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Days Fourteen to Sixteen - Wasps and Fairytales

Zaniemyśl to Prague

sunny 26 °C

As you can probably tell from my last post, the fairy tale had ended. I apologise if I offended anyone with the brutal honesty of my account of what happened. Being hurt and angry about being lured under false pretences combined with travel plans' expense and constant changing. In the face of what happened, up until that point, I have been having the most excellent adventure. It did take me a day or two to reorder my thinking and feelings, so at the very least, I could continue my journey with the same wanderlust and enthusiasm I began it with - hence, for the break in my writing.

The drive to Prague (or Praha as it’s called correctly) was one of the best. The way that I was directed led me through the mountains and the winding forest roads, and every so often, a break in the foliage would allow me to see church spires and castles across the landscape. I reached my hotel in the late afternoon, and it’s here. I want to share another travel tip. It seems widespread sense that you must read the fine print of anything contractual, especially when checking in to a place. Unbelievably, “Booking.com” has this check-in feature whereby you can provide the time to reach your destination. Simple enough. It has a 24-hour clock, and you say when you will arrive at your hotel. Now the but. You need to check what time the hotel you are staying at is open for check-ins. Incredibly, some of the places close their Hotel reception at 5 pm! The last thing you need as a weary traveller navigating on the wrong side of the road in a different city is not to be able to get access to where you’re staying. Websites like booking.com are great for keeping track of all your reservations and correspondence in one place; however, it’s not the hotel or accommodation directly, nor do they take responsibility for what Booking.com or the hotel itself state as being the rules here. Yes, you can check in (or put your check-in time at midnight) on Booking.com, but the hotel is not obliged to meet you at this time. Most of them will message you and give you instructions, but some just close, like the corner shop, and you will get a friendly voice message saying to call them in the morning. Yip, great!

The room I had in Prague was cheap, but it served the purpose of a single traveller like myself. I was a ten-minute walk from the main square, which, if you have been following me on Facebook, you will have seen the horses towing a white carriage, incredible buildings, art, architecture, and an honest feeling you have been transported to another time. The language has changed again. After getting used to listening to a lot of Polish and German, I am confronted with another language that I honestly think I’m hearing for the first time. It’s Czech and Slavic based (like Polish), so similar sounding, but the few phrases I know have all changed. A rule of thumb I worked out was that there seem to be many younger people who speak English well, but as soon as you find older people, it’s "nie" - which sounds like nyah, no and good luck.

So, the first traditional meal I decided to have in Praha is Korean. I was missing Asian, and I heard some of you groan. Rice noodles, pork bones, and kimchi soup were as good as I’d eaten in Melbourne. I had intended to eat something local, but most of the places and menus I found were also not in English. I did find a tiny wine bar with a couple of chest-high round tables outside to smoke and drink at. It also had no English, but I considered I could navigate a tiny bar like this with hand signals. I noted its location and returned to my hotel to shower and have a siesta. Something I had decided was essential to be able to walk most of the day and then still have the energy later to go out exploring at night.

On returning to said wine bar later, it was a surreal and fun experience. They had casks on the wall with a serve-yourself arrangement. A mature woman who ran the place came and started talking to me fluently in Czech. I didn’t have to say much to understand we couldn’t communicate normally. I saw another person's wine that looked the right colour, and at least the owner knew the difference between sweet and dry. She poured me a glass and offered me a chair, facing inward with no table in this small space. She was neither friendly nor unfriendly to start with. No one smiled. A few other people came in, got wine, and went outside to smoke – something that so many people do in Europe. There was no music playing.

I was sitting silently on a wooden chair, studying the words written on the ends of these casks. I like these moments. The feeling of needing to be entertained is something we call atmosphere. Whether it be a jukebox, a guitarist in the corner, or big screen TVs with commentators yelling or punters yelling at horses or dogs going around a track – this place had nothing going on. Nada. A wine and some barrels and locals drinking and chatting. The owner next brought me a plate with a selection of cold meats. Think salami, but this platter's selection of cured meats was impeccable. She placed it on the bookshelf behind me and pointed at the plate for me to help myself.

