Travel: Don’t Let the Door Hit You On the Way Out

As enamored as we are of our fair adopted home, even we, occasionaly, face facts. Many of you are reading this on the way out of town, having filled your 3 day quota of castles and cubism, bridges and beers. We’re nasty, clingy little people, so allow us to shout in your ears one last time as you try to doze off last night’s hangover on the long train to Poland. Not all of the following cities are on the summer traveler’s a-list, but we think they ought to be.

Krakow
Smoking Krak
By Malwina Antoniszczak

Krakow’s nightlife hits you unexpectedly; after-hours, the quiet, Catholic city explodes. You have two districts to choose from, for your partying needs: The Old Town area, around the main Market Square (Rynek Glowny) and the Old Jewish district of Kazimierz.

We’ll start in the Old Town. Get your drink on at Dym (Smoke) at Tomasza 13, right off the Rynek Glowny. Dym is small and smoky, but has a great garden and is in the perfect location. Just next to Dym on the Tomasza drinking route is Camelot, another excellent watering hole with a restaurant and an art gallery. Around the corner at Jana 18 is a pub called Piekny Pies (Beautiful Dog) known for crazy parties, like the time the owner of the place closed the door from the inside and wouldn’t let anyone out unless someone new was coming in.

A few blocks away at Jana 15, there’s a new club called Chill Out with a huge garden and DJs. At Florianska 18, parallel to Jana, is Pauza pub on the first floor. Unlike most of the bars in Krakow, Pauza has a bit of a “designish” interior. There’s always good music, fast service and a photo gallery too.

In Krakow there are plenty of places to sit and drink, but only a few clubs. At Tomasza 11A there’s the Pewex club, which owes its name to those old shops that sold Coca-Cola and chewing gum in communist times. Pewex features different kinds of music every night, but mostly drum’n’ bass, reggae, hip-hop and occasionally house. Good parties happen here often in the middle of the week. 5 minutes from Pewex is Roentgen Pub, down in the cellar at Plac Szczepanski 3. Roentgen is one of the oldest pubs in Krakow and has recently been turned into a club with two new dance floors. At Rynek Glowny 22 there’s Strefa 22 (Zone22) with a squat-like interior over two floors and mostly reggae music. Very close to Strefa is the Prozak club at Dominikanski 6. This trendy new club with house music is the only place in Krakow with a selective door policy.

In Kazimierz, the Old Jewish district, make your way to Plac Nowy. By day, there’s a food market here and is a popular hangout area at night. You can shop for beer in the nearby 24 -hour store, which is cheaper than a bar, of course. Occasionally there’s a police bust, as drinking outside bars is against the law in Poland. But there’s always some poor guy waiting for empty beer bottles who warns everybody before the police comes.

Around Plac Nowy there are many nice bars, such as Alchemia at Estery 5 or the Singer Pub at Estery 20, dark and furnished with old Singer sawing machines. Plac Nowy is also one of the few places in Krakow where you can eat something warm after 1AM. If you have more time in Krakow, check out: Re pub, Krzyza 4, Klub Kulturalny pub, Szewska 25 and Opium club, Jakuba 19. The author is a Krakow native and an extreme drinker. Graz Smoking Graz By Hans Melman Graz, Austria is uber-everything, especially this summer. It’s too angular and hip for you, but show up with a backpack anyway. Graz is the 2003 Cultural Capital of Europe, and features a summer’s offering of over 6000 events. Put on your leather, leash up your ferret, and enjoy.

With big, dumb EU money, Graz has built the Island in the Mur, an aquatic plaza with theatrical performances, and Kunsthaus Graz, one of the most modern art museums in the world. Public art abounds this summer: The city has instituted Art Taxis, which are mobile art galleries. Phone 878 and they’ll pick you up and bring you to your destination while you take in the latest in video art, all for the price of a normal taxi. Also, artist Josef Trattner has placed enormous foam slabs throughout the city for pedestrian lounging. This is in addition to the Gries District, which will be an entire city district presented as an art installation, and huge plazas full of concrete and mirror art. The Gries district adjoins Graz’s picturesque Old Town, with sites including the famous Schlossberg and St. Mary’s Column.

One of the more interesting festivals this summer is Sacher-Masoch Festival, a celebration of the Graz writer, Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, whose name inspired the word “masochism”. Included in this festival is the exhibit Masomania, a history of sexuality in art.

Maestro Pierre Boulez will show up sometime this summer to conduct concerts of 20th century music with the Vienna Philharmonic, the Graz Summer Jazz Festival, July 10-August 23, will host Benny Golson and Al DiMeola (and all the Jazz Festival events are free of charge). The best overall deal would be to get a Graz 03 Card for relatively friendly price of 20 Euros, which will gain you all access to every event and exhibition for three days.

