In a hotel bar in Poděbrady, a small town on the River Labe (or Elbe), east of Prague, north of Kutna Hora (a depressed vicar of a town where I found a closed brewery in 2011 as well as a church full of human bones). It is a small hotel bar, slightly smoky, serving just PU, a TV over one wall, ice hockey on, a marionette hangs from the ceiling.The hotel and its bar is next to the river, and the bar has eight men inside, a beer waiter in black and white, CCTV on legs, constantly watching over the drinkers, who has an empty glass, who is due to finish, who is ok for the moment but still drinking quite swiftly. Glasses of Midas-like golden beer topped with thick foam are brought out, the foam as white as the snow that last night dis-robed itself so obligingly on the grass bank I can see outside through the window; the beer bracing in bitterness, seductive in sweetness, resiny, a fine expression of Saaz, a resounding bitterness in the finish. No other beer is sold in this hotel bar. The conversation of the pub people interrupts my daydreams, the yarns and yawns at the end of the working day, and I catch the eye of the waiter as I drain my glass: another one please and for a moment we are the best of friends.
This is a place past which I walked on my way to see the Labe (or Elbe) flow by, a mighty river it will become, a river that will cut and thrust its way through the Czech lands before taking a name change on the border, and there was this hotel, looking comfortable and casual, offering the sight of people sitting at a table, glittering glasses of beer in their hands, a sense of bustle and consolation somehow being transmitted through the window, interpreted and acted on, in the act of myself walking through the door. And I am so glad I walked through that door, for once inside I found the sounds and sights of pub life that always make me feel happy - for is not happiness possibly the mark of every pleasing pub or bar that impresses?