Prahahahaha!

For all of its lovely, glitzy bits, Prague can be a creepy riot sometimes. I will post a full recap of my Czech experience later (unless I permanently move to this hostel, in which case “experience” will translate to “life”), but here are some highlights for now.

1. “Titty bar? Titty bar?”

I have a theory about strip clubs in Prague: either they’re extremely popular, explaining the seemingly hundreds of event promoters jostling over prime advertising real estate on the main city squares; or they’re extremely unpopular, explaining the seemingly hundreds of event promoters awkwardly hawking their abandoned venues to uncomfortable passer-bys.

Some of the Portuguese guys I met on my first night here admitted that they had been lured into one of these notorious “titty bars.” When I teasingly asked for more details, they shuddered and immediately – as a group – started complaining about how disgusting an experience it was. It seemed that at one point, there was serious concern of suffocation by the breasts of one grotesquely obese exotic dancer. I asked if she were at least talented or pretty, but it seems that the minimum criteria for performing at such a bar is merely an acceptance to sitting around naked.

But hey, where there’s demand, there’s supply (and vice versa). If you walk around at night anywhere in the Old Town, you can’t miss it – these promoters are as common as prostitutes in the Red Light District, and there has to be a reason for that.

2. The Magic of Drunk Directions

I used to be terrible at directions. Then I started traveling by myself! And since then I learned a very valuable tip: the best way to learn your way around a new city is to guide a large group of drunk people.

I inevitably am amongst the most sober in any combination of people, so I often have the best chance of remembering how to return to our origin. Like salmon swimming upstream, the combined liquid collected in my companions creates almost a psychological river that flows towards our temporary home – but I am the only one able to channel my inner fish!

Anyway, even though I haven’t explored Prague as extensively as I’d want, I got to know the Old Town and the parts around my hostel very well, and I have my drunken hostel friends to thank for that. They introduced the Prague nightlife to me, and I engrained the routes into my muscle memory. I was later able to bust out my directional skills for the new hostel-dwellers, most of whom now think I live here.

3. “Open-minded” = Open Legs

Did everyone know this but me? I didn’t realize that “open-minded” was such a thinly veiled pseudonym for “into threesomes,” but it seems that the men of Prague have coalesced around such vocabulary. I had put out an open CouchSearch when I looked into Prague originally, but solely received requests from men… and they were not indirect by any means. I modified my search to include the key phrase: “I prefer to stay with women,” but that didn’t stop them – they merely precluded their creepy come-ons with the line: “Man here! ;)” or “You said you wanted to stay with a woman, but…”

It seems like a lot of men think of CouchSurfing as a dating site without all of those pesky questions and requirements. One thing I really don’t like about Europe: a total lack of tact when approaching a woman. (I just overheard a friend say that a man came up behind her at a club and grabbed her chest with both hands. Another friend had a guy reach up her dress at a bar. I had it the easiest as I merey had to physically wrest my hand out of the octopus tentacles that dominated the dance floor; the Portuguese guys actually had to help at one point though.) Here’s a sample of what emails I’ve received:

Subject: A little challenge here 😉

Hello Dear;
I was wondering what to do to spice-up the coming days and I have seen that you are looking for a place where to stay, so if you want, I can invite you at mine..
I live in the center of Prague, in a nice flat, moreover I have a nice Czech girlfriend and we love to host some Ladies sometimes..
So we would be very glad to give you hospitality, in our bed or on a mattress, ahahah, true.. 😉
The first option is obviously the better, but you, what do you think??
G___ & H___!! :o)

(“Moreover” and “ahahah, true” get me ever time.)

I had ignored a message from one man when placing my first open CouchSearch, then received another when I modified my dates. I was curious as to why he wrote in his profile that he preferred women, but immediately realized I wasn’t the kind of “curious” he intended.

Subject: Hi

Hi,
I think I wrote you before, If you are open minded and do not mind to meet open minded couple then you are welcome to us.
I__

My response:

Hey I___
Sorry, I had meant to respond earlier! Crazy hectic traveling brain. 😦
I just had one question: why do you prefer to host women?
Thanks,
Vidya

(I shouldn’t have asked.)

Well, I think guys like girls and its more attractive for me to have female guest. We are couple and prefer open minded girl who do not mind to share with us many thing.

Looking forward to hear from you.
I__

Though it’s little consolation, it seems that this is not a unique experience for women searching for couches in the Czech Republic. At least four other people have told me that they’ve had almost identical things happen to them.

(At least it’s not as direct as in Turkey, where a friend told me that he once hitchhiked with a truck driver who casually turned to him, mid-way through their trip, and said in broken English, “I like sex.” Followed up, ten minutes later, by “You like sex?” Followed up by an awkward and silent truck ride after he agreed that he liked sex, but was not intending to have sex with said truck driver.)

4. “Hookah? Yeah, you could probably find a hooker somewhere…”

Shisha lounges are all the rage in Prague, and I’m a huge fan. In fact, for Michal and my New Year’s Party (which you should come to…“Exclusive offer on Pocket Gypsy!”) I’m thinking of getting a hookah, making Arabic-style tea, and cooking a heap of couscous dishes.

But it’s like no one understands me when I say “hookah,” even though “hookah” refers to the apparatus and “shisha” refers to the flavored tobacco. As a result, I’ve been – on multiple occasions – mistaken for having sought prostitutes. Surprisingly, this hasn’t elicited too much surprise, which concerns me. Do I seem like the type who would be looking for hookers? (Don’t answer that…)

Regardless, the shisha lounges are pretty legit. After two attempts to find a particular place, me and my two Australian companions stumbled upon the recommended lounge, which definitely more than compensated for our troubles. We got delicious tea (rose cherry and šaj a la cairo), two shisha flavors (coconut-cherry and mixed fruit), and couscous with beans, pickles, corn, and red bell pepper for less than 400 kr (about $20). Even for one person, that’d be decent – and this was roughly split amongst three!

Speaking of, I think I’m going to go to one now. I’ve galvanized everyone in the hostel, including a group of Australians, some Quebecois, some French, and another America, to go out for dinner and drinks. There’s a joke in here somewhere…

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