Elissa’s Mixtape: Czech Out this Perfect Summer Libation

Sometime in the late 90s, a tiny travel seed began to grow. The exact circumstances are lost to time, but one detail still remains: me, obsessively watching the music video for Never Tear Us Apart by INXS. The band’s beautiful and soulful lead singer and lyricist, Michael Hutchence, had died suddenly in November of 1997 — shocking and stunning their fans all over the world — and I too was in mourning.

But as a small bright side at the time, the golden age of YouTube was officially in full swing, making endless INXS interviews, videos and performances just a mouse-click away. I consumed countless hours of this online content, but Never Tear Us Apart always stood out to me above the rest — and not only because it’s the band’s most powerful and popular ballad. (It’s remained a meaningful song to me throughout my life… my husband and I would dance to it at our wedding 7 years later, but I’m getting ahead of myself.)

A New Sensation

Filmed in 1987 during winter in Prague, before the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of Communist rule, the video features the band ambling along the city’s cobblestone streets — surrounded by the lampposts, statues and spires of a frozen land in a very Old World. To young Elissa, this was all very romantic and alluring. The washed-out icy tone of the video offers small glimmers of darkness and sadness — just enough to make the city also feel a bit forbidden, and therefore that much more desirable. Throughout the next two decades I was fortunate to travel to other fascinating foreign lands, but the mystique of Prague still called to me.

Until finally, last month, when I journeyed with my better half to the Czech Republic. He was incredibly sweet to not only share the trip with me, but to also help me find many of the filming locations featured in the video that started it all. The Old Jewish Cemetery, Charles Bridge, Slovanský Ostrov, Old Town Square… these sites are all well-known tourist destinations, so they weren’t difficult to discover and enjoy.

The New Castle Staircase

However, at the very end of the video, there’s a stunning staircase that always caught my eye. I asked every traveler’s best friend — Mr. Google — where it was located in the city, but my efforts proved futile. Until, one evening when we were resting on our balcony, I began randomly flipping through a tour book I found lying around the apartment. Suddenly there it was: the New Castle Staircase, at the north end of historic Prague Castle’s enormous hilltop complex. When we found it the next day, I was heartened to see that only the seasons had changed in the thirty years that passed since its filming.

In honor of the charming and welcoming city of Prague, which somehow exceeded my immense expectations in every way imaginable, I present the Beton. This is a very popular summer drink in the Czech Republic, made from a delicious herbal liquor manufactured right in the heart of the country. It’s easy to make (only three ingredients — and one’s a lemon wedge) and oh-so-refreshing. Better yet, you can even purchase the Becherovka here, or at your local Total Wine store. But don’t forget the ice!

The Beton

2 oz. Becherovka Liquor
Lemon Wedge
Top off with Tonic Water

And finally, inspired by INXS (this mixtape features 90% Australian artists) and my amazing life partner who is always excited to share an adventure with me, a playlist:

Never Tear Us Apart — INXS
Beds are Burning — Midnight Oil
Stuck in a Moment — U2
Fall at Your Feet — Crowded House
Electric Blue — Icehouse
Overkill — Men at Work
Pleasure & Pain — Divinyls
Reptile — The Church
Time Jesum Transeuntum Et Non Riverentum — Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
Truly Madly Deeply — Savage Garden
Ana’s Song — Silverchair
Shine Like it Does — INXS

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