I could go on and on about the benefits of solo travel, but the truth is, sometimes it gets lonely – and it did for me in a few cities on this last trip. Something I recommend to people traveling solo for the first time is to sign up for a tour. As one of my tour guides once told me, when the guide asks everyone where they are from, it gives people on the tour permission to then talk to each other: “Where in Bulgaria are you from?” “I have an aunt and uncle in Indianapolis – is that nearby?” “I’ve always wanted to go to Luxembourg,” – even if you legitimately have no context for the place they mentioned. I knew I could fend for myself in the smaller cities, but I wanted to explore the bar scene with others when in Prague, and signed up for an Urban Adventures’ Beer & Czech Tapas Tour.
I met our guide Misa on the Saturday evening of my visit. Our small group of 10 or 12 included a few other Americans (including some women my age), a few coworkers from Hamburg, a couple from Denmark, and some Brits. It didn’t include a gentleman, who, a month later, I think I remember being named, “Jason” – he was late and going to meet us at the first stop. This will come into play later, I promise.
The first thing we did when we met was hop on the subway. I don’t always travel by subway in other cities, but Misa explained the system in Prague and it was super-easy as there are just three lines. Our ride gave me the idea to try it out on my own in Berlin and Paris later in my trip. We got off the subway and walked just a bit further to our first bar on the crawl: Vinohradský Pivovar. Misa explained that “pivovar” is Czech for “brewery” and, further, that “pivo” means “beer”. All the Czech we really needed to know for this tour was “pivo, prosím,” or “beer, please.” The group quickly learned that instead of just sampling beers at each spot, we were getting full beers, meaning that we were going to be drinking a lot. Luckily, we were also going to be eating a lot.
At Vinohradský, a variety of snacks was brought to our table along with our first round of drinks. I ordered something of the wheat variety (even though sometimes I think I’m allergic to wheat beer) and it was one of my favorites of the tour. Our snacks included a duck pate with cranberries, almonds, and onion marmalade, cold roast beef with mustard sauce and cucumber, and some bread. It was good to fill up before we really went for it. It was here at Vinohradský where we learned Jason wasn’t going to be joining us after all – yes, this is important.
We took a shuttle to our next bar that I sadly never caught the name of – just one good reason to sign up for the tour yourself. Here we each had two drinks and Topinky, fried bread with garlic spread, which I suppose is Prague’s answer to garlic bread. I love garlic so I slathered the spread on my bread as if it were peanut butter or smashed avocado and quickly regretted it. I’ve never had something so overwhelmingly garlicky in my life and was glad I had beer to wash it down – even if I’d accidentally ordered a Bavarian beer I’ve had before that reminds me of my old boss. I scraped the majority of the spread off and continued eating to fuel up, then ordered a local pilsner for my second drink.
It was at our third place, Restaurace U Sumavy, where we tried my favorite snack of the evening. It came in a jar and looked unlike anything I’d seen before aside from the pickled everything at the market in Budapest. I was right that it was pickled, but I didn’t guess that it was cheese – Pickled Camembert to be exact, with peppers and onions. When it was poured out from the jar, it became clear what was going on. It was truly the best food I tried in Prague. I couldn’t stop eating it, no matter how hard I tried. When I drink – oh, wait, no – *all of the time* – I really just want cheese.
Our last stop was U Pinkasu, where I’d actually been with my friend from college, also randomly in town, the night before. I knew their dark beers were awesome from our research the previous night so I ended my evening with one. We also got a sweet treat that I think was either fried apples or pancakes, but I’d had too many beers at that point to be listening or…remembering properly.
Here’s what happens during a beer tour, especially if you’ve been going out on your own and have stopped after one drink for the last few weeks – once you have three, four, or, okay, five times that amount in your system, things change:
(1) You become fast friends with the others on the tour because nobody would sign up for a beer tour if they wanted to sit there in silence. You share stories about your travels. You start to bully the self-proclaimed beer connoisseurs who didn’t finish their beers even though you finished every single drop of yours.
(2) You forget the small details of the night, like why Misa was talking about the different levels of foam you could get at U Pinkasu and what they represent, what all the numbers mean in Czech brews, and how to pronounce “thank you,” in Czech, which you got wrong every single time you said it over your six days in the Czech Republic.
(3) You start to think you’re really funny. Funny enough to keep bringing up Jason – the guy who didn’t make the tour. Funny enough to pretend that he’s your soulmate. Funny enough to tell everyone on the tour that you know Jason is another solo traveler from NYC who is hoping to find someone else to travel with but who would also be totally cool with her traveling on her own whenever she wanted. (Jason wants three dogs and likes crossword puzzles and ’90s sitcoms. He likes washing dishes and doing laundry.) Funny enough to keep asking where he is. All night.
I was totally making it up, of course – this is all coming from me – who used to pretend to be the bouncer at the bar and ask people to show her their IDs, who used to tell strangers that she left her six-year-old triplets at home with the babysitter, and who likes to ask at late-night pizza joints if people walking in have reservations. But I’m pretty sure that others on the tour thought I was serious.
After saying goodbye to my newfound friends, I took an Uber back home to my Airbnb, chugged some water, and fell asleep quickly. Miraculously, I awoke the next day without a hangover. I can’t recommend this tour enough – beer, food, friends, *and* the absence of a hangover? If only Jason had been able to join us. Email me if you have any leads.
Dekuji, Urban Adventures, for partnering with me on this tour. Opinions are always my own.