A Special Thing in Žižkov
Just come in, use the wifi, have a cup of tea, sit down, and ...
If you happen to stroll down Žižkov’s Bořivojova Street nowadays, past neighborhood cornerstones the Clown and Bard Hostel, Malkovich Bar, and Bukowski’s, you might notice an eccentric newcomer making noise on the corner of Chvalova.
Open only for a mere six weeks, žižkovšiška is already gaining a lot of buzz in the neighborhood. But what most people wonder as they pass its entrance, with its windows full of random bric-a-brac, walls of graffiti, and the juicer placed seemingly at random in the doorway, is what the heck is this place?
“It’s like a community centre kind of,” explains Gordon Stone – Dublin transplant, map guru, and the mastermind behind žižkovšiška. “So far you can just come in, use the wifi, have a cup of tea, sit down, and you don’t necessarily have to do anything more than that.”
In just over a month, the place has boasted a wide variety of events – from cookery workshops, to musical performances, to art openings – and with interest increasing, doesn’t look like it’s going to slow down any time soon.
“I wanted to rent something on this street,” Gordon tells me. “Originally I was looking for an office – because I had other ideas, like some kind of web shop and stuff – and then I found this place. I thought it’d be a shame to leave it closed to the public. It’s such a good location.”
Gordon is the creator of City Spy Mapping – detailed cultural maps of European cities that anyone who has stayed in a hostel in Europe should be familiar with. Due to their mandate that all of their information be sourced by locals, Gordon has spent much of the last fifteen years on the road, gathering information firsthand. Despite seeming to have lived almost everywhere in Europe, he still calls Czech Republic home – Žižkov in particular.
Which brings me to the name: what does žižkovšiška mean?
Gordon grins. “Šiška is like a three-meaning word...originally it’s the cone on a pine tree, and it also stands for something more special. So if you say something is šiškavati, it means it’s different, it’s a special thing on the tree...
“The third is that it’s a nickname for a bud of dope, which is also very relevant to this neighborhood,” he chuckles.
The events take place every Wednesday from seven in the evening and run by donation, so don’t worry if you’re low on cash – you can still learn how to make henna tattoos, play marimba, or cook paella. “I’m hoping people will understand the vibe,” Gordon says of their DIY ethos. “So far, we’ve broken even more or less every time.”
The type of crowd they have been attracting has been diverse: tourists from the hostel down the road, lots of expats, teenagers on summer vacation, parents with children, and yes, even some locals. “We get probably like thirty percent local reaction so far, but it’s summer time and all the locals are on holidays, so we expect that to change in the next month. But the local people here as well are gradually sticking their nose in and having a look around.”
In addition to the Wednesday events and the art gallery that changes once a month, they have a number of unique products for sale too: beautifully handcrafted notebooks, clothing, jewellery, sunglasses, only to name a few. “Just things we picked up on our travels.”
Right now, the identity of the place is still very much up in the air, and despite being the main push behind getting žižkovšiška up and running, Gordon maintains that it’s the community’s space – that it’s up to the people to decide what they want to see happen with it.
“We’ll keep running the Wednesday thing for sure. I’d like to bring more music onto the street. I’d like to have more busking here because we have a great corner.”
So if you find yourself passing by the corner of Chvalova and Bořivojova anytime soon, do yourself a favor and join in on the fun.
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