Baracnicka Rychta - a pub and venue with a history

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Prague's Mala Strana or Lesser Town may be beautiful but it's not an easy place to find a restaurant with prices the average resident of the city can afford. One of the few pubs with regular prices in the area is Baracnicka Rychta. What's more - it has a very interesting history. Ian Willoughby has more.

Baracnicka Rychta has two parts, a cosy dark wood pub upstairs - where they serve very drinkable Plzen beer - and a hall downstairs which is used as a venue for everything from Scottish ceilis to swing nights. Baracnicka Rychta was opened almost 70 years ago by members of a Czech patriotic society - the Baracnici - the first branch of which was formed in 1874. There are Baracnici organisations around the country to this day. Frantisek Nikl is the manager of Baracnicka Rychta.

"150 years ago the society was formed to ensure that Czech culture didn't die out, that the nation's culture didn't die out, because in those days there was pressure from Germany - we were under Austria and we had to resist pressure from the Germans. To this day the society has 30,000 members from around the whole country - they like tradition, history and so on."

On the walls of the pub and hall there are many photos, lists of names of members and even lists of rules. Frantisek Nikl again.

"Those photos, those names - they're the names of people who took part in the society's activities, who gave money and energy and they maintained traditions. The rules on the walls are still valid. The members meet every six months and they come from all around the country. They hold balls here."

The evening I spoke to Mr Nikl an Irish rock group called The Frames were playing at Baracnicka Rychta. Before the conversation drifted onto the subject of The Frames' tour of the Czech Republic I asked group members Colm Mac Con Iomaire and Dave Hingerty for their impressions of the venue. Colm Mac Con Iomaire.

Colm Mac Con Iomaire: "It's great - it's like walking into history. There's a great old rustic feel to it. Who knows who's been on that stage over the last hundred years. It's perfect - it makes for theatre. Just to play music in such a place is great."

Dave Hingerty: "And there's great goulash and lovely dark beer."

The Frames are touring the Czech Republic - is it much different from touring a western country?

CMCI: "It is and it isn't. All the differences though are good differences. What amazes us is how similar Czechs and Irish people are. We very much enjoy each other's company."

What do you find similar?

CMCI: "Sense of humour, appetites, taste in music. The sense of humour is outstanding."

And what about drummer Dave Hingerty - how does he find touring here?

DH: "I love it. I love travelling anyway. Even though we are very compatible as Colm says, there's a nice exoticness to the place, and something mysterious, especially to this city Prague. I always remember coming into the city the first time and the really warm feeling I had - an almost giddy pleasure. It's obvious that architecturally the buildings are beautiful but there's also a special warmth in the air - I don't mean temperature...but it's a spirit."

CMCI: "When you walk around Prague it's a feast for the eyes and for the senses. The sense of history. Obviously this is all corny but - truly - it's a wonderful city."