Brno Family: A Long Day of Fun at Bongo
Bongo Brno is packed with attractions for kids to climb, jump on and slide down. Photo credit: Bruno Zalubil.
There are a lot of expats who have gone through several phases of life in Brno, starting with the every-night-on-the-night-bus days, progressing through the just-married days, and eventually reaching the changing-diapers-and-chasing-toddler days.
Most of my friends are in the last phase along with me. It is enough of a struggle to keep the kids fed and happy, so it is difficult to maintain contact. Basically, regular drinking buddies turn into names on your phone to whom you send a text every six months.
Earlier this month, on a Saturday, I tried to create a reunion of sorts at Bongo Brno, an indoor children’s playground with many things to climb, jump on and slide down. The get-together didn’t work out the way that I had hoped, but, after almost eight hours of exploring the many attractions with my kids, we definitely got our money’s worth.
We pull into the parking lot. An FC Zbrojovka and poker buddy from way back, his wife and their two kids (toddler and a one-year-old) park next to us. There are already about a dozen cars in the parking lot. Me, thinking to myself: It will be great to get all of our kids to be friends.
A family with a father, mother and two kids costs 679kc on a weekend or holiday. We had a coupon, but the cashier points out that the normal Family Package was cheaper. Good Customer Service.
The outer clothes and shoes come off quickly and get stowed away in the lockers (200kc deposit). The kids go straight to the trampolines. Me: It feels strange walking around in only socks.
The cavernous space was a factory and there is lots of natural light through the roof. My daughter and my friend’s older son run off into the many-leveled jungle gym. They climb through compartments with different obstacles, cross rope bridges, duck under barriers and ascend a small plank to get to the edge of a long, blue slide. They hold hands as they speed down two of the four lanes. My friend says: “At the playground I always have to encourage him to do things. It’s good to have them together.” They repeat several times.
The wife and son are in the shooting gallery within the jungle gym. It is a large cube, with air-guns at each corner. Plastic balls are scattered across the bottom. Kids carry them up a plank to use them as ammunition in the air-guns. They can only shoot across the cube at the netting on the other sides. When they aim downward at the people below, the ball rolls out.
The second of the invited party — a friend whom I met on Day 1 of my life in Brno more than 13 years ago — arrives with his wife and two kids (toddler and a baby). I had never even met his youngest. Me: I hope that his daughter and mine will hit it off.
It is impossible to keep people together because kids pull parents in every direction. Some want to go into the small-kid area to play with the plastic balls and a stream of air. Others want to go on the large bouncy slide. A few are back to the jungle gym. Me: Chasing kids around this place is not conducive to catching up on life events with your friends.
Bongo has popcorn (35kc). I love popcorn. It has no butter or taste. But, it’s popcorn just the same. I sit down at a table in the dining area and write notes on my phone. Parents are scattered at the tables around me playing Candy Crush on their mobile phones, looking through real estate leaflets, reading a book, working on a laptop, reading one of the free Maminka magazines, which have a sample of porridge inside of the plastic wrapping.
My daughter finds me. She wants food. We get fries and two hot dog franks (59kc). She wanted a parek v rohliku. Dad screwed up. The wife and boy join us, too. The hot dogs aren’t great. The fries are okay.
Clearly none of the other invited friends are coming. It is always hard to plan anything. Kids get sick. Kids throw temper tantrums. The day gets crammed with chores. The weather isn’t right. The life of a parent is all about being flexible. You can’t count on anything.
Back in the trampoline area again. My son bounces around. I lay on the side of the trampoline. Me: It would be great to shut my eyes and take a nap. Older kids are attempting flips, semi-successfully, at neighboring trampolines. My son is happily counting his bounces from one end of the trampoline to the other.
We move to the little-kid area. My son pulls me into the pool of plastic balls. I’m not sure if adults are supposed to be in the ball pool so I get out. He pulls me in again.
Me: Where’s my mobile!
I search franticly underneath the trampoline and in the pool of plastic balls. The wife goes to the front desk. They tell her to call my phone number. When it rings, they give her my phone. Me: Thank you, lord!
Both groups of friends leave at the same time. I say: “We should definitely get together another time soon. Let’s get a beer.” We probably won’t see each other until summer.
Back to the trampolines.
Back to the bouncy dragon whose mouth rises every couple minutes.
Me: Where do my kids get this energy?
Back to the air-powered guns in the shooting cube. This time we take a sweater, tie the arms and fill the cavity with dozens of plastic balls.
Me: I need some coffee.
We all sit down for lunch. We get a parek v rohliku (20kc) for each kid. The wife and I share a plate of chicken strips and fries (82kc) and Cerna Hora nonalcoholic beer (32kc), which is one crown less than a normal beer (33kc). Me, justifying the snack-bar food: They only eat junk once in a while.
Chicken soup with barley and carrots (39kc) appears to be a healthy choice. Pizza (125 to 170kc) and a burger (79kc) look unappetizing and overpriced. All of the food is on plastic plates and you use plastic utensils. Napkins are available as needed, a big plus when dealing with kids.
Me: I hope they are finally getting tired now. I want to drop them off at home and go to an important mmcite1 Basket Brno game at 6 p.m.
The daughter wants to drive the cars underneath the jungle gym. The wife gets 10kc coins and takes her. My job is to keep the boy, who is too small, as far away as possible in order to avoid jealousy.
Suddenly a dance floor lights up in the middle of the space. Squares on the floor light up in different colors. Lights flash from above. Music plays. Dozens of kids jump around and wiggle in something similar to, but not quite, dancing. Dad: What is happening here? I want to leave and watch a basketball game.
“One last dance and then we are leaving.”
“No more trampolines.”
“No more riding the tricycle. We’re leaving.”
“Stop squirming and put on this sweatshirt.”
“Why does it always take so long to get you kids into your clothes!”
Finally in the car. I say: “Did you guys have fun?” No answer. “Are you two even here? Honey did we forget the kids?” Silence from the backseat. “Don’t fall asleep yet! We’ll be home soon.”
* * *
Bongo Brno is in South Brno on Pražákova 51. It is a bit tricky to find right now because of road construction in the area. Use the northbound lanes of Route 52 and one of two exits. Definitely consult google.com/maps or mapy.cz.
Click here for more information (in English).
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