Month: April 2014

The Anonymous Bar Brothers and their vision

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Anonymous… According to the Oxford dictionary is defined as something having no outstanding, individual, or unusual features; unremarkable and impersonal. Interesting, considering that Anonymous Bar in the centre of Prague’s old town appears to be nothing short of remarkable and outstanding. I’d like to say that I don’t love a good drink and I’m not out almost every night, but that would be a lie. I’ve seen a lot, and I’ve never seen anything like this, nor have I met two owners that are so driven to succeed and really create something original amongst an ocean of mainstream tourist traps. I sat down for a chat with the “Anonymous brothers / owners” to see what makes them tick and found that the bar is particularly loveable for these reasons…

1. The three souls of the bar.

The brothers took inspiration from three stories or ‘souls’ stretched out over the last 400 years. The first being the true story of anti-hero/terrorist Guy Fawkes’ infamous and spoiled attempt to blow up the houses of parliament in London on November the 5th, 1605. The second soul was created by Alan Moore who wrote the graphic novel V for Vendetta that adapted Fawkes’ face into the mask that many now recognise as being a symbol of revolution and rebellion. The novel was later adapted into a film of the same name starring Natalie Portman. And finally, the third and final belongs to the hacker activist group ‘Anonymous’ who have also used the mask to rebel and expose government data to the general public.

2. The interior.

What was once an old horses stable has seen a great transformation over the years. The brothers have drawn inspiration from the 3 souls of the bar. All three can be seen clearly from the handmade furniture to famous and familiar paintings that have been airbrushed with the mask – everything has also been made and designed locally. The brothers have clearly spared no expense and have imprinted their vision and character upon every last brick. Even the toilets have the appearance of Evey’s (Portman) prison cell in the film.

3. The drinks.

Again drawn from inspiration of the 3 souls, each drink has been carefully crafted, selected and named. The brothers were kind enough to let Petr and I sample ‘V’s blood’ (named after V for Vendetta) – a blood bag labelled V+ filled with a homemade bitter infused with vermouth and raspberry tea which is then drizzled over a giant ice cube and mixed with brokers gin and campari – based on ‘negroni’, a cocktail made in Italy in 1919….incredible. The bartenders also bring a number of different qualities and entertainment to the hideout. As well as being trained as ‘mixologists’, they also bring charisma, dancing skills and some classy magic tricks.

Continue reading for a personal / anonymous interview with the brothers and to also see it all for yourself through Petr’s eyes and lenses. This is truly a spectacle that has to be seen by all. This kind of quality and originality is seldom seen in the Czech capital.

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Where are you guys from originally? Are you from Prague?

Anonymous 2: Yes, we were born here in Prague in Vinohradské nemocnice.

So you live together?

Anonymous 1: Yes, we have a little house there and we live together because we can do a lot of work. It’s good.

Ok, so doesn’t it ever drive you crazy that you live AND work together?

A2: Yes! (Laughs)

A1: No, it’s ok (laughs) My brother is a bartender and plans the drinks and entertainment whereas I look after the numbers, the PR etc.

How is your bar more unique than others? I know that you pride yourself on your drinks, especially the cocktails.

A2: Everything is about how you speak to the customers. Everything starts at the main doors. You start a conversation with them and ask them about their favourite base for the drinks.. Do they like vodka, whiskey, gin? Most people, especially here in Prague, think that a cocktail is just about juice and syrup. We want to show people how you can make and play with spirits and herbs and all these things, you know?

Sounds great. And whose dream was it to open this bar?

A2: Both of our dreams.

A1: When we found this place we didn’t really know what we wanted from it, it started with my brother and his bar work.

A2: I used to wear the (Fawkes) mask while I worked. I travelled in Europe doing a bartender’s competition and this mask became my image.

And why this mask specifically? Is it because you want to remain anonymous? Are you in the hacker activist group?

A2: If we were, do you think we would tell you?

No (laughs). But it was worth a try anyway.

A1: A lot of people don’t know what this mask means. Some people know it from Anonymous, but not many know where it originally came from. And that’s what we want to do; we want to explain the history of this face and of course to talk about V for Vendetta and ‘Anonymous’.

A2: Before we were here it was a strip bar, a typical one.

A1: We changed everything.

A2: I knew the story behind the mask and I suggested it to my brother and thought hmm… that could be cool! So we put our ideas together and combined the three ‘souls’. Everything has a reason – it all started with this mask. V’s terrorist hideout was the reason for our interior design here. Every original bar must have a concept.

