Prague Part Dva

July 21, 2005

Czesky Krumlov

My last free weekend in Europe was a week ago and I had yet to travel anywhere. So the night before, I found a like-minded student, Adam, and we took off for the Brewery tour of the Czech Republic. We caught a bus to Pilzen, home of the only true Pilsner beer, Prazdroj. We arrived in this town, unable to speak Czech or find someone who mluveetee anglitsky (speaks english), so we decided to take random buses in random directions. We ended up taking a bus past an enourmous complex with PILSNER URQUELL written over and over on the wall followed on the end with a sign that said GAMBRINUS. Now, Gambrinus is a competing beer made in the Czech Republic. That, along with this bus stop being called “gambrinus”, made us feel justified in riding further. We were such idiots.

After the Pilzen tour we caught a train for Ceske Budejovice, home of BUDVAR! We had about an hour until our bus into Cesky Krumlov was scheduled to leave, so we wandered a bit. I have to say that one of my favorite things about Europe is their town squares. Anytime a town devotes two square blocks to an open cobblestoned square with nothing in it but a central fountain, I am a fan.

A half hour later and we are in Cesky Krumlov, touted as one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. The place belongs in a snow globe complete with waterfall and wheel, aqeduct, palace, ornately decorated spire, and a lazy river that wraps around to define the borders of the city. Of course, I took no pictures.

The next morning we went back to Cesky Budejovice to take the brewery tour. Too bad it was Sunday. We made the best of it by sitting in the Budvar restaurant and drinking 5L of delicious Budvar each. I also managed to spend 1000 Krowns on a Budvar tie, tie clip, bottle openers, and a Budvar towel. I do like Budvar. I also have 6 Budvar coasters that tell the story of some demon that sneeks into the Brewery, tampers with the beer, and is then stoned with corn-on-the-cob.

And the winner of these priceless coasters and Budvar bottle opener? Uncle Neurophysiologist, for his advice on traveling in Europe:

“Look at your luggage and divide by 2; then look at your wallet and multiply by 2.”

Girl in Hat Store

Returning to Prague, I have gone Euro. “Going Euro” is wearing the tight jeans, the tight shirts, the green sneakers, the button down shirt open with belly proudly leading on a hot day, the guy with no shirt in the middle of the classy bar, the girl and the guy making out so hard you think one is trying to eat the other (this drawing no stares). Going Euro happens in pockets instead of on a gradient. You don’t have people that are half punk, half model, or half naked; everything is all out. It wasn’t till the end of the trip that I realized how much I was ignoring, but Prague is a twilight zone of crazy.

In Prague, I have finally hit “survive” on the scale of Czech fluency. I can come and go, order and pay, ask and understand directions, and tell a Czech women that she is beautiful. But more than all of this, the ability to say “buzz off” in Czech without accent has been the most useful when dodging vendors and prostitutes on the tourist-choked streets.

Traveler’s note: if a woman walks up to you asking for “sexy?” and you refuse, she will try to run after you and hug you. She IS NOT trying to change your mind; she is trying to pick your pocket. Channel Ron Burgandy, and you’ll know what to do.

Landing back in the US was disorienting. First, everyone is speaking English while I’m still on Czech autopilot with my Dyekui’s (thanks) and my Dobry Den’s (hello). The faces in the airport are softer, without all the dramatic angles that hallmark the euros.

So that was it. My own advice for those traveling to Europe:

“Learn their language.”

Cheers And Nastravi! (Nicedriveway)

Tables

 

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In Prague

July 13, 2005

Hanging Statue of Lenin

Where to begin. Having a bit of writer’s block. I’m sitting off the balcony of my new room in a Hostel downtown. This is so much better than living in Kobylisy 8 with 7 other people in a room with four beds touching. I’ve been in Prague for seven days now. There are so many different types of faces and haircuts. The mullet is king, with every third person from the UK sporting one. The Scottish are terrifying. Every one of them looks like an extra from Braveheart that kept the costume. So scary. Nobody wears matching clothing, colour or decade.

Everything is different. Their toilet paper is thinner and has that recycled-paper look. I am still terrified of bedais (sp?). Men with capris are king; runner up is the tapered pant leg. The escalators are very steep and seems like the most popular place to stare at people. I haven’t figured out if this is a staring society or if I’m getting the tourist treatment. Either way, I’m staring back.

Hilarious Phallic Statue

It seems that only 3/4 of Prague is Czech, the rest ex-pat and vacationing. Opening up your head to all of the different languages ruins your ability to eavesdrop on your own, I’ve learned. I’ve learned about 50 czech words that I can’t pronounce. Nerozemum = I don’t know = most useful word. “krk”= throat. “Cheers!” sounds like “nice drive way” slurred. Beer is “pivo”.

There are no ranch homes in Prague. You can buy a shirt that says “Czech me out!” but not one that says “Czech, please?” which disappoints me. Everywhere I walk has art. If not paintings on walls then reliefs over doorways or statues on state buildings. There is a statue of Lenin hanging from one arm four stories off the ground and out my window. There is a statue of Superman proudly face-planting into the ground.

Thai massage

My legs are oak dipped in steel. I’m averaging 8 miles a day on foot. There is something to look at or do every single step. There are so many restaurants that you marvel at how they can all stay in business. There just can’t be that many hungry people. I have been living like a king, eating out every meal, sitting in beautiful restaurants that could fetch $100 plate prices back home but cost only $7. The dollar trades with the krown at 1/25. I feel like I am stealing from these people. There are so many places to eat that you are forced to have the appetizer, course and desert at three different locations with drinks at a fourth, fifth, ad infinitum.

I’m in Prague to study. A course through SGU places me on rounds with doctors from different fields, one per week. I lucked out with heart, brain and bone. Some poor saps got lungs, guts and kids. I have two more days of heart, where I get to watch a doctor push and pull a tube through someone’s chest via a hole in their leg. We watch all of this on live x-ray monitors and ponder the weight of our full body lead vests. For the vest alone, I do not want to be a cardiologist.

Things to do:
1) walk across all seven bridges in Prague (maybe two people laugh at this)
2) buy uncle a gift for telling me about Budvar, the best thing since life itself
3) Get out of Prague for a while

Taking a nap and walking somewhere, topher.

Street beggar in prague