Prague ´s answer to the designated driver

Prague's answer to the designated driver

By Alison Smale International Herald Tribune

Thursday, July 22, 2004


To stroll through the central streets of this wondrous city is to discover that even hordes of tourists — in the accurate words of one old Prague friend, "Charles Bridge is like an anthill" — cannot mar basic beauty.
.
What can grate, however, aside from the countless crystal and garnet jewelry stores, are the crowds of Brits, Germans and others who seem to have found in Prague a new mecca for drinking beer.
.
For those veterans of the bad old Communist times when beer cost the rough equivalent of 30 cents per frothing, tasty glass, downtown Prague is no bargain.
.
For the British stag(gering) parties, who declare their presence loudly in every way — sample T-shirts: "The Crown, Accrington," or "Prague Stag 2004" — and European louts and soccer fans of every stripe, however, it seems that the price is still attractive, at one half to one third of what you might pay in the center of other European capitals.
.
Should any of these crowds happen to have driven to Prague, they will also find that it offers a unique way home, discovered during a recent evening with friends.
.
We were nearing the end of a delicious dinner at a restaurant nestled under the castle walls, enjoying breathtaking views of the city from a chilly terrace while warmed by rugs, heater lamps and splendid grappa. I assumed we were taking cabs home in order to avoid any trouble with the local laws on consuming alcohol. But there was a different answer — in the form of a company with the striking name of Drink SOS.
.
Founded in 1995, Drink SOS performs a great service. For a mere 30 koruna, roughly $1, in Prague, or just double that in the surrounding region, two men will arrive at a spot you designate in their car. One will get out and drive you and your car wherever home may be; the second follows behind in his car. Cost: another 30 koruna per kilometer. Saving in terms of potential trouble with police, or, worse, accidents: priceless.
.
The bright idea behind Drink SOS has spawned several imitators — including one with the distinctly Schwej-kian name of Rychla Zelva, or Quick Turtle. Slavka Harazimova, the owner, says Drink SOS averages about 200 rides a night, with the trend steadily rising.
.
She got the idea from a friend who returned from a trip to Munich in the 1990s and recounted that, there, students would arrive on a bicycle, put the bicycle in the trunk of the car, and drive the inebriated home. There is no such service in Munich any more, she added.
.
One may be entitled to wonder why. On certain holidays, a similar service is said to exist in London. Our Prague driver said insurance costs eventually shut down similar services in Germany. Perhaps it takes the enterprising spirit of the so-called "new Europe" — a friend in Sofia reports that he, too, can now avail himself of such a needed ride home. (A friend from Belgrade, by contrast, snorted sarcastically that the Serbs, ever full of machismo, were unlikely to follow suit, since "most believe they drive better when they are drunk.")
.
Within the Czech Republic, the only other city offering similar service is Ostrava, an industrial center in the north. Martin Kovalsky, a 21-year-old computer student there, charges 25 koruna a kilometer from his Drink Servis, and says he usually uses his father's car. His Web site sums up the service: "You drink, we drive!"
.
Harazimova reports that her drivers will actually take passengers even across borders — though the visitor from Austria or Germany would have to be really dying to get home, since a drive to the nearest border would involve hundreds of kilometers there and back to Prague.
.
One of her funniest calls, she said, came from a truck driver who was looking for a replacement because he was celebrating the birth of his baby boy. Harazimova said she tried every truck driver she knew when the caller came back and asked for two substitutes, since his colleague had joined the celebration. By the time she was successful, the driver called in once more to cancel the whole arrangement — since they were now five hard drinkers, they had all decided simply to skip work the next day.
.
Here are some of the services currently available:
.
*
.
In Prague:
.
* Drink SOS
.
Phone: +420 267 913 171, +420 604 707 070, +420 603 452 259.
.
Web: www.drinksos.cz (if you are looking for some guidance on night life, the site also includes names and addresses of the five top locales for Drink SOS pickups).
.
E-mail: drinksos@iol.cz
.
* Drivers
.
Phone: +420 603 506 080.
.
Web: driverspraha.cz
.
Rychla Zelva
.
Phone: +420 222 511 512, +420 605 056 056.
.
*
.
In Ostrava:
.
* Drink Servis
.
