Municipal House Cafe in Prague

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Off from the busy Námestí republiky central square, the grand façade of Municipal house curves round Prague’s main thoroughfare. Above the pillared entrance is the art deco building’s centrepiece; a semi-circular framed mosaic picture of a Roman scene. Through the oversized entry doors, the main hall is wooden and sedate, but to the left is the established Kavarna café. Typical of the European Grand Cafes, the ceiling rises high above the hustle and chatter of customers. While waiting to be seated, the smell of smoke hangs heavily over the air, in the chic, defiant way that makes it immediately feel decades into the past. The long room is filled with simple wooden bistro chair and marble topped table that shrink under the commanding chandeliers, which drip gold from above. Prazaks animatingly smoke over coffee or intently read broadsheet newspapers, while the occasional tourist covertly takes photographs. The café is restless; voices from neighboring European countries compete over one another while the grand piano waits for the evening crowd to add accompaniment. The café betrays its glamorous heritage and beneath the ornate art deco surrounds it could easily be mistaken for a shabby coffee shop. Brusque waiters serve coffees and exotic teas in tired white uniforms. Amid the large number of two-seater tables, a waiter wheels a cart of cakes around. Slowly the glass cart is woven between tables by its dower driver. Over three shelves the array of classic cakes and tarts are offered beside small signs denoting the price. Slightly stale, as if left behind with the décor, fruit is staked high encased in gelatin on thin cake bases. But the glamour of the café is not completely lost amid tourists and trendy locals as a suited gentleman preens his beard while looking outside onto the busy McDonalds. Inside the women’s toilets; an older woman gasses out the room as she smothers her hair into its backcombed curls with hairspray. Although the aged glamour of Municipal House risks being lost amid its tourism and chain coffee shops; something understated still remains, making the Kavarna café a relic to a city that is slowly becoming more commercialised.

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