Let's face it, I just like the phrase Bohemian coffeehouse and, to be informed that Kafka "... spent many a wild night..." in them, cheers me up to no end. As, I am sure, it did Kafka himself. Coffee!! However, as long as this particular Coffee House, Café Montmartre, is being described as a bit of Paris in Prague, let me share that Kafka spent many a wild night in the city of Paris itself. He visited there with his friend Brod, and he did not just sit at table in coffee houses. He and Brod partook of some of the specialities of some of these coffee houses, where bed replaced table. Kafka was bemused.
Kafka und die aus Wien stammende, drei Jahre jüngere Hansi Juliane Szokoll (© Archiv Klaus Wagenbach)
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A bit of Paris in Prague – the Bohemian coffeehouse Café Montmartre
Tucked away on Řetězová street in Prague’s Old Town, Café Montmartre is one of the city’s oldest coffeehouses. While it looks rather unassuming from the outside, the former cabaret has a fascinating history. Famous writers such as Franz Kafka and Egon Erwin Kisch are said to have spent many a wild night here, and Café Montmartre continues to draw artists, writers and actors. We spoke to its manager, Iva Nesvadbová, about the café’s history, its guests and its upcoming anniversary.
“The origins go back to the late of the 19th century. Even before it was opened, there was a pub and guesthouse for Prague visitors by the same name. Later on, the actual café was opened, in 1912. The man who opened it called it Montmartre, because he very much liked Paris and the city’s cafes and pubs and wine cellars. That was the golden age of Montmartre. There were lots of wild soirees here at that time.”
And who were the guests in those days?
“Mainly writers, most of them Czech, German or Jewish. For example Franz Kafka, and Egon Erwin Kisch, who used to dance here sometimes. This was the first place where you could dance the tango in the Austro-Hungarian Empire.”