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Drinking With Valery Who Fights The Russians

The average Sunday in Prague.

PRAGUE, Czech Republic- Prague people hang out. I’m staying in Prague 6 outside of the tourist area — on the other side of the castle. It’s not bad out here: calm, relaxing, pedestrian, residential, boring — exactly what I’m looking for in a place to set up a base of operations. What I’m looking for is a span of a city where I can go out and meet the people who live there; where I can sit down and have a beer with someone who wants to talk with me for another purpose other than selling me something.

On Sundays people just hang out in front of bars drinking beer and laughing. Few other businesses are open today and there seems to be nothing better to do.

I hang out at this place called Hostinec Dringopol. Nobody seemed to like me there when I first showed up which made it slightly more interesting. I guess I hadn’t broken the ice yet.

It’s a local dive bar — the people here are working class drinkers downing as much beer as possible on their day off. In the USA I suppose they would be “my people.”

Well, my people by birthright perhaps. I grew up working class in a working class swath co the country but I don’t know where I stand anymore. I’ve traveled too long to have a “my people” anymore anyway. I guess my people may be other long-term travelers but the number of them that I even know of who are still going I can count on one hand: Andy Graham and a couple guys who read this blog — you, Trevor!

Most travelers — even those who do it for many years — treat it more as a recreational activity than a lifestyle. That’s cool and enviable — man, I wish I could stomach going around the world just playing and drinking and humping all day long, but my attention span simply isn’t that long: I gotta actually do something.

I’m into the lifestyle aspect of travel — that’s what interesting for me. And a lifestyle means work, ambitions, family, and an entire array of normal-ness played out in a procession of destinations around the world. The ceaseless visiting of tourism sites just doesn’t compare in my opinion.

***
An hour and two beers in I’m breaking the ice here at the Drinopol. It’s not difficult to do: you just have to be friendly, open, and not shy. You look people in the eye, smile, talk some nonsense, and engage people. The same recipe for everywhere. Some cultures embrace outsiders engaging them; some recoil from it; but in all cases it is the social aggressor who holds the power in the relationship. Remember this, it gives you bigger balls.

***
An old guy named Ivan eventually sat down in front of me. He didn’t speak much English and I don’t speak any Czech. But we drank together and laughed anyway. I took some portraits of him.

The first conversation is always key when breaking into a new community. You want people to see you talking to someone they know. When they see this the implicit thought seems to be: ‘Well, ___ is talking to this dipshit, he can’t be all that bad.’ You want to establish yourself as safe and make people feel comfortable around you. That first conversation is the ice breaker.

***
I spent most of my time this Sunday at the Drinopol drinking with Valery. Valery likes to fight the Russians. He’s from Ukraine and is going back in a week or so to fight again.

He told me stories of the Russians bombing villages and killing children …

But he did so while somehow maintaining his charm.

In my opinion, Ukraine is one of the most interesting countries in the world right now. You go there and walk around and except for the odd public beating things seem remarkable chill and normal. But then you read the news about the place and it seems to be an absolute clusterfuck: battles and riots and assassinations and corruption and revolution oh my!

Yeah, I want to go back there.

Filed under: Czech Republic, Drink Drank Drunk

About the Author:

Wade Shepard is the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. He has been traveling the world since 1999, through 88 countries. He is the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China, and contributes to The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3422 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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Wade Shepard is currently in: Prague, Czech Republic

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