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It’s common to see Czech pubs named after animals and U Hrocha, which means ‘hippopotamus,’ gets its name because it’s deemed indestructible and a survivor, like this pub in an ever-changing Prague.
It’s an old two-roomed pub with thick stone walls, uneven floors and vaulted ceilings that date back to the 15th century. Walk in and you feel like you’ve just stepped back in time. Yet outside the tourists flow past on the steep cobbled streets between Prague Castle and the Charles Bridge.
U Hrocha opened in 1994, bought by Mr Harant, who was an engineer but had always dreamed of owning a pub. “Until he was 60 years old he used to come here every day,” says Honza Traub, U Hrocha’s Tapster, “but now it is just every second day.”
Honza has been a Tapster here for 17 years. “I take great pride in the beer – and try to keep it perfectly. Our other Tapster has worked here 19 years, so we understand how to pour and know what people like. I think Pilsner Urquell is the best beer in the world – it represents all that’s good about Czech.”
“This is a štamgast pub”, says Honza (you can see the special locals’ glasses in the images to the right). “And although most locals have had to move away from the area because of the rising prices – they still come back here for the beer.” Good beer and a good Tapster are worth travelling for. “Czech people don’t go to the pub to get drunk, they go to talk over the perfect beer. I love my job because everyone always comes back.”
As for the name… It’s common to find pubs named after animals in the Czech Republic but there’s surely only one hippopotamus. And of course, because of its unusual name, there are references to hippopotamuses all around the bar.
U Hrocha is a simple, authentic bar that feels unchanged in an evolving part of the city. Nothing is artificial, it just serves good beer, simple food and is the perfect place to blend in with the locals and drink very fresh Pilsner Urquell.
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