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Ahoj Brno! + The Impending Return Of My Stuff!

August 9, 2012

Well, it’s been a long day, with many miles of walking, carrying my guitar and a backpack stuffed with cheap replacements for things the airline lost. I’ve moved out of the Prague tourist-bubble and into areas where people don’t speak English, where things are not designed to be easy for non-Czechs to grasp.

Let’s start at the beginning.

I woke up at 6:30, which is insanely early for this nocturnal musician, but I knew it was going to be a long day.  Anxiety lopped the end off of my slumbers.

I got on Skype with American Airlines, who said they never got my bag in the first place. Working backward, I called United, who said they almost certainly knew where it was, but could not take any action, since I had initiated a baggage search posse of the British Airways persuasion. I had to be the one to call BA. Which proved to be impossible. If your baggage is lost outside the UK, they don’t want you calling them. Period.

(It wasn’t until later in the day that I noticed that one of my lost baggage papers had a phone number for Mienzes Aviation, and remembered seeing their sign over the baggage claim desk at the Prague airport… D’oh! That’s who I should have called. “Well,” I thought, “it’s not like talking to them is going to make any difference… I’ll call them later. I have to get to Brno.”  (/comic foreshadowing.)

So I resigned myself to wearing damp clothes, (washed in the sink the night before), and packed up my heavy, heavy stuff. It took until noon to deal with the airlines, google-map everywhere I needed to go, shower and pack. I walked the 2.6 kilometers to the Prague train station, stopping along the way at a čínská restaurace, (see if you can figure it out), for some spicy eggplant. There was, of course, some kind of meat in it, even though it was listed under vegetable dishes. I think I will need to learn a little more Czech before I can convey this strange concept of no dead animals in my food, please to wait staff here. I was pretty sluggish after a big meal and a beer, but I made it to the train station, managed to buy a ticket to Brno, and got a vodafone prepaid cell from a vendor at the station, which set me back 770 CZK, taxes, activation and all… under $40! The guy who sold it to me was from Kyrgystan. He even set it up in English for me, for which I thanked him profusley, by trying to inflect my one word for “thank you” with even more goofy earnestness than usual.

I could not take pictures today because the battery in my phone is dead-guess where the charger is—but the Prague train station is really something to see. Outside, it looks almost abandoned. Inside, it’s an architectural marvel in wonderful semi-decay. It was not too hard to navigate, though buying a ticket was essentially just handing over some money to a melancholic, but pretty, girl, who gave me my ticket and waved me off. She seemed forlorn, trapped behind a desk, forced to deal with this oaf who was roaming around her country without knowing the language. Naturally, I found her quit fetching. Not everyone in the Czech Republic presents with ennui, but it’s definitely more prevalent than in the States. Me, I find it refreshing. I was always kind of a morose child, so it makes me feel like I’m not the only one who finds day-to-day life wearying at times. I think Europe is a bit more comfortable with fatalism and melancholy than the outgoing, go-get-em-tiger, let’s-sell-some-cars US of HUAH. Maybe that’s why I wanted to live here. Or maybe I was just bored. Who knows? Not me.

Where was I? Getting on the train and getting to Brno was not a problem.

Finding my hostel was a problem.

My directions said,

“Walk to Kr. Pole, nádraží. 1. Head west toward Fibichova 86 m. About 1 min.

Kr. Pole, nádraží Tram – 6 towards Starý Lískovec…”

And so on. Well, the problem was that there were trams running in both directions, with lots of poles, but I could not tell which way I wanted to go. Nor did I see a pole that said nádraží. Or maybe I did. That’s a hard word to hold in your mind, if it doesn’t mean anything to you. I found a number 6 tram and hopped on, but it took me to someplace that looked nothing like google maps’ “street view” pictures. I ended up walking several miles out of the way before I finally recognized a VolksBank from the street view pictures and walked up to the hostel, only to notice that the name was not right… I had mapped the route to the wrong hostel.

