It was around 8.30 or so at night and we were in the STŘEDOVĚKÁ KRČMA U KRÁLE BRABANTSKÉHO. Perhaps one of the most tourist-y things you can do in Prague, right after taking a billion long exposure shots at Charles Bridge or counting down the minutes in front of the Astronomical Clock Tower. But it was a surprise for him, knowing how he goes wild for weird stuff like this. And I kept it a surprise as well! Even as he pummeled me with the steaming, sulphuric, spa waters in Budapest a few nights before, trying to pry the plan away from me; I kept my mouth shut.
Walking on cobblestones, eager to get away from the night’s freezing winds, I pointed at the burnt sign and told him to get inside. It was perfectly gothic, and the walls oozed bloody murder. The entrance was cramped and there were a few people, but before I could talk to someone I turned around and saw him fuming mad. “YOU SAID IT WAS NOT MEDIEVAL!!!”
Now I don’t remember explicitly saying that, or maybe I didn’t really see the place as “medieval” per se, even if STŘEDOVĚKÁ KRČMA U KRÁLE BRABANTSKÉHO in English means an approximation of something Medieval Tavern-ish. That said, all of my going around in circles was done in the pursuit of secrecy, and it’s not like he didn’t have any clues! I said it was a book and TV series with a blonde protagonist. Obviously, the Game of Thrones! Which was set during the Medieval Times! D’oh!
Anyway, after the exhausting lazy morning we had in Prague, where we acquired an intimate knowledge of the city, and by city I mean our hotel, and by the hotel I mean our room, and by the room I mean our bed, and by that I mean we did nothing but sleep all day. So we were ready for an adventure, and what better place to have one than in a dungeon whose ceilings are draped with skulls?
A summer and a half ago, we leisurely drove 6 hours to Toronto. Our first night, we stayed in a charming Airbnb, located on a very high floor. But it had the scariest, most deplorable basement I’ve ever had to step my foot in. I would be offended to get murdered in there. So we ran away the next day, met up and got adopted by a good friend of ours, Mark, who came with us to the Science Museum, and to what would be the highlight of our very existence: MEDIEVAL TIMES!
I was forced to share on Facebook that I was there, so I could connect to the free WiFi, and try to document our experience. I failed because no picture can be a worthy testament to the elation we felt during that night. Like docile sheep, we were heralded into a purgatory of overpriced kitschy souvenirs until we either starve or succumb to temptations and finally buy a 100$ beer. We were strong, thus we were rewarded with great seats at their surprisingly huge arena.
Our knight for the night, a thin Asian man draped in Blue with patches of les fleur de lys on his cape is a gallant gentleman who wooed the ladies of his area. He may have been defeated by the Yellow Hunky Thor, and the depressing long- haired Green Colin Farrell, but he won our hearts. While we watched the greatest live show on Earth, with horses and a falcon, we ate like hedonistic heathens. Biting our moist chicken legs and getting corn husks stuck between our teeth, with no cutlery in sight. It was glorious, and so, I was hoping to give him the chance to relive that magic again, but this time in another continent.
The STŘEDOVĚKÁ KRČMA U KRÁLE BRABANTSKÉHO offers a show and a buffet- a generous word for what is essentially a cornucopia of meats plopped on your table, with free flowing drinks and a dessert. But, knowing that I gag at the sight of more than one pork knuckle, we ordered from the menu instead and as faith would have it, he chose the Knight’s Platter, and I only remember it because I saw the restaurant’s menu when googling STŘEDOVĚKÁ KRČMA U KRÁLE BRABANTSKÉHO. That platter, along with some melty Camembert cheese and beef goulash in a bread bowl, would be our first and only meal of that day. Prior then, I just drank the free coffee from our bureau, which I made unceremoniously on the floor. He handed it to me while I was soaking in the bathtub, along with my face mask. When that no longer sufficed, we ate our cold pierogies from Poland packed in a take-out container while in bed. The crumbs from the rye bread fell on the crack in the middle of the bed, because in all the places we’ve slept in Europe, all of them were just single mattresses shoved together to resemble a queen. Cold and slick with grease, those bites felt indulgent.
The sound of bagpipes played by a big bearded man accompanied our first beer- dark malt for me and a light ale for him. We ate while in awe of a blonde belly dancer who looked at us with bedroom eyes. When she left, a jester baffled by his own juggling balls took her place. He asked us in the chamber, who speaks Czech? But it isn’t like it mattered, since his comedic routine solely comprised of grunts. We loved him.
There were lulls in the show, during which one of the performers went to the table next to us and challenged this man- who had South Asian features, seated with his Norwegian looking date. They were playing a game wherein you had to screw in your thumb if you lost in a game of dice. We were excited, then elated when he came to our table. The medieval man challenged him first- a formidable match, exciting to watch as I ate my ice cream but he was defeated, his thumb was too wide and he didn’t have much luck with his throws. Finally I was next! I won, mostly because I could not stop laughing. That, and my thumb was half the size of the actor’s, so no matter how tight the clamp went, I still did not feel a pinch.
A beer and a half more, we bid adieu to the tavern, and laughingly walked up the stony stairs, lined with rusty iron chains. We were greeted by the frigid Prague’s winter air , and became very thankful that our hotel would only be a few minutes walk away. He tapped in the key card and opened the door for me, making jokes as we brushed our teeth like we always do. While we were finally in bed, he told me about the man from across our table, and how he heard him make a snide comment: “You let her play? What a gentleman.” I jolted up, aghast- THAT SLIMY BASTARD I HATE HIS GUTS. I wish I heard him say that. He’d get a punch in the face from the angry girlfriend of a real gentleman.
The men of Québec have a bit of a misunderstood reputation in the international arena. The province gave women the right to vote more than two decades after the rest of Canada. People largely protested women’s rights, backed by the influence of the clergy, after all it is in Montréal where Mark Twain said, “you couldn’t throw a brick without breaking a church window.” But. Broad strokes and binaries are dangerous, since then this province has made progress, largely unseen in the rest of the world. After all it’s the home of Pierre and Justin Trudeau- noted for their feminist agendas.
And the person beside me in Prague? He wouldn’t hesitate letting me carry my own bags, knowing that I can. He attempted, multiple times to tickle me to death. He always tries to playfully shove me, or do weird pranks. I do the same to him, with no reservations. Maybe the man seated from across showered his date with all the finesse he could muster. But I prefer being treated like an equal, in every sense of the word. Why? Because it’s 2017. After all he is born in a sleepy town near Montréal, 3 days from the International Women’s Day. Coincidentally- that’s today. Happy birthday to him, a real gentleman, secure with himself, and remains constantly genuine. I want to say thank you for the great memories.
Also- I paid for that medieval tavern dinner.