Karlovy Vary film festival: enjoying a cup of tea at the unusual Pitch Black Café

Aneta Langerova, photo: CTK

The Czech Pop Idol Aneta Langerova has been enjoying quite a bit of success here in the Czech Republic and she's been using it for a good cause. She staged an open air concert during the Karlovy Vary film festival to which she invited a number of special guests - young and talented singers, who have not been able to make it in the music scene because they are blind. The concert was in support of a Czech Radio project called Svetluska, which organized a number of events at the festival to bring people who do not have visual disabilities closer to the world of the blind.

Aneta Langerova,  photo: CTK
Dita Asideu spoke to Martina Kaderkova, one of the coordinators of the events:

"The Czech Radio Foundation has a special project, which is called Svetluska or fire-fly. We finance various special aids for the blind such as speaking computers, optical aids, guiding dogs, and different courses, and we support young and talented musicians."

We are standing next to a café that is actually quite unique here. Could you explain to us what it is?

"It is the first café in the dark that has been opened in the Czech Republic. There is absolute darkness inside the café and we have ten blind staff members, who make espresso in complete darkness and who guide the visitors to their tables, and who serve them too. We also have 'movie screenings' two times a day but they are only in audio with very detailed commentary."

The main aim is to understand what it is like to be blind?

Photo: CTK
"It is actually about an exchange of roles. Inside the café it is the blind guide who you have to rely on. Outside, the blind often have to rely on us. We help them to cross the street or other things."

Does the interior differ from regular cafes?

"Yes. Each letter in brail has six dots and you use different combinations to form a word. So, we have six tables in our café. There is one main path that only the waiters and waitresses move along, so you cannot really get in their way. We would like to bring this project to Prague and Brno and we are also thinking of opening a Café in the Dark in Prague, which would be permanent. This would bring employment opportunities because the unemployment rate among the visually impaired is 75 percent."

Okay, the time has come for me to try it out. I have been asked to put my watch and cell phone into my bag just to be sure that there is absolutely no light in the café and Marketa is just about to show me to my table...here we go...

Aneta Langerova,  photo: CTK
We're inside the café now and my guide is holding my hand and telling me where to go. It is a strange feeling because it's pitch black in here and I have no clue what's around me. I'm supposed to turn left now...and it seems like I'm already at my table.

Marketa has just said goodbye and I have been asked to wait for my waiter. There's music playing in the background but it still seems to me like people are extremely loud in here and I wonder whether it's just my sense of hearing making up for the fact that I can't see...

"Excuse me, I'm Mathew."

Hello, I'm Dita.

"Would you like something to drink?"

One water without bubbles please.

"Okay, wait a minute please."

[speaking to a group of visitors] Have you been enjoying yourselves here?

"Yes, we have."

Did it take you long to get used to the darkness?

"Yes, for the first five minutes and it was pretty hard getting to the table."

Mathew, the waiter: "Excuse me, here is the water for you. If you need anything else, just call my name."

[speaking to the group] Do you think that you would come back again to a café like this?

"Oh, yes, for sure. If there will be something similar in Prague, I think I will go there because it is really fun and we can also support a good cause."