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My Brno – Michal Kašpárek

 
photo:  (radio.cz)
 

Few people are as qualified to provide an insider’s tour of the Moravian capital as Michal Kašpárek, author of the guidebook Poznej Brno (Get to Know Brno). On a warm evening recently, Kašpárek took me to a hopping pub in the city and a former “workers’ colony” taken over by alternative types. But we started out at a table outside Café Falk, near the university’s Arts Faculty.

 
 

“This district, called Veveří, is notable for a big number of cafés, pubs and restaurants.”

It’s a student area?

“It’s a student area, but there are many people who don’t go to school who live here and spend their free time here.”

Has it always been as it is now? Or is it improved compared to in previous years?

“It has improved. Right now we are sitting in the Falk café, which used to be a really filthy place five years ago, with lots of smoke, cheap beer and not really good service. But it turned into a hipster café.

“And the Falk café is not only a café, it’s actually a co-working centre for web designers, writers, translators and so on.”

Is it officially a co-working centre or do people just work here anyway?

“They just work here anyway.”

What other bars or cafés would you recommend in this area?

“My beloved café is Tři ocásci, which is a left-wing den on Gorkého St. It’s a very cosy place with old furniture. There are really nice people there and they make pastries and great coffee.”

What about eating – where are good places in Brno [in general] to eat?

“My favourite restaurant is called Avia. It is located in the first modern church in the Czech Republic, built in the 1920s or maybe 1930. They have a simple interior and simple, cheap meals like pasta. Everything is pure, simple and delicious.”

What about for vegetarians or even vegans? When I first came here I was a vegetarian and it was hard to find anything to eat at a lot of places.

“I used to be a vegetarian and it was quite a tough life. There are many vegetarian restaurants in Brno, but I would recommend just one or two of them, like Spirála, which is only open during the day, until like 3 PM.

“But you also have the possibility of going to Indian and Japanese restaurants that serve vegetarian meals.”

Isn’t the best restaurant in the country, at least according to reputation, in Brno, a Japanese restaurant called Koishi?

“Yes, Koishi is located on Údolní St. – they rock.”

It’s affordable?

“Compared to restaurants in Prague or Vienna, Koishi is affordable. It’s not really cheap, but it is affordable.”

From Veveří, Michal Kašpárek led me downtown to a pub. Or rather to a kind of roofless passageway outside a pub, where perhaps 100 people were hanging out and enjoying the fine weather.

“We are standing in front of U poutníka, a pub which is located right in the middle of the city. It’s some sort of hub. It’s a place where people meet no matter what job they have or how high their salary is. It’s a very public place.”

I can’t think of any bar in Prague like this, with so many people outside on the street. Is it always so crowded?

“Yes, every evening. This is Thursday – on Friday and Saturday nights it gets even more crowded.”

Tell us about the beer they serve here, Poutník – is it a local beer?

“Poutník is not quite local. It is made 100 kilometres away in the Vysočina region, in the town of Pelhřimov. It is a simple, very tasty Czech lager.”

What about the local beers? I know the best known is Starobrno – is that a good beer?

“Starobrno is quite popular but it is not really good. It is just another brand… But on the other hand there are some small breweries in Brno.

“My favourite one is located in the Líšeň quarter, on the outskirts of Brno. It is one of the few breweries in the Czech Republic that is managed by a woman, which is still not something that is usual in the Czech Republic. They have five or six types of beer and most of them are quite delicious.

“In downtown Brno there is a small brewery called Pegas. It was established in 1990, 1991, so it is quite a traditional business here.

“There are also some other small breweries and many pubs that sell beer from small breweries all around the Czech Republic.”

In Prague there’s been a big innovation in recent times with a lot of pubs now selling more than one beer. Sometimes they sell four or five and they change the selection a lot. Has that come here to Brno?

“There are some places that have 10 beers on tap, but that is a victory of quantity over quality. What I love are pubs like this one or Na Božence, in the Královo pole neighbourhood, or U míče and so on.

“They have two beers on tap and sometimes they have a third one, something really special, just a few litres – for instance 100 beers and once it’s gone, it’s gone and you can’t have any more.”

Brno is the capital of Moravia, which is known of course for its wine. Is Brno a big wine city too, or is it more of a beer town?

“Yes, it is. But compared with beer, you can have quite a tough time finding a good place to have a nice glass of wine. I know one wine cellar that has quite delicious and affordable wine.

“It’s called Sklípeček and is located at Konečného náměstí square in the Veveří neighbourhood. It is owned by a man whose son owns Koishi, so it’s like a family of people that know what is good.”

The final stop on our tour of “Michal Kašpárek’s Brno” was the city’s Kamenná kolonie (Stone Colony), which also goes by the name Kamenka. Just down the narrow street from its landmark nightspot the Duck Bar, my guide outlined the tiny district’s fascinating history.

“Kamenka was built in the 1920s by the poorest workers living in Brno, in an abandoned quarry. It was built illegally but it was tolerated by the bureaucrats and they were allowed to stay in these small houses.

“Actually, right now we are standing in a sort of village built in the middle of a big city. It has a wonderful atmosphere.

“The workers don’t live here anymore, because in the 1960 and ‘70s they were offered better housing by the socialist government.”

So when these buildings were built they had no power or running water?

“Yes. Some of the waters still get water from the well, so it’s still some sort of very Spartan living.

“In the 1960s and 1970s, artists and architects and people like that moved to this place, because it was abandoned.

“It was, and still is, quite an alternative place to live. There is a huge and powerful community of free-spirited people still living here.”

People sometimes talk about the communist era having a kind of internal exile. Some people would try to escape from the authorities by moving somewhere relatively quiet – was this one of those places?

“Of course. This is 100 houses that served as a place of exile right in the middle of Brno.”

What happened when communism fell – did the artists and hippies keep living here?

“As you can see, there are some houses damaged by recent development; some powerful and rich people bought them and decided to add another floor, and so on.”

I had never heard of this Kamenka area until I read about it in your guidebook. Is it well known?

“No, it isn’t. It is omitted from all official guides to Brno. This is something that is known just to locals and to people who read my guide.”

If outsiders come here, what will they find? Will they be welcomed? Are there places for them to go, like bars or cafés?

“The place is quite welcoming. There is one pub, which is quite popular…”

The Duck Bar, which we just passed.

“The Duck Bar, exactly. It was voted the best put in Brno four or five years ago in some quite prestigious news site, but I think it was hacked, because it is not really so well known.

“Besides the bar, there are two galleries here and every two or three months there is a festival in or near Kamenka, be it a music festival or some traditional folk festival with people in traditional dress going through the place and serving pastries and so on.”


The episode featured today was first broadcast on June 18, 2013.

 
Author: Český rozhlas Radio Praha
 
Added: 10.06.2014
 
 
 

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