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Day Two - starring porcupines and becherovka

CZECH REPUBLIC | Monday, 7 June 2010 | Views [252]

Today promised adventure, albeit the unexpected random kind. I was at the horse on Vaclavaku ten minutes early for my meeting with good friend Labus. Tourists milled around the statue of the old king and a young lad was passed out on a nearby bench, completely oblivious to the rising sun warming his face. Another lad was slumped over next to him, not exactly conscious either. A good night then? Vaclavske Namesti (Wenceslas Square) was the site of the revolution in 1989. Hundreds and thousands of people gathered here to denounce communism and usher in a new era of freedom. Now it's drab - nothing redeeming about it at all - except for the magnificent statue of the good king Wenceslas on his horse looking down over it's narrow square. The home of the revolution is now filled with imported franchises and brand names - McDonald's (the first), KFC, and soon Starbucks. After 15 minutes and still no Labus, I finally texted him. "I'm on the road. 5 minutes" Apparently, in his smoker's reckoning, appointments should allow for half an hour of flexi time. As my husband pointed out though when i told him, it's never half an hour earlier is it? A bottle of becherovka in hand (but no cups!!!) we found a park bench near the main train station and planned our day. We were off to a park on the outskirts of Prague to enjoy the stunning Czech weather. It's weather that you dream of - blue skies, not a cloud in sight. Not too hot, not too cold, just glorious and inspiring. When I spoke to Labus on the phone, he'd promised me a day out and swore i wouldn't have to pay for anything. Now he informed me he had no money, just becherokva and 100 crowns. But when we want to buy some cold beer, the attendant wouldn't accept the note because it was singed - a result of who knows what kind of escapades from the night before. We took the metro to the end station and worked out which of the 5 underground exits was best to walk out of. We walked up the stairs to... nothing. Just fields and a space age bus shelter. Maybe they're planning for the future, we pondered. "Who here is going to Vorich?" Labus called out. A bus commuter holds up his hand. "Are there pubs there?" Labus asks. "Yes, there are". But it turns out the next bus isn't for another two hours and they young man explains he is going to a nearby town and hitch-hiking from there. "And are there pubs in that town?" Labus asks. "Not as good as the ones in Vorich but there are." The thing about the Czech Republic is that it is incredibly green and coming from a drought-stricken country the colour is all rather novel. Add to that the blue skies and you really do feel as if you are in paradise. The pub we found ourselves in (with its wooden furnishings and horns of wildebeest displayed on the wall) had Cesnecka on the menu (garlic soup), and as the only other vegetarian option was pickled hermelin cheese i went for that. We then took the bus to... well we didn't actually know where we were going, we just knew we were just going somewhere. All of a sudden the surrounding apartment blocks (panelaky) started to look very family. Could it be.. no.. surely not... actually i think it is... yes it is! "Quick we have to get out" I said, "this is the street where my babi (grandma) used to live. Let's go see if my cousin is home". So out of a city of a million and a half inhabitants and sprawled out surrounds, i found myself ringing the doorbell of my cousin's apartment. No answer. Damn. In the evening we made our way to Zizkov, my beloved Zizkov. Zizkov is my old stamping ground and as we walked up the hill from the main train station, i couldn't help but recall the tram-ride that changed my life. I'd met someone randomly at a bus-stop (I was crying, he asked why) who invited me back to his hostel in Zizkov. We caught the tram, walked up a steep hill, he rang the doorbell to the hostel and this tall lanky blonde-haired man opened the door to let us in. "This is elk" introduced my new friend. "elk" said the man in a drawling American accent. "There's lots of elk in Idaho". And that was how I chanced upon the Clown and Bard, and Chrissy, and even though I didn't know it at the time, my soon-to-be future husband. But i digress - Labus and I meandered up the main street of Zizkov until we came to a park near the Jewish cemetary. We walked up to the top of the hill and there was a little booth selling beer and a DJ playing some very cool tunes - from reggae to Nirvana to classical! (That's my kind of mix) Young Czech people and their dogs where everywhere, just enjoying the balmy weather and each other's company. The view was incredible. On one hand you had the "slums" of Zizkov, the dirty ugly high rises but they were next to the heavily wooded Jewish cemetary. But on the right - what a view! You could see the glorious Prague Castle in the distance and the lights of the city as they twinkled below. The setting sun spread it's pink rays over the entire scene and it was such a magic moment I just drank it all in. We stayed there until the sun had well and truly set, and a couple of porcupines crossed our path as they began their nightly forage. Ah Praha...

Tags: becherovka, bus trip, porcupines, zizkov

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