The ghost of a gluttonous merchant haunts the Wallenstein Pub

A beggar had the last word when the entrepreneur wouldn’t share his leftovers

Back when times were tough, obesity used to be quite rare. Only the wealthy could afford to eat that much, while the poor barely managed from day to day.

A merchant managed to have incredible luck, getting goods cheaply just when there was a big demand. He grew incredibly wealthy and began to love the high life. Every day he would go to the pub next to the Wallenstein Palace and eat from the middle of the afternoon to closing time.

Eventually he became so large that both doors had to open for him to get inside. A special wide chair with extra-thick legs had to be made for him, and his regular table had to be set several meters from the wall so he could fit behind it. His suits, of course, were custom made using twice the regular allotment of the whole nine yards.

silverware and lobster

Still life with silverware and lobster by Pieter Claesz. Public domain

A typical dinner would start with three or four bowls of soup, a loaf of bread and butter, a plate of goulash and two liters of beer. And that was just to get ready to look at the menu. He usually ordered everything on it. The only question was how many of each.

The economy took a downturn, but he was not affected, and had saved in case of a rainy day, and since he mostly sold cheap goods he still did well. Even more people needed cheap goods than before.

Many people were reduced to being beggars, and there was little in the way of any social support from the government. Poverty was seen as somebody’s own fault for not being industrious enough.

Waldštejnská hospoda

Waldštejnská hospoda in Malá Strana

A former patron of the pub who had fallen on hard times remembered that the merchant often left some dishes unfinished in his rush to get to the next one while it was still warm.

The hungry man went to the glutton, catching him between his third pork knee and second helping of duck, to beg for a few leftover scraps, but the obese man would have none of it. He had the waiters throw the unfortunate man back out onto the street. “Why should I give you food out of my own mouth? You don’t deserve to eat, you lazy cur!” the merchant said.

But before the hungry beggar was all the way out the door, he managed to curse the entrepreneur. “I hope you eat so much you explode, selfish glutton!” the beggar said.

Gerritsz van Schooten

Still-life with cheese, herring, bread and wine by Gerritsz van Schooten. Public domian

And while the glutton was eating his duck and contemplating another serving of carp, he did just what the beggar suggested. He exploded like a water balloon at a carnival.

The merchant now haunts the pub on Valdštejnské náměstí, turning up in his old-fashioned clothes and still wide girth, looking as he did just before the explosion.

He can be freed from his curse if a poor man offers to share his meal with him, but that is highly unlikely. The upscale pub these days often has a maitre’d by the door to keep the riff raff out. And while ghosts tend to haunt at midnight, the pub now closes at 10 pm.


Background

Waldštejnská hospoda is still in operation, and is rather fancy for a pub. And also pricey. But it is located right next to the Czech Senate and a row of embassies, so that makes sense. Private events are common there.

At the Three Storks.

Sign for At the Three Storks.

The building it is located in is called At the Three Storks (U Tří Čápů). The baroque-style building underwent a renovation in 2006, but most of the original exposed wood, plaster and painted details were preserved. Aside from the pub, there is an upscale hotel.

It is in Prague’s Malá Strana district, which had a fire in 1541. After that, large palaces and baroque buildings were erected in the vacant spots and have largely been there ever since.

The adjacent Wallenstein Palace, now the Senate building, was built by Albrecht von Wallenstein in the 17th century. The duke and military leader was a firm believer in astrology, doing little without consulting the stars first.

Albrecht von Wallenstein.

Statue of Albrecht von Wallenstein.

The palace has a large public garden, which sometimes has free classical concerts. Usually there are white peacocks strutting about and large goldfish in a fountain with a bronze statue.

The palace and square in front of it is home to another ghost, Ruprecht, a bugler in the duke’s retinue. He lost his head after disturbing the ailing duke with his loud bugle blowing.

Other ghosts in the vicinity include Naked Cecilie, who died in the winter cold, and flaming miser searching for his lost treasure, a woman with two husbands (all three haunt together), and the wandering skeleton of a murdered locksmith.

punch cartoon

Cartoon from 1899 in Punch magazine. Public domain

In the 18th and especially 19th century, merchants, millers and industrialists became the new wealthy class. The idle nobility saw its power and wealth wane, and other had to sell off property to keep up appearances.

Obesity became a theme for magazine cartoons, especially political ones contrasting the rich and the poor.

But obesity is no joke. Currently it is a leading preventable cause of death, and has other severe impacts on health.


An article by Baba Studio with Raymond Johnston. Copyright Baba Studio, all rights reserved. Please contact us if you would like to syndicate or otherwise use this article.

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