Phone: +420 737 789 561.
.
Web: www.drinkservis.com.
.
E-mail: info@drinkservis.com To stroll through the central streets of this wondrous city is to discover that even hordes of tourists — in the accurate words of one old Prague friend, "Charles Bridge is like an anthill" — cannot mar basic beauty.
.
What can grate, however, aside from the countless crystal and garnet jewelry stores, are the crowds of Brits, Germans and others who seem to have found in Prague a new mecca for drinking beer.
.
For those veterans of the bad old Communist times when beer cost the rough equivalent of 30 cents per frothing, tasty glass, downtown Prague is no bargain.
.
For the British stag(gering) parties, who declare their presence loudly in every way — sample T-shirts: "The Crown, Accrington," or "Prague Stag 2004" — and European louts and soccer fans of every stripe, however, it seems that the price is still attractive, at one half to one third of what you might pay in the center of other European capitals.
.
Should any of these crowds happen to have driven to Prague, they will also find that it offers a unique way home, discovered during a recent evening with friends.
.
We were nearing the end of a delicious dinner at a restaurant nestled under the castle walls, enjoying breathtaking views of the city from a chilly terrace while warmed by rugs, heater lamps and splendid grappa. I assumed we were taking cabs home in order to avoid any trouble with the local laws on consuming alcohol. But there was a different answer — in the form of a company with the striking name of Drink SOS.
.
Founded in 1995, Drink SOS performs a great service. For a mere 30 koruna, roughly $1, in Prague, or just double that in the surrounding region, two men will arrive at a spot you designate in their car. One will get out and drive you and your car wherever home may be; the second follows behind in his car. Cost: another 30 koruna per kilometer. Saving in terms of potential trouble with police, or, worse, accidents: priceless.
.
The bright idea behind Drink SOS has spawned several imitators — including one with the distinctly Schwej-kian name of Rychla Zelva, or Quick Turtle. Slavka Harazimova, the owner, says Drink SOS averages about 200 rides a night, with the trend steadily rising.
.
She got the idea from a friend who returned from a trip to Munich in the 1990s and recounted that, there, students would arrive on a bicycle, put the bicycle in the trunk of the car, and drive the inebriated home. There is no such service in Munich any more, she added.
.
One may be entitled to wonder why. On certain holidays, a similar service is said to exist in London. Our Prague driver said insurance costs eventually shut down similar services in Germany. Perhaps it takes the enterprising spirit of the so-called "new Europe" — a friend in Sofia reports that he, too, can now avail himself of such a needed ride home. (A friend from Belgrade, by contrast, snorted sarcastically that the Serbs, ever full of machismo, were unlikely to follow suit, since "most believe they drive better when they are drunk.")
.
Within the Czech Republic, the only other city offering similar service is Ostrava, an industrial center in the north. Martin Kovalsky, a 21-year-old computer student there, charges 25 koruna a kilometer from his Drink Servis, and says he usually uses his father's car. His Web site sums up the service: "You drink, we drive!"
.
Harazimova reports that her drivers will actually take passengers even across borders — though the visitor from Austria or Germany would have to be really dying to get home, since a drive to the nearest border would involve hundreds of kilometers there and back to Prague.
.
One of her funniest calls, she said, came from a truck driver who was looking for a replacement because he was celebrating the birth of his baby boy. Harazimova said she tried every truck driver she knew when the caller came back and asked for two substitutes, since his colleague had joined the celebration. By the time she was successful, the driver called in once more to cancel the whole arrangement — since they were now five hard drinkers, they had all decided simply to skip work the next day.
.
Here are some of the services currently available:
.
*
.
In Prague:
.
* Drink SOS
.
Phone: +420 267 913 171, +420 604 707 070, +420 603 452 259.
.
Web: www.drinksos.cz (if you are looking for some guidance on night life, the site also includes names and addresses of the five top locales for Drink SOS pickups).
.
E-mail: drinksos@iol.cz
.
* Drivers
.
Phone: +420 603 506 080.
.
Web: driverspraha.cz
.
Rychla Zelva
.
Phone: +420 222 511 512, +420 605 056 056.
.
*
.
In Ostrava:
.
* Drink Servis
.
Phone: +420 737 789 561.
.
