Succulent Soup, Tall Tables and Porn

What would mom and dad say?

First Impressions is a Prague Wandering series that chronicles the early days of expatriate life for young Americans studying in Prague. The series is intended to capture the shock and awe that many foreigners experience when venturing outside their comfort zone.

 

By Colin Bennett

Jidelna 3S, located in Prague 2.

The modest facade of Jidelna 3S in Vinohrady corresponds to its modest prices; you can score lunch for just over $4. Photo by Colin Bennett.

Upon first entering Jidelna 3S in Vinohrady, you don’t really see the pictures on the wall. You’re too focused on the menu, split down the middle with Czech on one side and English on the other. You see the typical Czech fare: goulash, beef in cream sauce, fried cheese, schnitzel. You order something you know, goulash soup and bread dumplings.

In your best Czech accent you tell the lady behind the counter what you want, and she quickly says something back in Czech. You stare blankly for a second, and she points to a tray of potato dumplings and to a basket of bread in front of the counter. You point to the bread, and she ladles some pre-prepared goulash into a bowl for you. You grab a tray, a fork and a napkin and pay the 88 koruna (4.10 USD) for your food. You go back and forth with the lady behind the counter trying to figure out how much bread you can take, but the language barrier proves insurmountable. You take two big chunks and you both just let it go.

“But you know that Europe is liberal about that sort of thing so you try not to make a big deal out of lunch nudity.”

The bottom floor has limited dining space, just one table and a small counter. It’s all occupied, so you head upstairs to scout for a seat. There’s not much more space there, but there’s more seating. You plop down your tray and relax into a chair.

Raunchy pictures adds eccentricity to a casual meal. Photo by Colin Bennett

You’re never alone in the restaurant; photos of topless women keep you company. Photo by Colin Bennett.

But, to your dismay, the food is now at the same level as your chin and you’re forced to stand up to eat. There’s a small old lady sitting next to you though, and she appears to be seated normally at the table. You do a quick visual rundown of your surroundings and determine that, as the table is the same height everywhere and the seats are all the same size, the woman next to you must be some sort of magician. But, you know that Europe has a different culture than you’re used to, so you try and brush it off.

The tables are tall, the seats are short and the air is hot upstairs. But the last problem seems to solve itself because your goulash isn’t especially warm. It tastes good all the same, and you mop up the lukewarm broth with your slices of sourdough bread.

“Among the many uncovered breasts on the wall are two black and white portraits. Both of old men in suits.”

As you look around trying to determine what the protocol is for bussing your table, you notice the restaurant’s decorations. Hanging framed on the orange walls are posters of topless women. Some are fairly artistic, while others are less so. But you know that Europe is liberal about that sort of thing so you try not to make a big deal out of lunch nudity.

You spot the tray dump downstairs, make your way there to deposit your trash and then you see them. Among the many uncovered breasts on the wall are two black and white portraits. Both of old men in suits. One with a mustache, one with impressive sideburns, both grinning. And that’s when you realize that you fully just don’t understand what you’ve walked into, that you’re more confused than the kids who found Narnia in the back of their wardrobe. Because, nobody else seems to notice or care that this cheap Czech restaurant with pre-prepared food is somehow home to magical old ladies, and decorated with pictures of Hefner-esque and naked women.

Jidelna 3S
Eastern European Restaurant
Vinohradska 32, Prague, Czech Republic

Colin Bennett is in the NYU College of Arts and Science Class of 2016. His hometown is Moraga, California. 

This article was adapted from an assignment for the travel writing class at New York University in Prague.

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Categories: Fall 2014 Issue Number 1, First Impressions, Travel

Author:The Prague Wandering

The Prague Wandering is an NYU based study abroad webzine- the only one of its kind. It focuses on issues in contemporary Czech culture and the city of Prague, exploring beyond the study abroad bubble.

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