A few more people arrived, and I felt it was time to go outside on the street. A tall man introduced himself to me on the road. He’d been watching me drinking and watching. He said his name was something like Evanovich, but it ended more with a sound I can’t replicate. For my story, we will call him Evan. His English was good, and he’d travelled to Australia and New Zealand, so he could relate to the culture shock I was going through. He was very proud that he was the tallest person and the most gay. He introduced me to a blonde woman named Petra. She had a face that was rounded in the cheeks, and she liked to laugh a lot. Her English was understandable, as she made more effort to discuss more complex subjects. And this is the only issue with different levels of understanding. I love cerebral discourse, and from this woman’s education, she did too, but the frustration that became a fascination was how to have a non-weather and how your trip conversation when you don’t share the language. This is where Evan was more than happy to jump in, except I never imagined he was this huge prankster. So I’m conversing with Petra that he’s almost translating on the fly, and we are having these moments of laughter. Petra is becoming more friendly with the wine and conversation, and Evan is animated and laughing. Evan went to the bathroom, and it was then that Petra and I realised that Evan hadn’t been translating our conversation correctly. I'd never said she had nice breasts, lips or anything. He’d been making up a completely different story to both of us. We had been talking to him, and he translated it into a completely different question. When he returned, we played our little trick on him, which was great!

The fascinating part about this little bar I discovered was it was owned and run by the locals. And they could point at which apartment was theirs from the street. I thought Petra was making half of it up to start with, especially at who attended this private bar I had now been accepted into as a member. A radio/TV personality who was incognito and everyone else there who was a professional seemed to be at the highest station of their chosen career. A dean of a University, a teacher who was head of Educational Studies in Praha, a Czech diplomat (aka spy), and the list of accolades of the people continued. A private bar owned and run by these incredible professionals. They decided they might take turns being the bartender but wisely decided to pay a person to manage. It which was the mature woman who served me earlier. Some other tourists showed interest in the bar and were promptly given finger directions down the street. “We don’t need them here,” Petra said, laughing. It was great to be accepted by this group of local people and to listen (albeit mistranslated at times) about their lives.

One of the cool things I gleaned was that the “tourist” town centre they send everyone to isn’t Praha's original centre. Petra said the absolute dead centre of Praha was about there, and she pointed just down the street. The teacher historian piped up and went into detail about it as Evan translated, with me going, Now you’re interpreting correctly this time?

Our small tiddly group dragged me off to a Belgian beer bar, and I’m going. Is this what your typical Monday looks like? They all laughed. No, but they felt they needed to be polite and entertain me. At the beer bar, the waitress did a fascinating thing. She greeted each one of us individually and formally. I thought she was taking the mickey, but apparently, it’s a done thing in these parts. She shook hands and would focus each person in the eye, and they would announce their name, to which she would reply with hers, which I only caught ended in OV. “Mistres-stravanova-check-OV,” it sounded like. She goes around the whole group and finally gets to me. I offered my hand, and she shook it as I said, “Hi, I’m Andy.” She goes, “Hi Andy, I’m Lois.” And everyone laughed.

The next day, I decided to go on a random walk around Praha. It’s a great city to get lost in, and I would arrive at an intersection and use my instincts and a minor divinity to decide on direction. These geo-psychic walks are so much fun, and with a map on your phone, it’s okay to go and get as lost as possible. I ended up most of the day down great streets with excellent dissecting lines and colours, of which I posted one to Instagram and Facebook, as well as other scenes that could easily be lifted from the pages of fairy tales. The medieval nature of this city and its history is impressive. How all these different cultures survived each other and didn’t wipe one another shows the strength and resilience of each one. It also shows tolerance and diplomacy in realising their differences and culture. I thought Berlin would be hard to top, but Prague would give it a run for its money. Red is a colour I noticed a strong synergy and highlights, perhaps lifted from the Czechia flag. No one says all calls it the Czech Republic anymore, which showed how old my geography was of the place.

To be honest three days heere were kind of blurry as I was still processing what had happened. On ward and upward I felt, and I wasn't going to spend a moment longer pondering about it.

End of Day Sixteen.

Posted by Andy_in_Europe 14:19 Archived in Czech Republic

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