A1: We have similar ideas to the hacker group ‘Anonymous’. We don’t have any brands here. We don’t have a deal with Coca-Cola or Absolut vodka. Everything here is from us. We don’t like the mainstream. A lot of bars here have too many brands.

A2: We have a motto here. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you’re from. Come to our hideout and relax.

It looks a lot like the real hideout from the film. I think people are going to be impressed! Have you ever had any really intense fans that actually come in wearing the mask already? I’ll be honest.. I probably would.

A2: Not many, but some people from all over the world directly come with the mask and of course we give them a bit of a bonus because we love this.

Great. I’ll bring mine next time then!

A2: We have had some very interesting customers. But we won’t talk about them because everyone has the chance to remain anonymous here. We don’t collect emails or any personal contact information. You can organise reservations through Facebook, but that’s it.

Ok, now Guy Fawkes was seen as a bit of an anti-hero in English history. A terrorist, but also as a freedom fighter. After all, they celebrate this day every year by lighting bonfires in London. Do you think that the Czech Republic has a similar anti-hero in its history?

A1: Yes, maybe Jan Palach.. He burned himself in protest against the Russian occupation.

And what do you generally think about the hacker group? Do you support them? Are they active in Prague?

A2: We’re not going to tell you! (Laughs) On Facebook we get sent a lot of invitations to participate in events. They are actually raising awareness about plastic foreign objects in food in the US right now – we support them not by joining them, but in our own personal way.

What is your favourite cocktail?

A1: The Monkey 47 gin and tonic, it’s an old one from Germany. The gin is of a very high quality.

A2: And mine, 100%, is the New Orleans Fizz – gin, egg whites, fresh lemon, lime, sugar, vanilla, cream soda and orange flower water. The egg whites combine the flavours together. You must shake the drink for 10 minutes, which sometimes can take a while on a Friday (laughs). It’s originally from nineteenth century New Orleans. But, my favourite drink also depends on how I wake up in the morning.

And A2, what inspired you to get into mixology?

A2: It was all about studying and reading about it. And of course also trying everything behind the bar and experimenting.

What advice do you have for people planning to open their own bar?

A2: You must love it and you must find people who think the same way as you. Now in this age, it’s not easy to survive – so you need a lot of friends to help and support you, like we do. What you imagine in your head – put it in your hands.

Sounds cool. Now onto our People in Prague questions! How would you describe Prague?

A1: It’s amazing.

A2: Historic.

A1: It’s crazy. Every night in Prague is crazy actually.

A2: And weird. I mean, everywhere here you can still smoke in restaurants. Czech Republic and Albania are the only countries left in Europe that are doing this.

If you could go back in time and see anything, what would you see?

A1: If I could choose I would like to see the Czech Republic in the 16th century or Prague in the 13th or 14th century. Or 16th century in London. I would love to see New York City during the financial crisis – Black Friday.

A2: In 1830, the godfather of bartending Jerry Thomas created all of these drink categories. I would like to have him here in the bar.

And Finally, for the silliest question… Do you think Natalie Portman has a bad English accent in V for Vendetta?

A1: (Laughs)

A2: There are always three teams of people; those who love it, those who hate it and those who don’t care. But for me, Natalie Portman promoted the film, she put the story out so I don’t care about her accent because she did a good job… and she’s very beautiful of course.

For more information or to make a reservation, refer to their Facebook page or website.

Written and transcribed by Ryan Keating. Photography by Petr Kurečka.

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Nicole on Mormonism and finding herself in Prague

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Nicole’s flat seemed to be perspiring with this ridiculously massive wave of love from the moment we walked in! Petr realized that he had been in the exact same apartment years ago to take photos of a famous Czech actress. The flat had obviously undergone quite a transformation since then – fairy lights littering the doorways along with scattered hearts covering the blank walls. Also, the spectacular 360 degree views certainly added to the wow factor. This place was epic, as was Nicole’s story.

In our everyday rat race we often see Mormons and other Christian denominations taking to the streets and preaching the word of their god to many, but rarely do we get a glimpse of the inside… And I’m not talking about the “garments” protecting their skin and decency. Nicole referred to Mormonism as not so much of a religion, but a lifestyle. Scroll down for a look at this lifestyle as well as her transformation and sudden epiphany that her future was in the Czech capital.

