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Climbing the Great Pole

August 24, 2012

I walked to the Polish consulate today.  Or the office of consular affairs, or something.  Apparently, diplomatic and consular matters are distinct.  They have their own buildings, anyway, at least insofar as Poles in Prague are concerned.  You learn something new all the time, that’s what I’ve noticed.

Saw this little guy on my way to the Polish embassy today. I totally got there before him. Take that, lollygagging gastropod!

My directions were great up until I got to the point where I was on the street in question, trying to find the actual building.  The numbering system is different here and I haven’t figured it out yet.  If 13 is one one side of the street, 14 is not necessarily nearby.  Directly across the street may be 6 or 8, and it may not get to 14 for several blocks.  I wandered up and down the sidewalk like a lost dog, then went into a butcher’s shop to get a cold soda and see if I could convey my predicament to anyone in there.

Turns out I could.  Talking wasn’t much use, but when I showed the shop girls my pocket notebook, with the words Polish Embassy scrawled therein, one of them said, “Ah! Polski konzulat!” and waved me out to the street.  She then walked me several hundred meters down the road, pointed to a building and said, “Villa.  Polski,” turned around and went back to axing hams. I thanked her profusely as she faded into the distance, then went up to the gate.

Getting buzzed in and finding the right door was another minor adventure.  When I finally located the door, (it was around the back), a rather grumpy security guard began punching extensions into a wall phone, to no effect.  He hung up the phone, took a deep breath of profound irritation, and then cycled through all the extensions again.  Nothing.  He walked outside; I watched him disappear around the corner on the security camera monitor.

A little while later, I heard a voice say, “Visa!” and, following it, found some teller windows.  Behind one, marked VISAS, was another less-than-gruntled embassy employee.  After a bit of awkward parlaying, we came to the understanding that my effort to obtain a visa is meaningless until I have a Polish work permit, which didn’t bother me; I expected that.  But I did manage to extract from him—via his very pretty assistant, after much rummaging through stacks of paper and some photocopying action—a paper copy of the application form.  That’s good because I have been unable to complete the online form, since it wants me to enter the dates of my passport in some format that it does not specify and I can’t figure out.

So I headed back.  I stopped for some Chinese and a beer, which made me a bit sluggish, but I’m a trooper and did not lay down in the street for a nap.  I overshot one of my turnoffs and stumbled upon the Prague TV tower, a wonderfully quirky architectural oddity.

Hmm… there’s an odd-looking structure…

Are those… children climbing the poles?

And now you know how the millions of cobblestones in the streets of Prague got there. Guys with hammers tapped every single one into place.

Yes, I like walking, but at some point, I am going to have to get myself a cool European scooter.

I thought about heading to Poland today, but I decided to stick around for a while and research the trains and buses more thoroughly.  I emailed the school and made arrangements to meet there on Monday.  I repacked my stuff, seeing if I could make it work with just my guitar bag for a week or two.  I think I can.

In the evening, I watched a subtitled Czech film in the lobby of my hostel, which is almost empty, because everyone leaves Prague on the weekend.  (It seems they all go to the country and party there.  Last night this place was packed; today there are three or four guests.) The film was The Fireman’s Ball, an early comic masterpiece by Milos Forman.  It’s amazing that it got filmed in Soviet Czechoslovakia.  (Less amazingly, it got him in a lot of hot water and he had to emigrate.)

Later, I went around the corner to a hospoda that was recommended to me by an American guy who’s friends with the owner of the hostel, a place where locals hang out and play music.  I took my guitar with me.  I didn’t end up playing, because it was a sort of dixieland group, (dixieland jazz is very big here), not so much a jam session, but the owner approached me and, apparently, the fact that I am an American and carry a guitar around with me is all he needed to know to offer me a gig.  Sort of a gig.  I’m to show up tomorrow at 8:00 and meet an accordion player.  “Maybe is good combination,” he  said with admirable optimism.  Hell, he could be right.  We’ll see.

So it looks like I have two more nights in Prague.  Monday morning I will take the train or bus to Rybnik, Poland, which is where the owners of the school live.  We’ll have a few beers, firm up dates, make plans.  I’ll drop off my suitcase and head to wherever I decide to pass the time, probably Warsaw.  I’d really like to go to L’viv, Ukraine, but the sensible thing is to go somewhere I can pick up some Polish.

But right now I’m off to bed.  It’s been a long day.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. Norbert permalink
    August 24, 2012 10:59 pm

    You’ve been there a couple of week and you’ve already scored a collaborative gig with a local musician? Nice work!

    Our streets here work odd numbers on one side of the street and even numbers on the other, if there is an opposite side that is. The numbering system there sounds like insanity, being a postal worker must be like solving logic riddles every day.

    • August 24, 2012 11:05 pm

      The even and odd numbers are on opposite sides of the streets in the USA, too, but the numbers are closely related, so if 159 is on one side, 160 is directly across the street. Not the case here. One side might say 245 and directly facing it might be 16. I think postal workers here must just know their territories like a dog knows a yard.

  2. Sibyl White permalink
    August 25, 2012 12:46 am

    Rybnik….that’s what I saw on the teacher/owner’s fb page. Looks like a modern-day happening city, not the quaint UNESCO type. Wherever you land, sure hope there is a music scene. Or maybe better, a scene waiting to happen for Catalyst Man, the one wandering around with clothes in his gig bag.

  3. August 25, 2012 2:56 am

    You make great posts.

  4. david jewell permalink
    August 25, 2012 5:44 pm

    can’t wait to hear how your musical debut in prague goes.

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