assured me she was fine and that they would bring her home. I rolled in at 3am, and she was, dare I say much later.
The next morning, we were on the train to Terezin Concentration Camp by 9am. To her credit, she rallied and was all in for the tour, although the fresh air out the train window appeared welcome. Our history and cultural experience was back on track.