Book your tickets and get yourself to the Eurozone, where Austria, of all places, is celebrating European brotherhood. Marvel at the irony lost on all the cream puffs and steel-riveted fags and then surrender to sheer strong-currency induced bliss. An insider-tip: The best day to be in Graz in July 30, when the whole city will surreally celebrate the birthday (in 1947) of their most famous, and favorite anabolic steroid abuser/marquee hero: Herr Arnold Schwarzenegger. Enjoy. You’ll be back.

The author is editor of the Tyrolean Review.

Berlin
Fantasy Island meets the Love Boat
By Oliver Shunt and Miss Rose

Summer in Berlin is an experience of mass-hallucination. Luckily, the post-war wrist-slapping of the national psyche has turned German delusionment into an amusing pastime, mainly, the desire to believe that Berlin is a beach.
Following this basic manifesto, every tiny square of waste ground springs up with a Caribo-thai shack, where penniless would-be travelers can sit on lawnchairs, dragging on their personal airplane ticket to shangri-la. Glass-strewn courtyards of squats and abandoned buildings magically transform into the terraces of exclusive private resorts; gravel-pitted building sites are shady, golden oases; humble lakes become Rivieras, parks and rooftops become communal barbecues and psychedelic playgrounds in the sky.

The only thing that’s actually missing from all this nature-worship bohemianism is people setting up tents and campsites in parks. Luckily, the infamous Love Parade in July gives the masses a chance to have a kind-of 24-hour dancecamp experience, complete with bikinis and attempted sex in cramped places.

Of course, it’s no secret that pounding techno on all sides can have hallucinogenic effects, but there are other ways to experience the transcendental powers of music in Berlin this summer. You can try following the bongo-drums and multi-culti mish-mash that will be floating from various local street festivals and parades (in another attempt to bury their Aryan history, Germans love anything vaguely exotic - so bring your real or fake tan for some action!) To experience something that will redefine your idea of what music actually is, we recommend either attaching your fetish buckles to some unsuspecting local who fits the music-fashion prototype of your choice, or eavesdropping on the table next to you at White Trash. This is the only way to find out about those hidden spots under old railway bridges, at the backs of warehouses, on floating docks and in abandoned cellars where the best parties with the cheapest drinks happen.

If you don’t get sucked into a continuous party cycle, you can always buy yourself an expensive ticket to the Museums Insel Festival (a kind of urban island paradise) where you can check out local act Stereo Total playing the soundtrack to the film version of Christiane F.’s “Wir Kinder from Bahnhof Zoo” (a story of 80s heroin downfall). If that lowers your holiday high a little too much, there’s always Calexico and PJ Harvey to pick up the pieces, or Chicks on Speed as part of the Isle of MTV Club Tour (gag!) The authors are editors of dorfdisco.de, Berlin’s online music journal.

St. Petersburg
Sneaky Pete
By Peter Morley

Now that the wretched 300th anniversary is finally finished, St. Petersburgers can get back to doing what they do best: nothing. To be fair, though, the anniversary wasn’t as bad as we’d feared. Yes, some roads were closed, yes, the crowds in the city center were ridiculous, but there were some plusses: St. Petersburg now looks something like the stunning architectural feast it ought to be, and, in what must be a Russian first, the cops were actually well-presented and helpful. (One of them even apologized to me for not being able to help with an enquiry. I almost fainted.) Now, though, it’s back to the lazy summer routine. Anyone who can has left town to hang out at their dacha, and everyone else is trying to avoid work even more than usual.

On the things-to-do front, the biggest cultural event is the Mariinsky Theater’s Stars of the White Nights bonanza. This year, it’s expanded from one month to three, finishing on August 5, with at least one performance every day, and a veritable galaxy of stars performing. (New York’s Metropolitan Opera Orchestra never made it, however, after an administrative cock-up that left Valery Gergiev with egg on his face.) Other than that, theater and concert seasons are winding down, and most places go on holiday for July and August. As for pop music, this summer has the usual line-up of big-name concerts, including, allegedly, Lou Reed at the unlikely venue of the Shostakovich Philharmonic in August, and the customary series of “cool” alternative events. The latter includes Stereoleto, a month-long series of irregular all-night parties in the gardens of the Molodyozhny Theater with groups like Britain’s Future Sound of London headlining.

The problem with these events is the people who run them. St. Petersburg suffers from a syndrome of provincial coolness characterized by excessive use of words like eksklyusivny and elitny (“exclusive” and “elite”) and other bastardizations of the English language (one recent example was an advert for “creative parties,” whatever that is). The people who use these words tend to hang out in cliques at silly restaurant-clubs like Onegin, the apogee of New Russian bad taste at 11 Sadovaya Ulitsa that has to be seen to be believed: people spending hours on their mobile phones shooting disdainful glances at the proletariat. For everyone else, although we haven’t really had much good weather yet, the traditional summer assortment of outdoor bars is already in place, and are usually good value in terms of a nice place to sit and drink, although they tend to be staffed by rip-off merchants who charge up to 80 rubles (almost $3) a beer, especially along the river during the evenings. Other places include perennial favorites like Cynic, at 4 Pereulok Antonenko, which has achieved quasi-legendary status among certain St. Petersburg barflies.

