Martin Pošta made a mark on Prague in October when his Signal festival of light installations and video mapping brought an estimated quarter of a million people onto the streets over one weekend. The Croatian-born film school graduate – and former director of Fresh Film Fest – lives on Polská St. in Vinohrady, right by Riegrovy sady park. On a bench overlooking the park’s longest slope, Martin Pošta explains why he’s chosen this particular spot to begin our tour of “his Prague”.
You can see all the way across to the Castle from here.
“All the way to the Castle. It’s a kind of kitsch view but from my point of view it’s THE view of Prague, I guess. Then thirdly I pass through here every day on my way to work. So it’s really like a hub for me, in a certain way.”
Where we’re sitting now there’s a big slope. What kind of scene do you see here in the summer, during the summer evenings in particular?
“I used to run for a long time a film festival called Fresh Film Fest. It takes place in August every year. And what we did was turn this slope into an open-air cinema.
Also of course even when you haven’t got the festival running there can be perhaps hundreds of people here.
“Yes, it’s nice or bizarre, depending on your view of it. There are people sunbathing all over Riegrovy sady. And there are specific characters you can spot, every day when there’s sunshine you can spot them walking around, with their specific oddities I guess…”
Are you talking about the old man who walks around in the very small swimming trunks?
“And there’s this oval which you can go jogging in…”
In the Sokol [sports club]?
“In the Sokol. And it has a swimming pool, which I haven’t been to yet. But it’s just across the street from me so I guess I will one day.
“And what of course I forgot to mention is there’s this huge beer garden where you can grab a beer, or the small… formerly this building [near the benches above the slope] in the centre, it’s called Mlíkárna…”
It’s like a dairy or something.
“Dairy, yes. Now it’s a small pub with a nice rooftop view.”
I wanted to ask you about this. I counted four places where you can get a beer in Riegrovy sady: the big beer garden, the small place opposite it, Mlíkárna and So Kool, the bar in Sokol, across from your place. Which do you think is the best spot for a beer in the park?
“I personally would prefer Mlíkárna, because it’s not as big as the huge beer garden and I think they have quite cold beer.”
One thing that strikes me as likable about Riegrovy sady is that it seems so kind of random – the shape of it. It hasn’t been laid out.
“No, it hasn’t, at all. I actually pass through Riegrovy sady so many times but you still find certain points where, although it’s not big, you can get lost or where you’ve never been before.
“So it is randomly shaped. But it kind of revolves, you can say, around the running track at the Sokolovna.”
Maybe this will sound like a strange question in the wake of everything that we’ve just been saying, but is there any down side to Riegrovy sady, anything you don’t like about the place?
“No, not really, I can’t recall. Because it’s nice, reasonably quiet considering how many people walk around, clean – and that’s from a father’s point of view – and safe.
“So, it’s all good. I recommend it for a visit – definitely!”
The next stop on our jaunt around Martin Pošta’s Prague is Rašínovo nábřeží quay. Perhaps better known as Náplavka, it hosts a farmers’ market and – in large part thanks to the bike shop and bar Bakyazl – has become one of the liveliest spots in the city in the summer months. So, what is it about Náplavka that appeals to my guide?
“I guess you can see for yourself. It’s kind of the only Prague beach, I would say. And I think everybody living in Prague misses the water, or touch with water, in a certain sense.
“Not more than three or four years ago it used to be dead here. Now you come here and see thousands or hundreds of people coming here every day, enjoying this newly discovered part of the city.
“This Bajkazyl place was at the very beginning of all of it. The A(void) Gallery [a boat] was here before but it was kind of… careful.
“But with Bajkazyl concerts started happening here and you can see people every second passing on their bikes.
“This is actually the last stop on my biking route. I used to go to nearly every second day after work. I would hop on my bike and do this nearly 40-kilometre round trip or circle, which would nearly end here. It was the beer after hopping of the bike, and then you’d ride off back to Vinohrady.”
