Thursday, March 26, 2009

It Felt Like A Secret

One of my favorite places in Prague burned to the ground on March 22.

It was a restaurant called Koliba, in the forest near the village of Roztoky, northwest of Prague. The cause, as far as I know, has not yet been determined. Electrical problem? An open fire that got out of control? Arson?

In the end, for Koliba's many fans, the cause doesn't really matter.

It's gone.

And at the worst time, just as summer -- when Koliba really shined -- is right around the corner.

I'll never forget the first time I saw Koliba.

My good buddy Stewart had come across it on a bike ride, and couldn't wait to show me, too. It was a cyclist's dream, and with its chalet-style building covered in ivy, and the small pond out front, it looked more like a too-perfect movie set than a real place to sit down and enjoy a few half-liters.

Koliba was the kind of place we always enjoyed taking visitors to. It felt like a secret, a slice of Prague that not everyone had a chance to enjoy -- good food, including fish and meats grilled on an outdoor fire, and great beer (Budvar) in a bucolic setting.

Even in the three years or so I'd been going to Koliba, it had changed ownership a few times, and service was often spotty. But we kept going back because it was so pleasant just to sit back, let the setting sun warm your face, sip a beer, and watch the carp jumping in the small pond out front.

I often felt compelled to take pictures of Koliba every time I passed on my bike, even though I already had plenty. I've put together a little slideshow of some of the pictures I've taken at Koliba over the years. It ends, sadly, with shots taken by my friend Fiona Gaze earlier this week, after the fire. It's now just a charred skeleton.

I had a lot of good times at Koliba, and I'm going to miss it greatly.


  1. Hey Grant, how sad! My wife and I came across this place during a bike trip last spring, and even considered holding our wedding celebration there (but it was already booked). I hope they will rebuild it, if not for this coming summer then at least for the next one.

  2. Wow. A wedding at Koliba! That would have been cool. I hope they rebuild it, too. But even then, it just won't be the same somehow.