The author is editor of the St. Petersburg Times.

Budapest
The Turkish Backpack
By Balint Sos

Seen the Lánchíd four times this week? Parliament, the Castle, Hero's Square all checked off your list? Great, now follow me, there's plenty more to do for people who like to wake up in the afternoon. What's your pleasure? Food? Art? Music? In this order? First, a warning: do all your eat-outs before 10 pm, as it's really hard to find something worth eating after that. At night, your only chance is our Turkish friends' food, which you can find on just about every corner of the main boulevard [Körút, that is]. Most people like Restaurant Szeráj, at least judging from the A8s and Jeeps the restaurant managers park in front of the building. Turkish places are generally open until 3 or 4 am, and are tasty and cheap, especially when compared with a McD's drive-thru, which is the only other option.

For arts, I'd recommend Vienna, but since you're here, let's examine our options. Not so many things from classical periods are to be found in Budapest, but there's plenty for the contemporary connoisseur. Museum Ludwig (Szent György tér 2) in the Castle, or MEO (József Attila u. 4-6), in the 4th district, bring the most foreign exhibitions to town. MEO is a piece of architectural eye-candy in itself; usually visitors like the building more than the exhibitions. Tickets are around 4-5 euros. If you have the nerves for modern dance, Trafó is your place (Liliom u. 41) in the 9th district. It regularly hosts performances by the best of the contemporary world scene. Try to catch a performance by József Nagy or Pál Frenák, both locals now living in France. There's also great food and interesting parties in the basement level. The building's architecture is similar to the post-industrial fashion MEO epitomizes, complementing beautifully the dark-gothic/industrial parties held every second Sunday. Dress code: black.

Budapest, in terms of population, is more than twice as big as Prague, meaning that, in terms of late-night outdoor activities, there's plenty to choose from, and almost as many to avoid. The real gems take the form of courtyard garden bars like Szimpla, entered from Kazinczy street, just off Kiraly. These places combine an art-student atmosphere with a slightly more grown-up freak-chic. Underground raves still abound, though the (in)famous bath parties are few and far between, due to the scene being blown up.

Everyone will tell you to go to Zöld Pardon or Romkert, but just don't, OK? Barbie and Ken are partying there, and if you'd really like to see them, at least take lots of money along and leave good taste at home. A better decision would be the newer places just next to them. Opposite Zöld Pardon, the A38 ship (yes, a huge ship on the Danube) can be fun, but check whether there's a party, otherwise you'll find an upper-crust chatroom and restaurant. Near Romkert is Ráckert (on the Buda side of the Erzsebet bridge), which is kinda the same scene, except that it's the younger University Barbie and College Ken who are having fun there.

Further downtown, the recently reopened Gozsdu-udvar (Kiraly street) is a spectacular place, too bad they had to trade in the great visuals of the older incarnation for severely water-based beers and shots. Still, there's no better place for mild LSD trips.

For the Johntravolta-ish, there are plenty of cool new places to show them moves. Mokka Cuka (obudai, also known as Pepsi Island, in the middle of the forest) and West-Balkán (11th district, Kopesziget) are excellent. They both have a very strong line-up of Hungarian and international djs set for this summer (Quantic, Big Bud, Paradox, Patrick Forge, Ty, Dublex and Freelance Hellraiser have already been here, and it's only June) and entry is always free. The only drawback is that they're off the map, but you can enjoy a great bumpy Riksa ride from Lágymányosi-bridge to West-Balkán. And that leads to another warning: take good trekking shoes, because public transport at night is nonexistent in some parts of the city, or a cool place to end your life in other parts. Taxi? Strictly for the bourgeois. Balint Sos is a student of toxicology. Hypothetically speaking, if the Budapest Pill were a reality, he would be all up in it.

Related articles

Facebook comments

Comeflex Consulting s.r.o.

Ready-made company from COMEFLEX

Holmes Place Premium Karlín

Flexi membership with summer months for free!

Cafe 80's

Feel the rhythm and party to the biggest hits of the 80’s!

Craft House Prague

27 taps with excellent craft beers and ciders in the center...

Expedia Services CZ, s.r.o.

Plan your trip with Expedia. Buy airline tickets, read...

Other Way Holiday

Maldives - The Sunny Side of Life!

Voluntair s.r.o.

Have fun. Help. Volunteer overseas - Let us organize your...

Sapa trip

Prague Sapa tours

PragueMonitor.com

Prague’s # 1 source for Czech news in English…

PragueConnect.cz

Expat and Czech Business Professional Network

ManSprichtDeutsch.cz

Deutschsprachiges Informationsportal