On Drinking in Old Places

brevnovIt’s Saturday night and I’m walking into a monastery. No, I didn’t give up, it’s a birthday bash. Yes, in a monastery.

The Břevnov Monastery is a Benedictine archabbey in Břevnov, which is on the very beautiful outskirts of Prague. It was founded in 993 AD by Saint Adalbert, survived the Hussite Wars (barely), Wehrmacht occupation, and Bjork (so far).

It has been used by the StB (aka: the secret police. aka: the bad guys), visited by the Pope, and it celebrated its 1000th birthday in 1993.

Oh yeah, and they make beer here. Břevnovský Benedict beer, to be exact.

One of the fringe benefits of living in Prague is the number of opportunities one has to get highly intoxicated in very old places. Since my stocky rear end has arrived in Prague, I’ve gotten tipsy in castles, prisons, medieval meat houses, catacombs, and hundreds of pubs that either looked 600 years old or smelled 600 years old.

So walking into a monastery for Saturday night drinks is not totally unusual. Nevertheless, I am charmed by the monastery grounds. The monastery and brewery restaurant are set behind massive, thick stone walls, the kind you see surrounding medieval castles and monasteries with breweries. I guess they either wanted to keep the monks in or the populace out and away from the beer. There is a nice pond, well-kept lawns, lots of trees. A huge church sits guard next to the restaurant.

The décor at the Břevnov monastery brew pub is probably similar to what you’re imagining now. The room is filled with long, crude-looking wooden tables, antique brewing tools and kitchen utensils hang from the rafters. The walls are decorated with dried out bushels of wheat and bundled sticks. Really, the only thing missing is animal skins and a bunch of robed guys with bald spots. A fireplace takes up an entire wall. The place is sturdy; it looks like a place that was built to stand the brunt of history’s less unpleasant events.

A lot of thoughts go through a dude’s head when he’s drinking in a monastery. In fact, whenever I visit an old structure I try to imagine what that place looked like in its heyday. The monastery is no different, only that I am drinking beer so my imagination is a little wilder.

I am overcome thinking about what this place looked like at night, lit by torches. What a carriage sounded like coming up the path past the pond on an afternoon in 1300 AD. What kind of havoc this place has seen. When my friends step out to smoke, I go with them and take in the grounds, the huge church, the walls, what could be a cloister. I can’t help imagining it being stormed by Jan Hus and his band of Bohemian soldiers.

The night is a great one. We eat, drink, and merry the sober right out of us. We discuss hockey, history, teaching, language, Frasier, the usual topics. The talk naturally turns to zombies. One friend suggests that this would be an ideal place to hole up during the zombie apocalypse. He points out the walls, the balustrades, the structural integrity. He’s got a good point.

As we walk through the grounds on our way to the next pub in order to watch hockey, we outline the pros and cons of the monastery’s use during the zombie apocalypse. It has now become a serious discussion, as if it’s going to happen tomorrow and we are planning for it.

As we leave the medieval surroundings for the modern world once again I look around once more. Perhaps appropriately, my imagination replaces Hussites with zombies.

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