Thursday, November 12, 2009
Five o'clock my alarm goes off, calling me from sleep. It was not going to be a short day.
Five thirty I was packed up, dressed up, and ready to start my forty minute trek to the train station. Walking the streets of Krakow in the early morning, before the sun has risen, while street sweepers still go about their business, and the city ever so slowly begins to wake, is a beautiful experience.
Bakeries receive their first deliveries, newspaper sellers display their wares, and men in booths sell me deodorant with my final few pollars. Except all they have is the wet roll on stuff. What I wouldn't give for a dry stick!
The street lights reflect off the cobblestone roads, slick from the misting rain. My footsteps seem so alone, nothing heard but the clop clop – squeak – clop clop – squeak – of my boots. My right boot needing some repairs, evidently.
At the station I bought two pizza breads, because – hey – this money would be useless in about thirty minutes, and got on board my train. The breads were delicious. It actually was pizza – the sauce still wet, and tangy. This could be because they do pizza bread better here, or because I got it about thirty minutes after it came out of the oven. Who can say, really?
So then I was on the train. Welcome to the next seven hours of my life.
I slept for the first three and a half. Hey – I got up at five, cut me some slack, o.k.? I liked the five teenagers who shared the cabin with me. They had a good time dealing with the smell that was me. Strange thing about hosteling – a few weeks in and you fail to recognize such smells – and you don't pick up on the smells of others. Part of the backpacker community, you just accept that this is the way it is.
The people on trains? They are not part of such community. And I've long since given up wearing clean clothes on these journeys. Too bad for them, I say. I understand I've given up all right to ever complain about smells for the rest of my life. I accept this willingly.
When I woke up, they were gone. Two others had taken their place however. So I read. And I read. And I finished Rainbow Six – time to start my THIRD Tom Clancy novel (Op Center – I picked it up in Florence from my hostel there.) And then the train cabin was mine, all mine. Six hours had passed by this point.
My boots and socks were still soaking wet from my wandering through Auschwitz yesterday. But there was a heating vent in this car. Hey – I was alone – so I put my boots upside down on the vent, and laid my socks across them. For the next hour the pungent smell of feet permeated my cabin. More security to keep me alone, and not needing to share with others. I feel badly for the ticket puncher who had to stamp my pass though.
Such is life.
I arrived in Prague seven hours from starting, with dry boots and dry socks. Life was good. And the sun was still shining over head. Good for the sun overhead!
Prague was a pretty easy city to arrive in by train. But the bank machine only hands out 1000 bills. That's only about 60 canollars, but still – awkward to use to buy your 18 czollars (prounced chez-ollars... you may think it's not, but as the originator of the term, I can assure you that it is!) metro ticket.
I went to the store and bought a map to break up my bill. I know – I know – I hate buying maps, because there are so many free ones. But I couldn't find one in the train station, so what was I to do?
Map in hand, I now knew where I was headed. Onto the metro I hopped. About thirty seconds lated I got off. I should have just walked – but, you know, 18 czollars... that's nothing.
When I got to my hostel I was handed not one, not two, but three free maps. Of course I was. So I went upstairs, threw my pack down, and then headed back out to explore the great big world we have around us.
I headed down to the river, and up the road to the dancing building. Let it not be said that I am not a hyper traveller today. And why shouldn't I be? For in just a few hours I was to be joined by two of my buddies from back home in Toronto. Now, I think that they are just using me as an excuse to get to Europe so they can head to a ManU football game in England later – but I'll choose to think of it as the reverse. Or whatever puts me in the best light. It's so hard to know how these terms play out. What I'm trying to say is that I'm awesome – and worth a trip around the world to see! And amped up about seeing them, I totally am.
I swayed with the swaying building that is the dancing building.
Then off I ran to see the bridge. The Bridge. There are many bridges but only one The Bridge. And it is big. And it is pretty.
And I saw it. Great. Check. Touristy.
I was going to go see the tower – but my map did not have elevation lines on it, and when I saw just how high up the tower was – well – we'll save that for another day. Maybe. I've seen towers before. Bone flowers I have not though. (warning: potential foreshadowing just then. I hope I make it out to see those.)
Then I found myself in a restaurant to try Budweiser. I know what you're thinking, who goes to Czech Republic to drink Bud? It's a terrible rice beer, right? WRONG! It is not! That is the American counterfeit who stole their name from this great Czech beer. And I had to try it. The original Budweiser. And – it was alright. Not great. But definitely better than the American counterpart of the same name that has been trying to buy out this beer, in order to end all legal problems – but the Czechs hold strong. They will not falter. And so the American beer still has legal issues outside of The States.
As the sun set, and I made my way to the centre square of old town, taking many long exposure shots of the buildings lit up at night, I realized the problem of my beer testing plan. I was three kilometers from the hostel. And I had to go to the bathroom.
I hurried as far as I could to get back, stopping only to lend my tripod to a man from Denmark so as his pictures could be as awesome as mine for one brief moment (he was taking night shots with a flash, not understanding why they came out so dark. Sigh. He didn't even know he could attach a tripod. They cost two bucks people – invest!)
With my good deed done, I continued on my way. But I saw no McDonald's. I saw no free bathroom. I saw nothing but my bladder rupturing just as Tycho Brahe's once did in this very town, killing him a week and a half later.
And so I cracked. I finally caved and cracked. I paid to pee. What was I to do? Five czollars – about thirty canollar cents. It wasn't much but it was the principal. The evil devil of a woman manning the both tried to screw me out of forty five czollars – but I would have none of it. Harsh words were spoken. She pretended like she didn't understand that 100 – 5 was 95, and not 50. But oh, how I made her understand. I was annoyed enough as it was.
And then back – back to the hoste... Are you kidding me? The next corner presented the merciful golden arches. But it was too late. Sigh. Ohh well. These things happen, I'm sure. No one can keep to their morals forever.
And back in the hostel I sat, and typed, and waited – waited for the two from back home to arrive. In theory they should have been here twenty minutes ago. Maybe their plane crashed? I should look into that.
THEY'RE HERE! THEY'RE HERE!