Globalization has made the world seem borderless, and I can’t help but feeling cheated. Let me explain. I live in a big multicultural and international city of Jakarta, where I can easily have Starbucks coffee for breakfast, sushi for lunch, and tapas for dinner. Any time of day, I can have 10-piece escargots at a fancy French bistro (with white tablecloths, handsome butlers and all that), or a plate of 1000-calorie chilli fries at an American diner and wash em down with some German draught beers at a pub owned by a German expat.
Don’t get me wrong, this is all fantastic. The food is mostly great and the places look so damn authentic that I usually mutter “wow, this doesn’t feel like in Indonesia” a few times in the first 10 minutes. But something is lacking from all of this greatness: history. That, my friend, you can not get from a recently opened hip restaurant filled with curious “foodies” with their cameraphones in hand.
Why is history so important? I actually never thought about it before I set foot in Café Louvre in Prague.
When I got there it was late in the afternoon already. The place was packed, but luckily I got a corner table for 2 by the window. Since there were 3 of us, we pulled up another chair. The waitress greeted us friendly, and I ordered a cup of hot chocolate with rum and whipped cream, a perfect drink for a chilly fall afternoon. As for the cake, I opted for a strawberry mascarpone.
Café Louvre, located in Národni 22, is dubbed as one of the best historical hangout in Prague, having Franz Kafka and Albert Einstein as past regular customers. The café first opened in 1902 and it was badly damaged in 1948 when the fixtures were all thrown out the windows by the communists. So the interior and exterior that we see now were actually from 1992, when the café underwent a complete renovation.
I got all of this not from Wikipedia, but from the café’s paper placemats that conveniently presented their customers with the café’s history in Czech and English. All of a sudden I was not interested in my cake anymore. Images spun in my head: Kafka and Einstein sitting by the very same window (not together I presumed) that I was sitting at, sipping on their coffees, exchanging intellectual conversations with their colleagues, scribbling notes, literally writing history. I had goosebumps.