by captain oddsocks
September 6, 2005
The main bookstore room of the literary teahouse is wallpapered by well-stocked bookshelves, offering everything from books about eastern mysticism to the latest translations of English-language pageturners. There are also three low round tables accompanied by comfortable wicker chairs and a sales counter offering teas, ceramics and a few other odds-and-ends such as incense, handmade jewellery, and a small selection of clothes from south Asia.
The beverage menu is only in Czech, but offers the usual range of teas and associated drinks such as sahlep (a sweet milky drink made from powdered orchid root and popular in Turkey and Lebanon). The prices may seem a little confusing at first; the sahlep for example is 2200 haléřu. It’s not as expensive as it might seem at first glance, because Haléřu/Hellers are the small Czech aluminium coins that hardly anybody ever bothers with any more. There are 100 hellers in one crown, which makes the 2200h sahlep worth about 60 Euro cents/75 US cents. The teas vary from around 2800h to 6400h for the fine white teas, placing the Boskovice teahouse at the relatively inexpensive end of the spectrum.
In addition to the main front bookstore room, there is also a small outdoor courtyard with two small seating areas and lots of potted plants, and an atmospherically-lit side room with three or four tables and a raised platform for the ceremonially-barefoot-sitting-upon-of-cushions. The toilets have been decorated with colourful mosaics and are quite clean and refreshingly not yet EU-compliant. The staff don’t appear to be multilingual but are friendly and clearly in mastery of their tea-brewing skills. You can sample their skills from 9am-noon and 1:30pm to 8pm on weekdays, 9am until 9pm on Saturdays and 1pm-8pm on Sundays.
The teahouse is named after a native of Boskovice whose writing was sometimes compared to that of Kafka. Hermann Unger was born in Boskovice in 1893 and grew up speaking German and Czech. While at school in Brno he became active in Jewish politics, and went on to study Hebrew, Arabic and law at university. The studies were interrupted by war and Hermann was dispatched to the Russian front from where he eventually returned wounded and with a silver medal for valour. His writing career began in 1920 with Boys and Murderers, and continued with The Maimed (1922) and The Class (1927). Unger became friends with some of Prague’s most famous Jewish-German writers: Paul Kornfeld, Ernst Weiss, and Franz Werfel, and was a contemporary of Franz Kafka and Max Brod.
He died of acute appendicitis at the age of 36 in December 1929, but has not been forgotten by the tea-connoisseurs of his hometown.
From journal Boskovice; clifftop castle ruins and kosher coffee