Score another one for Doctor Space Head. I went in, explained my stupidity quandary and asked for directions to the right one. They were very helpful. It was a long walk, but I had spent a lot of money on the train and phone and I was determined not to take a taxi, so I hoofed it. It was pretty much right down a single, somewhat winding road, how hard could it be?

Something I have yet to mention is that Czechs are not fond of street signs. Most intersections are unmarked. At major crossings, there are sometimes sign plates on the corners of larger buildings, but not always. And they do not seem particuarly wedded to the idea that any given street should have just one name. it can be one thing for a while, then something els, then back to the first thing, then something entirely new, all under the pretext of the slightest curvature. (Note that there are no straight streets.) So just knowing where the hell you are can be a bit of a puzzle. And so it is with Cejl St. As it bends around a corner, it becomes Tkalcovská, just for a while. No reason. Then it’s Cejl again, but there’s really nothing to tell you that, unless you peer at every storefront to see if any of them have their address posted somewhere, which smetimes one or two might.

And this part of Brno is pretty sketchy. As it was getting dark, I noticed lots of disreputable people hanging out on the sidewalks doing nothing much in that way that lets you know it’s time to move on. I was propositioned in the crudest possible terms by a woman on the street, while her pimp lurked menacingly in a doorway. I felt pretty vulnerable, wandering around with my passport, laptop, cash, no language skills, and not knowing Krav Maga or anything. So I was pretty relieved when I doubled back and saw that I had somehow walked right past the Wind Point hostel. I was mighty glad to get inside and take a load off. My feet were complaining about all the extra weight in my pack.

It was now that I decided I’d just give Mienzes Aviation a call, you know, just to be thorough? The woman answered right away, took my reference number, shuffled some papers, and then said in the clipped tones of exasperation, “Why you are calling? Your bag has gone to the Czech Inn!” I protested that I knew nothing of this. “Yes. The driver got a signature. It is there.” I asked when this happened. “Today at five o’clock.

Sooooo, in other words, I should have stuck around a bit longer, yeah? Tomorrow I will take the train back to Prague, get my big old bag, lug it back to Brno, and lose a day of job- and flat-hunting.

Still, I don’t really mind. It’s a beautiful ride. I’ll take pictures of the station. I’ll know where I’m going this time, and how to get there. And I’ll have my stuff!

So I’m calling today a success. I get to do that. It’s my life and if I say it’s a good day, it is. So there. Even without a pony.

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24 Comments leave one →
  1. Sibyl White permalink
    August 9, 2012 9:22 pm

    Just think of all that walking in Fulton and Wimberley as prepping you for this. Yes? Never mind. I think of you towing your black bag and encountering those locals. Not sure you’d have gotten off easy. Now it’s a piece of vegan cake. And we get photos. Or maybe not if your phone is dead.

    • August 10, 2012 1:35 pm

      Those Missouri weight-loss strolls were excellent preparation for the last few days. I should have carried a heavy backpack more often, but who can make themselves do that?

      My new phone is all charged up. I’ll send you my number in a little bit. Incoming calls are free for me, even internationally. Charging my phone at the moment so I can get some pictures on the way back to Brno.

      • Sibyl White permalink
        August 10, 2012 10:57 pm

        Maybe I can call fom a neighbor’s landline using the phone card. Probably wait until after a few school interviews?

      • August 10, 2012 10:59 pm

        Or you can get Skype, It’s free if we both have it.

  2. August 9, 2012 9:25 pm

    You had me at “…melancholic, but pretty, girl…”. If she is a long-haired brunette, feel free to send her my way. I can turn her melancholy to full-blown life disappointment in a heartbeat for her NO PROBLEM.

    Hooray for the return of your stuff! 😀

    I can’t believe you’re just walking around the country like you own it. I mean, I won’t even walk around sketchy parts of CINCINNATI, a town where they apologize for stabbing and robbing you blind.

    Also? Define “propositioned in the crudest possible terms” by the whore & her pimp. Sounds like there is a story all in just that! You might as well tell me about it…..you know Norbert’s going to ask as well! 😀

    • Norbert Dingwall Beaver permalink
      August 10, 2012 9:29 am

      What makes you think I wasn’t the pimp?

