Liberec

An indoor aquapark, schwimmscheisse and the Czech New Wave: Jeff Koyen rambles to Liberec.

Liberec is a small town little more than an hour outside of Prague. Like so many small towns that aren’t given ink in the Lonely Planet guidebook, it is beautiful and virtually tourist free. Pack a bathing suit and take the green Metro to the last stop, Cerný most. Hop on the bus at gate 54 and an hour and change later, about 68 Kc poorer, you’re in Liberec.




Off the bus, find the town center, conveniently identified by the...yes...the Tesco. You’re heading to the Centrum Babylon Liberec located at Nitranská 1, a ten-minute walk from the center. Consult the town map or ask for directions; everyone knows where it is. The Centrum Babylon is Liberec’s wholesome family playground, an all-inclusive wonderland for all-day fun with the kids. There’s an arcade for them, a bar for you, and young and old alike can frolic in the aquapark. Yes: aquapark, aka water park. An indoor water park.




If you’re working your way through a bad hangover, the water park will be your salvation. Fork over the two-hundred-some Kc for unlimited access, change into your swimming trunks, lock up your valuables and jump in. There are four waterslides that twist and turn from varying heights. The lowest starts on the first floor, the highest on the fourth. The best one sends you down several frightening, unlit corkscrews and then – whoosh! – deposits you into what can only be described as a giant toilet bowl. Depending on how streamlined you are, you’ll glide around the edge once, twice or thrice until your momentum runs out. Then you slide into the center and – plop! – you’re flushed into the pool below. There’s an observation deck above you, so don’t be surprised to see dozens of laughing Czechs watching your bewilderment and horror at becoming a human turd.




Elsewhere in the complex, find the sauna room, wading grottoes, hot tub and steam baths. Spend a couple hours in the water, or however long you need for last night’s toxins to seep out of your body. Get wrinkly. Shower off – definitely shower off, there are children in the water, after all – and change back into your street clothes. Walk back to the center. Ask for directions to the town square, which (despite the McDonald’s) you will find to be just as beautiful as just about any square in Prague, only without the packs of tourists. Have a coffee at one of the outdoor restaurants and, if you’re ready for it, the first drink of the day. Maybe eat dinner there, too. It’s a restaurant on the main square basking in the shadow of beautiful architecture, but this isn’t Prague: Your dinner will be affordable.
Once the sun has set, ask for directions to Tržní námestí. You’re heading to a club called Let’s Go Let at Tržní námestí 11. It’s a bit tricky to find, as it’s set off the square a bit, but if you wander a bit and listen for signs of life you’ll stumble upon it eventually. The night we went, we caught two bands. The first, Pan Kix, wasn’t horrible but wasn’t wonderful. Kind of an attempt at mainstream metal rock. The singer, though, was a little cutie-pie wearing a shirt that declared her “PUNK.” She was a bit too young to really understand the word as anything other than a marketing term, but fuck it. She was, as noted, a cutie-pie.




Second up: The Radios, a band that’s actually from Prague but happened to be playing Liberec. They’re a weird, modernized New Wave band. The lead singer, Míša, is a tiny little thing who leans into the mic and does her best Siouxsie Sioux by way of early 80s L.A. punk. The Radios are the Mr. Potatohead of Czech New Wave. They’ve borrowed a nose from here, eyes from there, ears from somewhere else. We heard a Cure bass line, some familiar drum smacks and a bunch of other New Wave touches and flairs that caught our brains, but nothing so specific that we screamed theft. They even had an occasional horn section provided by the Korg as manned by a guy who looked like he’d stepped off a Kraftwerk album cover. If you catch them at their June 22 show in Prague (see “Picks”), request their cover of The Talking Heads’ “Road to Nowhere” or “Sweet Jane”.




While at Let’s Go Let, ask for bartender to introduce you to Guido, a crazy-eyed old man with a scraggly, gray beard. He’s the resident character. On the night of our visit, he took the stage twice and belted out some wild blues more full of delta than anyone we’d ever seen stateside. Think of an older David Yow possessed by the ghost of Robert Johnson. If nothing else is happening at the club, Guido alone will make the trip worthwhile.




When the house lights come up, ask for directions to a club named Hut, a ten-minute walk from Let’s Go Let. Hut, too, is tricky to find because it, too, is tucked away from the road, and the small building seems better suited for hosting a congregation of born again Christians. Or maybe a Howard Johnson’s circa 1982. Depending on your tastes, this place will be heaven or hell. A tight, sweaty dance club offering up cruise ship music, packed with lotsa mullets and hot pants. We stepped in, we stepped out.


On then to Liquid, a dance club which is practically accessible only by taxi. If you want to chill a bit, dance a bit, lounge on a couch, maybe play some foosball, Liquid will make you happier than Hut did. We spent a couple hours chilling, dancing, lounging, playing foosball. Cheap drinks, drugs in the bathroom, maybe some fumbling sex with a local sporting pupils as large as a 50 heller coin.


Now then, walk back to town. The sun should be coming up soon, but your bus doesn’t leave for another couple hours. Back to the town square. Facing the McDonald’s, walk down the street to your left and find a couple herna bars. One has a couple pool tables as well as the usual assortment of locals who will alternate between warm slaps on your back to that particular brand of Czech derision. Fuck it, though – it goes with the territory. Shoot some pool, have a couple drinks, kill time.


Your bus will leave soon, maybe another hour. Walk back to the bus station. Take out the Frisbee. Toss it around, ask each other stupid questions that aren’t at all stupid when you’re in this kind of altered mood. Relish the rising sun. Get on the bus, try to sleep for an hour. Back home, rinse your bathing suit and hang it to dry in the bathroom. Hit the bed and waste away the day in a slumber of recovery.





—Jeff Koyen is generally in a recovery-based state at jeffkoyen@hotmail.com



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