Thursday, July 13, 2006

Flop checks in from the road

PRAGUE, Czech Republic (CSB) _ I think my final verdict on Prague won't come until I'm on the train leaving it, and I think I'm going to like it, even though I think the best way to see it is as a 22-year-old backpacker. Prague is almost everything I thought it would be (but smaller and more walkable) and a lot of things I didn't expect. For one, it's HOT here. Temperatures have been in the high 80s, and probably hit 90 my first day in town. I assumed it was just the heat on the tarmac (yes, I got to fly a random state airline, and yes, I got miles for it.) The communist-built Metro is like Washington's but prettier and colder. (And mercifully uncarpeted).

Most everything else in this town dates from the 12th century onward. It's utterly fascinating, as long as the German or American tourists don't run you over. I admit, I was pretty shocked by the crowds. My experience with European capitals has been limited to London and Paris. In both cities I speak the language, blend in to some degree and always get asked for directions. That hasn't happened here. For one thing, everyone's reading maps in the middle of the street. For another, I'm wearing the one pair of shorts I brought with me _ purchased at a surf shop in Hilton Head. They're khaki in color and cargo in nature. I'm a tourist. But it's OK, I think. A friend who was also traveling here (she was in Europe to cover the World Cup, in a happy coincidence) explained to me that Florence was even more crowded in the summer. I really like Prague, but I think I'll try Italy in the low season.

Then there's the lanugage barrier. I refuse to march up to someone in his or her hometown and address them in a foreign language. Even (and especially) if said language is rapidly becoming the world's lingua franca. Unfortunately, my standard "dobry den" usually gets a flurry of Czech in reply. At which point I have to sheepishly ask if they speak English. Of course, most Czechs do, and well, and sometimes I wonder why I bothered.

I haven't decided which bit of town is my favorite so far, but Prague Castle, the tower at the Old Town Hall and the Charles Bridge, especially when viewed from a riverbank cafe, with a cold Pilsener Urquell in front of me) all are up there. I searched high and low for a portable version of one of the castle windows, so Crimenotes and I can re-enact my favorite bit of Habsburg history at the bar, but no soap so far. Incidentally, that aforementioned beer was the most expensive I've had in town _ it ran my 55 Kc. Which in 'merican dollars is about ... two. Usually beers are about $1.25 here, as they were at the beer hall which is the home of the original Budweiser. You'd pay four times that in New York and get something about 40 times less good.

Speaking of beer, I think it's about time I stop using my CSB expense account on internet access and start spending it on more of that golden nectar whch can actually be cheaper than water here.


Crunk Raconteur said...

Dude, just remember, if you meet somebody that doesn't speak English, they'll probably understand you if you just raise your voice and shout English at them.

evilgirl said...

what is the word for bananas in czech?

Flop said...

Man, upon re-reading this three hours later (I forgot to get someone's postal address out of my e-mail earlier) I vow to never again post from the road before having had either a coffee or a beer. Crikey.

Ironically for evilgirl, I actually actively dislike banánový and so haven't had any since I was here.

CrimeNotes said...

How do you say "squirrels" and "crenshaw melon" in Czech?