8 September 2019
It’s easy to act like a tourist. Wherever you happen to be, just keep staring in amazement, taking photos of whatever looks like a historical building. That won’t take long though, sorry to say, as the good people of Brno have torn down most of the local historical buildings and instead built up places like Velký Špalíček. What’s truly authentic is to experience a city as one of its locals. It’s certainly not difficult to do that here. Brno locals experience their city in two basic ways – drunk and hungover.
Brno is a city of cafés, and one rookie mistake many tourists make is going there to order a cup of coffee – classic ‘out of town’ behaviour. If you want to fit in at a café here, have what the locals are having: beer, wine, prosecco, or gin & tonic. In other cities, people finish their coffee and leave. Not in Brno. Here, people spend entire days, nights, mornings, and even lifetimes in cafés.
There are situations in life when it’s hard to spend all your time in a café, such as when you have kids. If the locals suggest ‘going to the playground’, better take your wallet because you won’t be building any sandcastles. Popular playgrounds are located close to pubs, with the busiest one located at Obilní trh and supplied with alcohol by the adjacent pub, U Čápa. The kids stay in an enclosure while the parents hang around with beer glasses in hand. When it gets late, the tired kids try to get their drunk parents to take them home.
Another popular place ‘for kids’ is Lužánky Park. It’s supplied with alcohol by the famous Ponava pub on one side, and the beer tap and wine fridge that pretend to be a kid’s summer tent on the other. Kids also like to go to the Björnson Gardens (Björnsonův sad), where parents can flock to the café Piknikbox.
Chair at Regional Democratic Values Institute, connoisseur and unrelenting populariser of Brno surroundings. Two years ago, he published his first novel The Best Candidate, he writes for Hospodářské noviny, A2larm, Respekt and now even Brno Phenomenon.
Just because your offspring are dragging you home doesn’t mean the party is over. Southern Moravia is famous for its wine and Brno is thus a wine centre. Typical tourists buy a bottle of wine, take a sip and roll it around in their mouths, trying to find the hint of an orchard in the springtime, lit by the blush of dawn. Given the volume of wine consumed, the locals can’t afford to buy wine in fancy glass bottles. Fortunately, there are small shops on virtually every corner selling wine, competing with each other to offer the cheapest wine on tap, or at least something that resembles wine based on colour, name, or volume of alcohol. Who cares? The locals don’t roll wine around in their mouths – they just gulp it down like seltzer, if they ever drank seltzer, that is.
Years ago, the locals ceased to enjoy drinking cheap beer of a single brand and started asking for various more expensive brands. Today, there are numerous beer places all over the city that focus on bringing kegs of overpriced beer from just about any hick town. This way, the traditional beer drunks can call themselves connoisseurs of all kinds of beer conditioned in low or high temperatures.
A still life with vodka Photo Standa Biler
If you have to do any grocery shopping in the morning, don’t forget that alcohol is sold and poured literally everywhere. Have a bottle of beer at the bakery, a shot at the greengrocer’s, or both at the newsstand. People do their grocery shopping in convenience stores run by Vietnamese people, the only folks who actually work in Brno.
For lunch, tourists will quite likely have typical roasted pork chops with bread dumplings and sauerkraut. Absurd! Locals go to a Vietnamese bistro and have some national dish, such as Pho, Bún bò Nam Bô, or fried spring rolls. And then it’s the right time to have a coffee…
The alcoholic cycle of life is sometimes disrupted by events called fests. Beer fests, wine fests, theatre fests, or children’s day, which is a beer and wine fest together. No matter what event it is, the booths selling alcohol are always assembled and opened first, and people often even forget about the rest.
After several days of authentic life in Brno, you’ll understand why people walk slowly here – they’re trying not to fall over. Usually to little success, and to nobody’s surprise. When you finally do fall down, it’s time to celebrate. You’ve just passed the final exam on living in Brno. Just remember – never sober up!