So Prague happened. At least what I saw of it. Mostly from the train on the way in, which, along with much of Central Europe, was mostly flooded. And, yes, raining when we arrived.
The Metro was down when we got into the train station, so we walked/I hobbled around for a while in the train station trying to figure out how to get to our hotel not using the only directions we had- which involved taking the Metro.
And at this point, our train was about 2.5 hours delayed because of all the flooding. My knee was throbbing. I couldn’t really walk. I looked at Nolan. Maybe we should just take a taxi?
We haven’t been taking taxis – they’re just not in the budget. But maybe, just maybe this one time justifies a great big lazy cab ride.
We kinda sorta walked around for a while and kinda sorta figured out where the taxi stand might be. We go up the stairs. They are a long run of stairs, and I’m not doing so well. Nolan has his 2 backpacks and my big suitcase. We finally make it up and walk for a long while along the side of the train station and see some taxis in the distance.
Now, dearest Reader, a bit of important background information here. I know that our hotel is not far from the train station. It would have been 2 subway stops. The woman from the hotel also mentioned in her directions that we could also easily walk to the hotel from the train station and that it would take about 20 minutes.
So we approach the first taxi driver.
He’s sitting in the passenger side of the car smoking. He doesn’t look up. Nolan approaches him, he waves us off to the guy behind him. Okay then.
We approach the next guy – I have the address on my phone – I show it to him. He shakes his head. “Very far. 20 Euro.”
Naaahhhh way. I say, “Um no, not far at all! Just by metro Pavlova!”
He has his cigarette right near my face and blows it at me. He stares hard. “20 Euro.”
I’m no spring chicken, and clearly we’re exhausted and I’m obviously pregnant and crippled, so I know we’re like a couple of sitting ducks, but 20 Euro? Come ON man. Also, he blew smoke in my face. Not cool, guy. I’m a pregnant lady with a cane. Not. Cool.
He just kinda snickered as we hobbled away.
So we head back along the train station and then back down the stairs. I spot, on the far side of the train station what appears to be a Tourist Info booth. We wait in a long line, for a long time at this apparent Tourist Info booth. It turned out to be, I think.
Finally, when its our turn, I say, Um Hi! The Metro isn’t running, we need please to go to I.P. Pavlova metro stop.
The woman doesn’t look up at us, not once, but says “Bus. XC.”
I’m scrambling to write this down. “Um, great, okay, can you tell us please where to buy tickets?”
Again, not looking up, she points. To somewhere beyond our left shoulder.
“Um, please, where stop the bus?”
And yes, I’m actually talking like this. I somehow displace my anxiety / guilt for not speaking the language by massacring my own. I’m not sure where this unconscious strategy came from, but I’ve been doing it in some way ever since I left Paris and started not knowing how to communicate. I also seem to shrug my shoulders and smile a lot.
But somehow, unconsciously I feel better if I don’t actually use correct English, just piecemeal English, as if that makes it okay that I’m here in your country and speaking to you and
This time she points up. Like to heaven? The big bus to the sky? Has it come to this?
But there’s a long line of people behind us, and anyway, she clearly is done with us. We move on.
Where she was pointing first was to the WC. I know it’s my first time to Prague, but I’m pretty sure they don’t sell bus tickets in the toilet. But beside that – well on the other side of a long wall beside that, was a little shop. We tried our luck.
“Um, hello! Ticket please for bus XC?”
Again, this woman didn’t look up, didn’t say a word, but passed us 2 tickets and pointed to the cash register. We gave her the 2.40 Euros and was on our way. Maybe my whole should-shrug, smile big and speak in broken English thing just isn’t cutting it here. Fair enough.
Now to find out where the bus stopped.
There were stairs. That seemed like up. There were those stairs we had already trudged up with my limp and Nolan carrying all our luggage.
We trudged. Again. We were then outside. Again. We walked along the train station, past the taxi scammers who are still smoking and snickering and then found more stairs. We trudged up again. And somehow, somehow we actually found the XC bus stop.
Now, there were a lot of people, a lot of buses and we had no idea if we were going in the right direction. And just as we were trying to figure it out, an XC bus pulls up, and people get off, people get on and we figure, ok, we just gotta go for it, we’ve come this far. And we squeeze onto the bus. Just barely. I show the bus driver our ticket and say I.P.Pavlova? (our Metro stop) Meaning, oh hey, this is where we want to go, is that where you happen to be going?
He yells something at us. Actually screams at us. And shakes his head. So we start to get off the bus. Then he yells something else and shakes his head yes. We’re a bit confused at this point, and to be honest, pretty fucking tired. And I’m still half on the bus at this point, and Nolan is half off, and then half back in the bus and he shuts the door. On Nolan. Nolan manages (again, with 2 backpacks and my honking big suitcase) to stay on the bus and the driver pulls away at breakneck speed, still apparently cursing at us, and I, with my one decent leg and cane, fall into the people standing behind me. Hard. There is a nice older woman and she gives me her seat, despite me body checking her mere moments earlier. I think she even pats my hand. And then, 2 stops later, she says I.P. Pavlova. It’s our stop. I loved that woman.
So we finally make it to our hotel. Which we found on Airbnb so it’s not a regular hotel – it’s more of a guest house, I guess. And the rooms were really really cheap, so really nothing to complain about, but our room is actually the size of our double bed, with kind of enough room to squeeze around on 3 sides. The bathroom is off the small, narrow hallway that has a motion detector light that goes on for exactly 4 seconds. Enough to momentarily blind you in the middle of the night when you have to get up to pee, but not enough time to actually get to where you’re going.
And yes, I’m talking a lot about the room, and have not much to say about Prague in general because that is where I spent the next 3 days. We went down the street for a dinner 2 nights – it was about 2.5 blocks away, and it was decent food and super cheap. And we ventured into the old town for a dinner one night. Mostly because I was having some serious cabin fever. And also because I kinda wanted to see more than the 8 blocks between the train station and our hotel. We took a tram. We walked along the river and saw the crazy flooding. We ate at another place that wasn’t filled with cheap food and students drinking litres of beer.
And the next day I watched more French Open and more BBC World News. Our internet connection was terrible, so I couldn’t even send emails or while away the time looking at dumb internet sites that I usually spend hours wasting time on. Or even planning more of the trip. Nope, good old fashioned TV and an elevated leg for this girl. No photos here either, folks. Again I really didn’t get out much.
Nolan got out and explored a bit. And he did some laundry. Bless him.
It was funny. When we were leaving Prague, I felt something of a kinship to the room I was holed up in for those days. I spent a long time there. It felt comfy. I even had a (not so) brief and fleeing thought that I might take with me the mauve satin pillow that had propped my leg up for all those days. I actually thought of the logistics of how to take it with me; would it fit in my suitcase? Should I mention this to Nolan? Would the hotel charge my credit card? I can only attribute these (crazy) thoughts to something of a Stockholm Syndrome of the pillow variety. In actuality, the room was cramped, not very clean and smelled funny. And the pillow? Oh, the pillow. It was mauve, people. Mauve. And satin. I don’t know what to say. In fact, I don’t even know why I’m admitting these things here, if only so you might understand my state of mind in being cooped up in a Soviet-era style hotel room with a busted knee for 3 days. It ain’t pretty.
And we went to Vienna. And I did not take the Mauve Pillow, just for the record.
So Vienna. I wish I had something more to say than what the train station looked like. But I don’t.
And then we hopped on an overnight train to Venice! Bum leg, cane, floods, ever-increasinglack of bladder control, crappy weather, cranky bus drivers, mauve pillows – all be damned. We’re waking up in Italy!!!!!