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Where are you from Nicole?

I was born and raised about 20 miles north of Washington D.C. I’m an east coast girl. Really near the city, the suburbs I guess.

What brought you to Prague?

Hmmm million dollar question! The easier answer or the hard answer?

Whatever you want to tell me!

Dissatisfaction with my own life… A lack of fulfilment. And this wanderlust that was growing inside me drew me to travel. As a teacher I was working two jobs because I wasn’t earning enough to support myself.

Really? The salary is that bad?

I was in the best paid county. I served by night and I taught by day. I was averaging about 70+ hours a week and I owned my own home. Basically, I was doing everything on paper that was supposed to make me quote unquote “happy”. But I was exhausted and uninspired. Before I knew it 5 years had gone, I had done nothing. I also have this bizarre fear of ageing!

I think a few people do now…

So I kind of made a decision to make a drastic change, if I didn’t I would be 40 and still not have experienced anything outside of that current world. The grind of serving and the 9-5 job was tiresome. Once I was serving on “Cinco de Mayo,” a big Mexican holiday and which also happened to be the day before my birthday. I worked at the stroke of midnight and realized that I was officially 30 and elbow deep in people’s leftover food. I remember thinking to myself, this cannot be ‘it’! So I left, but it took two years. I sold my home and everything that I own basically. And I dragged my ass to the Czech Republic!

Why the Czech Republic? Why Prague?

Why not?! Because it’s an amazing beautiful city that is preserved. The harder answer is more practical; I was thinking about how I could survive in another country. The only talent I had was English, so I looked at the teaching programs. And decided on (plug!), the Language House TEFL Program, it made it possible for me to be here. So I looked into that and went ahead! It also happened to be a place where I could teach and travel at the same time.

And what did you do in DC?

Well, I actually… I’ve kinda been all over the place. I went to Georgetown University and I took a hiatus from school when I was REALLY young. It was meant to be 6 months and turned into 6 years. I ended up doing two road trips across the country. That’s where my wanderlust blossomed a bit. After that I leased apartments in Alexandria, VA… just outside of D.C. So I lived there a bit, then went to Maryland’s suburbs to go to school and get a teaching degree and began teaching in the public schools system.

So you taught in public schools? What was that like?

Yeah it’s an extremely high stress environment. You are highly under appreciated and highly overworked. I personally taught a lot of underprivileged students and found it rewarding, but very tiresome. You kinda feel like you’re being professionally taken advantage of. I never fell out of love with teaching though. A colleague put it well, he said that “he loved teaching but hated being a teacher”. I love the idea of teaching, but the conditions of the job sucks the joy out of such a noble occupation.

What are kids like in schools over there?

The population that I taught was actually really challenging. Quite a few students came from broken homes. I had one who was abandoned by their mother and lived with relatives, then the mother killed herself, and all the while this was happening I was trying to teach him fractions. The value system has been altered a little bit. It felt like an upward battle.

I like that you call it such a noble occupation.

If you take away education, you have a third world country. It became an ethical dilemma for me to stay in that job. I didn’t agree with the way the US not making education a priority.

A lot of people have a negative opinion on education in the US. What’s yours?

I would actually say that public schools are making an effort to make it better. In saying that, most of the students I taught were globally stunted, myself also being a product of that – when I came here I realized that there was so much I was unaware of in the world. I felt slightly ashamed that I was contributing to that disservice. We could certainly do a better job.

What do you do here in Prague?

I taught English but it didn’t really suit me. I now teach first grade at an international school. I do exactly what I do in the states, only I don’t have to work two jobs and I can travel. I think I’ve had more personal growth in the last six months than I have in the last six years.

By the way, there are a lot of hearts everywhere on your walls! What are you in love with right now? 

I got depressed for a second (laughs) because I’m not in love with anyone right now! But I do love this city. Making out is a big thing here too.

Would you say there is more affection in public here than back home?

Definitely more PDA for sure! My roommates and my friends will tell you that for sure. On the escalators in metro stations! So much groping! I actually don’t mind it, it doesn’t bother me. Because somewhere inside… I am yearning for that myself! (laughs).

We all need a little groping sometimes! And now to a different page, I heard you used to be a Mormon? What kind of lifestyle did you lead?

Yes, I did. Good question. I was born and raised Mormon and practiced it for 19 years. They practice the faith religiously. But eventually, I fell away from the church when I was around 22.

