“If my memory served me right, that pub should be right here”, I silently assured myself. But even after walking up and down that lane several times, all I could see were the homes of locals.
As I was making up my mind to knock on one of those sleepy homes, a car stopped nearby and a man stepped down. On enquiring, he told me that the pub I was searching for has shut down a couple of months back due to financial losses.
Now there might be people who would be interested in the existence of a pub, but I am not one of them. My interests lied in the bar owner I had met here more than a year back. Back in July 2015, I had walked into a pub in this small town of Český Krumlov, only to meet some of the best strangers in life. These strangers, as the night rolled on, would become friends for life.
Český Krumlov is a small town in the South Bohemia region of Czech Republic. Pronounced as Chesky Kroom-lof and tucked in the hairpin bend of River Vltava, this Bohemian town is known for its storybook-like environs, complete with cobblestone streets, dungeons and moats, pastel color houses, cave restaurants and a medieval castle which could easily feature in a Disney or Harry Potter movie. It might have been the swish of an invisible wand that had enchanted me to extend my two days’ stay by another day.
It all started with my urge to hear gypsy music at a gypsy bar on the third night. The place had just started to buzz with excitement for the upcoming live performance, when a woman walked up to me asking if she could share my table. I think half the reason why I said yes to her was because she was cradling one of the cutest dog I have ever seen. I think half the reason Beverly chose to sit with me was because by some inkling she knew Emma, her dog, would love me. And that’s how began our interesting conversation and eventually an amazing friendship.
That day I learned an interesting aspect about friendship. That it is not bound by age, nor by nationality or ethnicity. Beverly, who lives in South Carolina, is double my age. But not for one single moment did I feel that I could not be friends with her. Sitting there, giggling at one of the band member’s growing interest in me, we were probably just sixteen at heart. Encouraging me to return his flirty smiles, Bev had said, “You are young only once.”
I know she was right, but shy as always, I couldn’t do anything except return some of those flirty glances. Instead, once the performance was over, I decided to join Bev as she headed to another pub to meet some more friends she had made the previous night. The American woman had a magnetic personality, and I was not surprised that she already knew people in this town.
We went to a rather inconspicuous pub on the opposite street - the one I would come in search for after one year - where I met an array of interesting personalities. Being visually impaired hadn’t stopped Ra, the traveler from New Zealand, from heading out to explore the world. Monika and Abegail, the Canadian girls of Filipino and African descent respectively, had set out on an Eurotrip at a young age of just 21 years. And last but not the least, there was the friendly bar owner who was persistent about making us try Absinthe.
We didn’t look into our phones even for once that night. It was just like it happened in the good old days when people talked with each other, instead of furiously typing messages and obsessively checking for replies. A rambling conversation followed, creating a night full of memories to last us a lifetime. But as destiny would have it, under the influence of countless glasses of Czech beer, I forgot to ask the bar owner’s name, the only one I could have met again on a second visit.
So when I happened to be back at Český Krumlov in October 2016, I could not help but retrace my steps back to that little pub where I had met all those wonderful people. Ghosts of memories rushed past my eyes as I walked expectantly to that wooden door, only to be rudely brought back to reality when I was told, what I was searching for, did not exist anymore.
Of course, I would not have found my friends even if I had found the pub. But to reminisce about a good memory is one of the most comforting things in the world. That is why I wanted to find the bar owner.
But how do you find a nameless person in a town of about 14000 people and countless more tourists? By some luck, I got entangled in a comedy of errors, which ultimately led me right to the door of my old friend.
The culprit beer may be the sole cause of confusion, but a chat with Bev revealed that his name may be Daniel. Off I went in search of Daniel – a guy with long hair, in the pubs of Český Krumlov. Luckily in a small town, there are not as many pubs as in a city, which helped me narrow down the options. But every time I would ask about Daniel, the locals at the pubs would look at me suspiciously. At one certain bar, the bartenders were kind enough to let me know that Daniel was a married man and his wife would hear of his infidelity. Puzzled by this awkward revelation, it took me a moment to realize that the locals have been thinking of me as the other woman in Daniel's life. Flabbergasted, I quickly told them the story from a year back and that I meant no harm to his married life, whatsoever. And then out of some hunch, I cross-checked Daniel’s appearance with them.
It turned out that I had been searching for the wrong man all along. The infamous Daniel was indeed the owner of the pub, but it was Federico, the bartender, whom we had met that night.
The best part about small towns is that mostly everyone knows everyone. The kind bartenders directed me to another pub at the other end of the town where Federico came to play guitar on certain days of the week and the good folks of that pub finally guided me to where he lived. It was Federico himself who opened the door as I uncertainly knocked on it.
At 19, Federico likes to play the guitar more than attending high school and dreams of joining a professional band some day. After making sure he was above the legal age of drinking, I bought him a beer and chatted with him about our good old friends and that good old night of July 2015. Once again I came to believe that age played no part in friendship and if ever I come back to this small town, it will no longer be a town full of strangers.
Out there in the world, there are some amazing strangers destined to be a part of our lives. Unless we travel, we will never find them and unless we find them, we would never make some of the best memories of our lives.
Back at Prague, my shy self finally decided to try Tinder for the first time and swiped right for a Romanian guy. We matched; and that is a story for another time.