Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Back in the Czech Republic (1) Going Home

Well, the holidays are over. No more mistletoe, no more holiday cheer. Gone are lazy days playing cards and all sort of games with friends. The food has been eaten; the champagne has popped and flooded our glasses with sparkling wonder. The last firecracker was heard and we are back to work.

What I wish you all is what I wish myself for this year, and for every year: health and strength to go through all that the New Year has to offer, good or bad. For me, 2009 has been a good year, as I already told you but I find it strange when almost everyone around finds it was a terrible year. The crisis may account for that I think. But even with the crisis (which at one point turned into a big personal financial crisis), overall I found the strength, humor and love to pass all the difficulties. So I wish the same for this year.

The holidays passed like a charm and here I am back at work, back home in the Czech Republic. Yes, home, because on the way over it hit me that I was actually leaving one home for the other. The flat in Plzen is not just "the flat" but it's "home" You're going to say I did a lot of thinking...well yeah, because on a 20 hours bus trip, there is little to do but think. And try to sleep. And call the police with unfunded warnings about turned over buses but more about that later.

My fans want to know about my latest adventures, so without further ado I will start from the top: Going to Romania for the Holidays. I think this will generate another post, but I'll see about that later. What you must know about this trip is that I did not plan it in advance. So here I am middle of December, without a ticket to get back home, planes and trains are too expensive, Eurolines are booked out so I find myself having to reserve a ticket from a strange bus company. Why strange? You'll see. And to make things even nicer, the three days before my departure I made so many miles, going to Prague, going to work from Prague (at 5 o'clock because I had forgotten some papers. Yes, AM), then going on a business trip, coming home, going to a Christmas dinner, going back home, packing...On the morning of the trip I was exhausted.

So here we are, December 23rd, I leave my nice flat in Plzen, and the boy takes me to the bus station, where I take a seat on one of the last places in the Student Agency coaches. First off let me tell you this: Student Agency is the way to travel in CZ. No pub here, just facts: comfy seats and a nice hostess giving you a free hot drink: coffee, good hot chocolate, tea, and putting on a movie for your viewing pleasure (with English subtitles). All for the price of a normal coach ticket. If you manage to find places that is. The trip to Prague: bliss, I even stroke up conversation with the lady sitting next to me, yes in Czech (well very poor Czech).

From there it all goes downhill. Picture this: me with a huge luggage, half empty but just as heavy as if it were full and a smaller bag meant to hold all the food I'd bring back (I had a large order of sarmale, carnati and other Romanian delicacies). The next part of the trip was so long and difficult (thank God I didn't have to change metros, from Zlicin to Florenc it's all straight and they do have some elevators but I still had to carry my huge coffin-like bag up and down) that I was glad to reach the coach station and hopeful that the worst was behind me. I still had some time to kill before my coached arrived so what do I think? let's get a burger and chips from Burger King, cause you know, I usually like the burgers here. Well yeah, the burger was ok (at 10 o'clock in the morning) but the chips were awful. Yes awful. Stale. And cold. And did I mention awful?

Being a bit nervous, and afraid I'll miss the coach (it could happen, especially with my track record: missing busses and trains is a specialty of mine), I go to the toilet for the last time and then I go wait for the coach on the quay. And a good idea that was: it was already full, mostly of my compatriots, but also Bulgarians, Ukrainians and Moldavians. All working here, more or less legally. And now you will understand why I said strange when talking about this company, you see, I had no ticket. Nothing. Just a phone call with a guy who said I had to pay 500 crowns up front, but if I couldn't, I can get my ticket from the Ukrainian girl that will be at the coach. And so I go to look for Irina who gives me my ticket in exchange for some crowns (cheaper than Eurolines) and also a business card with her phone number and those of the company. And she also sells me another ticket for the way back, with another business card. (it's a leitmotif that one).

Coming down from a coach with a hostess and getting on another coach with a hostess, I think to myself (mummy >:D<) I'll get a decent ride after all. And then I see the other girls, Moldavian, Ukrainian, hostesses like Irina (Ludmila and Iulia) and they are all nice, frail girls, well dressed and wearing make up, showing the Slave heritage very well. But they boss around the hordes of workers, telling the guys where to sit and the guys listening, despite some (futile) resistance. And they give candy too. But the trip was made without the Slavic goddesses, only the two drivers remained, the same who put the luggage in a very irrational way and then started smoking on the bus. By this point I was like in a mafia movie: strange looking characters, lots of men wearying big rings and a longer pinky nail, longer hair at the back and shorter in the front (80's style) or other strange hairdos and I've even spotted the blade of a knife (I was carrying an Opinel myself).

Half an hour later, bags packed in reverse order (Bucharest bags where somehow to the front of the pack), men put at their seats in the rear and girls traveling alone at the front, couples seated together, candies distributed, and we're off.

(to be continued...)

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