      Or the whore…

      • August 10, 2012 2:05 pm

        Maybe it was the absence of a paddle tail and buck teeth?

    • August 10, 2012 1:43 pm

      I’m trying to stay remotely family friendly here, in case any of my younger relations should read this blog. But basically, it was a blunt offer to exchange goods for services, using a poorly pronounced, common American expletive which rhymes with the other thing you call a mallard. She probably says the exact same thing to every guy that walks by. Her pimp was this rank bastard in a sort of striped sailor shirt. Looked like he could cut your throat while he was eating a sandwich. It’s hard to imagine the hell some people are living in, even when you walk right by it.

  3. August 9, 2012 9:27 pm

    Also? I am going to pack up some vowels and send them your way. They seem to leave them out when they spell things over there.

    • August 10, 2012 1:52 pm

      vwls r lss mprtnt thn cnsnnts n trms f cmprhnsn.

      The same sentence, with just the vowels:

      oe a e ioa a i e o ueai.

      OTOH, I have to say Francouszhka very slowly, because fra-n-ts-o-u-zh-s-kuh. That ‘ts’ sound for ‘c’ is so easy to forget. Not Vaclav Havel but “Vatslav” Havel.

      I’m having fun with the language, even though I’m not very good at it.

  4. El Beavero permalink
    August 9, 2012 9:31 pm

    I like to think of this as fate throwing you back in the direction of the girl in the train station. Also, the bright side is – clean clothes tomorrow! :o)

    • August 10, 2012 1:53 pm

      Now you’ve got my hopes up. Maybe I can annoy her one more time? You never know, sometimes that’s how relationships start. Actually quite often, in my experience.

  5. rich permalink
    August 9, 2012 9:54 pm

    great post, friend! as with your china pics i’d be very happy to edit your czech pics with the understanding that you are writing an hilarious, likely to be best-selling fish out of water who-done-it disguised as a family friendly travelogue. with ponies. if you have the time and inclination maybe you could send them to me via yousendit or dropbox and i could send them back, edited, the same way. one request: more posts about beer! -r

  6. Julie Bratton permalink
    August 9, 2012 10:12 pm

    I’m going to engage in some European-style melancholy and not rejoice in the return of your bag until we hear that you are actually in possession of it. A promising development nonetheless. Do you feel comfortable leaving your guitar and some of your stuff at the Brno hostel, or will it all be making the return trip with you? Six months from now, this will all be an amusing anecdote …

    • August 10, 2012 2:09 pm

      Your skepticism was almost warranted. When I got here, we couldn’t find my bag. It eventually turned up behind some laundry, but I can’t say I would have been shocked if it hadn’t. I think the key is to accept the possibility of everything going wrong, but never to assume anything will or won’t go according to plan. I think you’ve just helped me nail down my philosophy. Must go tweet now.

    • August 10, 2012 11:01 pm

      Oh, and I’m okay with leaving my inexpensive guitar in my hostel. My passport, laptop and cash card… not so much.

  7. August 9, 2012 10:29 pm

    This really is good stuff. In how many countries have you eaten Chinese food now?

    • August 10, 2012 1:55 pm

      USA, Mexico, China, Czech Republic… I’ve just barely scratched the surface. General Tso conquered the world long ago; I’m only following in his footsteps.

  8. Wayne B. Matlock permalink
    August 9, 2012 11:10 pm

    I just now caught up with your blog….great account of your early days abroad. Brewster is doing well Plunderspeke

    • August 10, 2012 1:59 pm

      Funny, just today I was missing him so much I started thinking about getting a rat. But that’s silly. My lifestyle is not sufficiently settled for rodential stewardship. It helps to think of how happy I know he is with you.

  9. August 9, 2012 11:54 pm

    I think you ponied up just fine.

    • August 10, 2012 2:01 pm

      Hey, that jacket I left in the van, would you hold onto that? That was my dad’s. I’m kind of attached to it. If you already got rid of it, no worries. I should have mentioned it earlier.

      • August 11, 2012 8:38 pm

        I’m learning to check “Notify me of follow-up comments”

        Got you covered.

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