Web: www.drinkservis.com.
.
E-mail: info@drinkservis.com To stroll through the central streets of this wondrous city is to discover that even hordes of tourists — in the accurate words of one old Prague friend, "Charles Bridge is like an anthill" — cannot mar basic beauty.
.
What can grate, however, aside from the countless crystal and garnet jewelry stores, are the crowds of Brits, Germans and others who seem to have found in Prague a new mecca for drinking beer.
.
For those veterans of the bad old Communist times when beer cost the rough equivalent of 30 cents per frothing, tasty glass, downtown Prague is no bargain.
.
For the British stag(gering) parties, who declare their presence loudly in every way — sample T-shirts: "The Crown, Accrington," or "Prague Stag 2004" — and European louts and soccer fans of every stripe, however, it seems that the price is still attractive, at one half to one third of what you might pay in the center of other European capitals.
.
Should any of these crowds happen to have driven to Prague, they will also find that it offers a unique way home, discovered during a recent evening with friends.
.
We were nearing the end of a delicious dinner at a restaurant nestled under the castle walls, enjoying breathtaking views of the city from a chilly terrace while warmed by rugs, heater lamps and splendid grappa. I assumed we were taking cabs home in order to avoid any trouble with the local laws on consuming alcohol. But there was a different answer — in the form of a company with the striking name of Drink SOS.
.
Founded in 1995, Drink SOS performs a great service. For a mere 30 koruna, roughly $1, in Prague, or just double that in the surrounding region, two men will arrive at a spot you designate in their car. One will get out and drive you and your car wherever home may be; the second follows behind in his car. Cost: another 30 koruna per kilometer. Saving in terms of potential trouble with police, or, worse, accidents: priceless.
.
The bright idea behind Drink SOS has spawned several imitators — including one with the distinctly Schwej-kian name of Rychla Zelva, or Quick Turtle. Slavka Harazimova, the owner, says Drink SOS averages about 200 rides a night, with the trend steadily rising.
.
She got the idea from a friend who returned from a trip to Munich in the 1990s and recounted that, there, students would arrive on a bicycle, put the bicycle in the trunk of the car, and drive the inebriated home. There is no such service in Munich any more, she added.
.
One may be entitled to wonder why. On certain holidays, a similar service is said to exist in London. Our Prague driver said insurance costs eventually shut down similar services in Germany. Perhaps it takes the enterprising spirit of the so-called "new Europe" — a friend in Sofia reports that he, too, can now avail himself of such a needed ride home. (A friend from Belgrade, by contrast, snorted sarcastically that the Serbs, ever full of machismo, were unlikely to follow suit, since "most believe they drive better when they are drunk.")
.
Within the Czech Republic, the only other city offering similar service is Ostrava, an industrial center in the north. Martin Kovalsky, a 21-year-old computer student there, charges 25 koruna a kilometer from his Drink Servis, and says he usually uses his father's car. His Web site sums up the service: "You drink, we drive!"
.
Harazimova reports that her drivers will actually take passengers even across borders — though the visitor from Austria or Germany would have to be really dying to get home, since a drive to the nearest border would involve hundreds of kilometers there and back to Prague.
.
One of her funniest calls, she said, came from a truck driver who was looking for a replacement because he was celebrating the birth of his baby boy. Harazimova said she tried every truck driver she knew when the caller came back and asked for two substitutes, since his colleague had joined the celebration. By the time she was successful, the driver called in once more to cancel the whole arrangement — since they were now five hard drinkers, they had all decided simply to skip work the next day.
.
Here are some of the services currently available:
.
*
.
In Prague:
.
* Drink SOS
.
Phone: +420 267 913 171, +420 604 707 070, +420 603 452 259.
.
Web: www.drinksos.cz (if you are looking for some guidance on night life, the site also includes names and addresses of the five top locales for Drink SOS pickups).
.
E-mail: drinksos@iol.cz
.
* Drivers
.
Phone: +420 603 506 080.
.
Web: driverspraha.cz
.
Rychla Zelva
.
Phone: +420 222 511 512, +420 605 056 056.
.
*
.
In Ostrava:
.
* Drink Servis
.
Phone: +420 737 789 561.
.
Web: www.drinkservis.com.
.