Also it seems to me that a lot of Prague suffers from curfews. A lot of places have to close early, but here because there’s a street between the quay and where people live it can be noisier.
“Yeah. Sometimes there is, I wouldn’t say parties, but, you know, things going on until after midnight. There is also the river barrier, a kind of virtual barrier between here and the other part of the city. So you can hang really late and there are nights when it’s packed like crazy.”
You mentioned cycling. Tell us about your route – where do you go?
“Normally I start in Vinohrady and then I pass down here to this highway. On the Podolí side there are so many people cycling and roller skating, and obviously the cyclists don’t like roller skaters and vice versa. So I’m not really fond of skaters, but you have to kind of work your way around them [laughs].
“Anyway, you basically go to the very end of that and then you take a detour to Modřany. All of a sudden you’re in Modřanská rokle which is this, I wouldn’t say paradise but it’s something completely different.
“Once you get out of there you go to Točná, which is a small airport, and all of a sudden you’re just not in the city at all. You just feel like you’re somewhere in the countryside, near villages.
“Then I come back to Zbraslav, back here to this highway and then back home.
“It takes about two and a half hours to do this 40-kilometre round trip. It’s so nice to basically just switch off your brain. I put my headphones on and just enjoy the sights and stuff. It’s really nice.”
Martin Pošta stops for a beer at Náplavka on the final leg of his long bike route, but when he’s going out for an evening on the sauce, he regularly heads for Lokál on Dlouhá St. Indeed in its výčep or tap room, there is a shelf where he and his mates have their own half-litre glasses – and it’s not hard to see why Lokál is his pub of choice in Prague.
“It’s actually a brand new pub but it’s kind of taken on the appearance of the old traditional Czech pubs: smoky, cranky bartenders (though it’s not really like that now) and typical Czech dishes.
“And it probably has the best beer in Prague – or one of the best beers. It’s Pilsner and it’s in tanks – it’s not saturated by gas but is propelled by compressed air, so it doesn’t give you the specific taste that some beers have.
“My friends and I started coming here and we meet here every Monday. That kind of earned us a special place which is for štamgasts…”
Štamgasts means regulars.
“Yes, and we’re sitting at the regulars’ table now. Two years ago we started a Movember support team here…”
This is growing moustaches for charity in the month of November.
“Yeah. And it’s how we earned our ‘Mokál’ – like Movember-Lokál – mugs, which we have engraved and personalised with our names on.”
Where else do you like to go in Prague for a beer? Or even for a coffee?
“My friend runs a small coffee place in Vinohrady, called Mezi Zrnky. She has this beautiful coffee machine and she’s all in love with coffee, which I think is now quite trendy.
“I also like to sit down on Jiřího z Poděbrad when there is sunshine and just sip on a coffee…”
Just on the square?
“Just on the square. There are a bunch of coffee places you can go – the French one, the Italian one, or you can just buy one at the farmers’ market, sit down, maybe get some snack, something to eat from Antonínovo pekařství, which is brand new and is really nice...”
I can vouch for this – it’s a fantastic bakery.
“It’s newly opened and they bake their own bread. As opposed to industrially made bread it’s something totally different, and it’s not even expensive – it’s just normal prices. And it has this touch to it.
“And I think finally now people are realising that everything that is ‘super’ doesn’t necessarily have to be super. So they’re going back to the ‘roots’ and finding the nice things about small bakeshops or small butchers or farmers’ markets.
“It’s really odd for me coming originally from Croatia, where the farmers’ market was THE market. Now, finally, you don’t have to go to the supermarket to buy a pale, odd-looking tomato that is not really a tomato – it’s something grown in foil.”
It’s like a bag of water, basically.
“It basically is.”
What pubs do you like going to in Prague, apart from Lokál?
“I really like this small bar in the very centre of Prague called Čili. It’s run by friends and the bartenders are friends. It’s really tiny. You can fit maximum 50 people.
“I actually celebrated there the birth of my twins and they didn’t all fit in but I think over 100 people came to this celebration – it was fun.”