I understand that Mormons wear a special kind of body suit under their clothes? What is that all about?

They’re called ‘garments’ and they’re for both men and women. They’re worn closest to the skin because it is a symbolic gesture of covenants made to God. They also stand as a reminder to maintain respect for one’s body by adhering to modest dress, since it’s not possible to wear immodest clothing if you are wearing the garments, hence no strapless dresses or booty shorts.

Did you wear garments?

No, you don’t wear them unless you’ve been on a mission or after marriage.

Tell us a little bit about other customs that are involved with it.

It’s pretty straight edge. I don’t think I said a curse word until I was way older. I didn’t drink or smoke or drink caffeine. You pretty much just live a healthy lifestyle. It is more of a way of life than a Sunday religion. I went to church every morning for Seminary before high school. We would also have church activities on a Sunday too. To me, it was my life.

Funny story though, when I was a senior in high school we were learning a section of western culture on the states. I was shown the movie Tombstone which is an R rated film and I felt that it didn’t coincide with my value system at the time. I had to excuse myself from the classroom, so I was pretty dedicated. It was well received by my friends, surprisingly to me! I had a pretty large social circle. Everyone was respectful and people admired my conviction at the time. I wasn’t pushy about it. Some people can be, like in any religion.

How have you changed now?

I’m an evil evil person! Sorry Mum! (laughs) Just kidding! There was a tragedy in my life that made me test my faith – I had personal disagreements with the church itself. I admire my family and friends who still practice. It’s an incredibly difficult way to live in society.

What happened to you to make you question your faith?

I was always kind of the black sheep in the Sunday school class. I would say things like “NO, I don’t want to stay at home and make babies. I want to work!” I was outspoken! It had more to do with the woman’s role in the church.

What are some things that you miss from this time?

Oh wow. You know there is a really really strong community and a sense of comradery with the people you see all the time and it is really quite lovely when you see people come together. Some of the most thoughtful people and nicest people I have ever met, some of them happen to be Mormon. I do miss that spirit of togetherness which I don’t often feel anymore. Maybe protesters feel that too when they’re fighting for a cause.

It was really really hard for me to leave the church. It was almost traumatic. It was hard for me to come to turns with it.

How did your family react?

I was terrified of how they would react. I underestimated them and their unconditional love, because they were completely supportive. They have supported me a lot. My Dad is a convert so he has a bit of free spirit. He hitch-hiked around the country and went to the original Woodstock! He’s had an interesting life. So he understood my leaving and my need to figure things out for myself.

How would you describe Prague in adjectives?

Oh gosh! Unassuming, unpretentious, it’s one of the reasons why I love this city especially because D.C. is so pretentious. Simple. I live a very simple life now. I work and make crowns and feed myself – it’s lovely. For me Prague holds a special place in my heart because it is the first place for me abroad. So I saw my first castle here. I had a legitimate tour-gasm. I was crying!

If you could go back in time and see anything, would what you see?

Oh my! If I could go back in time. Jesus!

Good answer!

(Laughs) Jesus of Nazareth the end. No, just joking! God, you know it’s so overwhelming. I couldn’t tell you honestly.

If there was a movie about your life, who would play you?

Probably Sandra Bullock. She’s a little perky, feisty, fun. Some of her roles are serious and some are not. She would be a good fit. I love her in While you were Sleeping.

Where do you hang out in Prague?

I did the Clock Tower Bar Crawl for a while so I’ve done the touristy areas. Now I kind of prefer the local Žižkov scene. I just started finding the gay and lesbian community too. I’m discovering a little bit of that. In D.C. we have such a huge gay community, so I was lost and missed that but I’ve been reintroduced and it’s been nice.

Who is really important to you here? Who’s been a great help?

My room-mates I really adore. I’ve been blessed to meet them and live with them now. But, the people who have helped me the most are the people that don’t live here. I was surprised by the support. It really cemented for me who my real friends are. My grandmother died last month and that was hard for me because I was away from home. It was financially impossible for me to go back and the way that they extended the love to me is beyond words.

You’ve just run the half marathon? I see some medals up on the wall.

This was my fourth marathon. Since I’ve been abroad, I ran Barcelona in February and the Prague Half a few weeks ago. I figure that what I’ll do is run my way through Europe. Running is always good and close to my heart. I make it look very painful, but it’s mine.

Written and transcribed by Ryan Keating. Photography by Petr Kurečka.

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