Celebrating the end of winter more than workers' rights, May Day in the Czech Republic is less about mayhem and demonstrations than it is about kissing your sweetheart under the cherry blossoms. So at least there's Witches' Night, or Paleni carodejnice, every April 30, to subversively usher in spring. After the bonfires and witch-burning effigies wound down in the capital city of Prague last week, about 100 intrepid partiers continued (or began) the night with some sanctioned civil disobedience. When's the last time you raved on a tram?
It's not as unlikely as raving on the moon—Chicago's El-train has hosted parties and Toronto's streetcar is regularly taken over by artsy dancers—but Prague's Tramix is perhaps the only monthly spin 'round a major city. People have been losing their balance on it since 2002. The Tramix party combines a two-and-a-half hour ride through the city with music, drinks, and an after-party at one of Prague's megaclubs (the location changes each time) for about $20. Boarding a central tram stop at 10 p.m., dancers squash in like sardines as "This is Tramix!" booms over a microphone. The overheard lighting is replaced with lasers and colored strobes, and an obligatory whoop goes up as the tram takes off.
The atmosphere on board is good-natured and collegiate. As in every dance scene in Prague, longtime residents mingle with transplants from nearby countries and American and UK expats. "Where do you think I work?" slurs a TEFL teacher while the tram is idling on a smoke-and-piss break. Camaraderie happens on Tramix where it might not on Prague's dozens of subterranean dancefloors. And for jaded dancers, it's a novel way to experience the city's electronic music scene, which lacks the trendiness of those in nearby Berlin and Budapest. Maybe they'll play "Rhythm of the Night" again—but hey, you'll be hearing it on a tram!
A consistent 4/4 is pumped from the tram's system. Nobody cares what DJs Dan Cooley and Madman are playing. But their house selections are solid, showing why they're MVPs in clubs around town. They keep it bumping without a hitch, inspiring more than one rider to start an impromptu pole dance. There's also a fair amount of making out on the tram, with at least three paparazzi documenting the debauchery. Musically speaking, the only reminder that you're not in a slightly hipper, chic-er city is when they drop Faithless' 1995 single "Insomnia" as the final jam. There should be a tour of Faithless', rather than Kafka's, Prague.
Tramix's organizers tout the thrill of cruising through famous historic areas like bustling Wenceslas Square, which do look more gorgeous by night. Now the sights go by faster, but with a beer (taken from a huge bucket in the tram's rear) in hand, and with cheers from people on the street. Moving further from the city center is almost more fun. Passing hernas, or all-night gambling parlors, and empty stadiums on the outskirts gives the ride a cinematic quality. The city feels alive because you're in it, making noise.
Photo credit: Štěpán Hora