British stag parties careering noisily through the streets have become an increasingly common sight in Prague. These male drinking groups are evidently attracted by the cheap beer on sale in the Czech capital, among other things. We have a look at this growing phenomenon.
Since the advent of budget flights from the UK, thousands of Britons have been flocking to Prague. Many are not coming to see the city's architectural splendours, but are instead interested in the cheap alcohol available here. A lot of these people consist of "stag parties" or large groups of men on a drinking spree, who are also not averse to sampling the dubious pleasures of Prague's booming sex industry.
Although the Czech tourist authority's official line is that all visitors to the country are welcome, there are many who are worried about this growing trend. A lot of locals are unhappy with what they perceive as their streets being taken over by loud, obnoxious groups of foreign drunkards, who often end up getting into fights or vomiting on the pavement.
Ian Donegan is a partner of the Prague Tour Service, a company whose business organises trips for a lot of stag parties. I asked Mr Donegan if there had been many unsavoury incidents involving these groups:
"Well there's been a few, but when you consider the amount of groups we've brought over here, it's been very small and the incidents have been mainly "hangover-related"... The groups that have come so far have been very good.... A lot of my friends, who have been here a long time, don't like their local [bars] being taken over by stag parties, but they also see the funny side of it. We're into almost our fourth year with stag groups, and I think they're starting to tolerate it now, as are the locals."
Robbie Norton, owner of Rocky O'Reilly's Irish Pub - an establishment which is well known in Prague for catering to stag groups - was also eager to debunk the negative image stag parties have in certain media quarters:
"I have very positive experiences of them - Yes they're noisy and a bit brash. But really I have put thousands and thousands of these people through the pub. We have no security; we have no doormen and - touch wood - for years we have not had a single incident. You know - apart from all the negative publicity we hear, I think there is actually a very positive side to it, because in the not-too-distant past we suffered a very serious flood here, and all our more traditional types of tourists who frequented Prague basically stopped coming. All of a sudden there were very cheap flights available from the UK and there were thousands of empty beds in Prague. These people filled the beds and they filled the bars and spent money. They leave an awful lot of money in the Czech economy, so I think the benefits [they bring] far outweigh the problems they cause."
And what about the stag groups themselves? I went to Rocky O'Reilly's last weekend and, as usual, the place was full of stag parties. I eventually found one group that was willing to take time out from drinking to share their impressions of Prague with me, but only after they had finished singing:
Stag-party member singing "Can't Take My Eyes Off You" very drunkenly
Radio Prague (RP): "So where are you guys from?"
Stag-Party Member (SPM): "Carlisle in England"
RP: "What was the attraction of coming to Prague?"
SPM: "Cheap drink and the women ... I think..."
RP: "Have you met with any negative reaction anywhere?"
SPM: "No, the local people are like back home, honestly. They're all really good...."
RP: "Are you doing anything else besides getting drunk the whole time?"
SPM: "Aye, we drink, we drink, we drink and then go to some bars where all the beautiful women are, but we don't do nothin'..."
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