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.”
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)
i read your post about prague. I am an IMG like you who goes to school in Prague at Charles University and I think I saw a whole bunch of you guys on Karlovo Namesti last summer while I was committing suicide by pathology…it appears you had a better experience in prague than I am having and you should check my blog for updates on my IMG hell, err I mean experience.
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