E-mail: info@drinkservis.com To stroll through the central streets of this wondrous city is to discover that even hordes of tourists — in the accurate words of one old Prague friend, "Charles Bridge is like an anthill" — cannot mar basic beauty.
.
What can grate, however, aside from the countless crystal and garnet jewelry stores, are the crowds of Brits, Germans and others who seem to have found in Prague a new mecca for drinking beer.
.
For those veterans of the bad old Communist times when beer cost the rough equivalent of 30 cents per frothing, tasty glass, downtown Prague is no bargain.
.
For the British stag(gering) parties, who declare their presence loudly in every way — sample T-shirts: "The Crown, Accrington," or "Prague Stag 2004" — and European louts and soccer fans of every stripe, however, it seems that the price is still attractive, at one half to one third of what you might pay in the center of other European capitals.
.
Should any of these crowds happen to have driven to Prague, they will also find that it offers a unique way home, discovered during a recent evening with friends.
.
We were nearing the end of a delicious dinner at a restaurant nestled under the castle walls, enjoying breathtaking views of the city from a chilly terrace while warmed by rugs, heater lamps and splendid grappa. I assumed we were taking cabs home in order to avoid any trouble with the local laws on consuming alcohol. But there was a different answer — in the form of a company with the striking name of Drink SOS.
.
Founded in 1995, Drink SOS performs a great service. For a mere 30 koruna, roughly $1, in Prague, or just double that in the surrounding region, two men will arrive at a spot you designate in their car. One will get out and drive you and your car wherever home may be; the second follows behind in his car. Cost: another 30 koruna per kilometer. Saving in terms of potential trouble with police, or, worse, accidents: priceless.
.
The bright idea behind Drink SOS has spawned several imitators — including one with the distinctly Schwej-kian name of Rychla Zelva, or Quick Turtle. Slavka Harazimova, the owner, says Drink SOS averages about 200 rides a night, with the trend steadily rising.
.
She got the idea from a friend who returned from a trip to Munich in the 1990s and recounted that, there, students would arrive on a bicycle, put the bicycle in the trunk of the car, and drive the inebriated home. There is no such service in Munich any more, she added.
.
One may be entitled to wonder why. On certain holidays, a similar service is said to exist in London. Our Prague driver said insurance costs eventually shut down similar services in Germany. Perhaps it takes the enterprising spirit of the so-called "new Europe" — a friend in Sofia reports that he, too, can now avail himself of such a needed ride home. (A friend from Belgrade, by contrast, snorted sarcastically that the Serbs, ever full of machismo, were unlikely to follow suit, since "most believe they drive better when they are drunk.")
.
Within the Czech Republic, the only other city offering similar service is Ostrava, an industrial center in the north. Martin Kovalsky, a 21-year-old computer student there, charges 25 koruna a kilometer from his Drink Servis, and says he usually uses his father's car. His Web site sums up the service: "You drink, we drive!"
.
Harazimova reports that her drivers will actually take passengers even across borders — though the visitor from Austria or Germany would have to be really dying to get home, since a drive to the nearest border would involve hundreds of kilometers there and back to Prague.
.
One of her funniest calls, she said, came from a truck driver who was looking for a replacement because he was celebrating the birth of his baby boy. Harazimova said she tried every truck driver she knew when the caller came back and asked for two substitutes, since his colleague had joined the celebration. By the time she was successful, the driver called in once more to cancel the whole arrangement — since they were now five hard drinkers, they had all decided simply to skip work the next day.
.
Here are some of the services currently available:
.
*
.
In Prague:
.
* Drink SOS
.
Phone: +420 267 913 171, +420 604 707 070, +420 603 452 259.
.
Web: www.drinksos.cz (if you are looking for some guidance on night life, the site also includes names and addresses of the five top locales for Drink SOS pickups).
.
E-mail: drinksos@iol.cz
.
* Drivers
.
Phone: +420 603 506 080.
.
Web: driverspraha.cz
.
Rychla Zelva
.
Phone: +420 222 511 512, +420 605 056 056.
.
*
.
In Ostrava:
.
* Drink Servis
.
Phone: +420 737 789 561.
.
Web: www.drinkservis.com.
.
E-mail: info@drinkservis.com

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