Monday, October 6, 2008

The Prague Journals


I’m sitting on my plane to London. This transit started on a less positive note than I’d previously experienced. I was told that I would be traveling with Virgin Atlantic. What I had not noticed on my ticket stubs was that Virgin booked it but that I actually was flying via Continental International. My parents dropped me off at Virgin at Terminal B. After 40 minutes of wasted time in that line I was told that I was flying with Continental. With the clock ticking I rushed off to the Air Train. At this point I only have about an hour and ten until my flight left. I’m not one to be rash at the airport and just RUN but that’s exactly what I did. When I finally got to Terminal C (only about 10 minutes later) I got stuck waiting another 20 minutes for a rep from Continental to realize that I had less than an hour to get to my plane. The first rep told me, with a “You should have left earlier” look, that I was going to miss my flight. I began to sweat and the thought of getting another flight sent a wave of cold through me. It was a torrid cringe. I finally, with delay, found a rep to help me. She checked me in and pointed myself and another passenger in the same predicament in the direction we needed to go. I made it through security in less than ten minutes (a world record for Newark International; someone call Guinness) and ran briskly toward my gate. To my utter shock, they were boarding for my row of seats just as I walked up. The sweat dried and, after another slight delay to check onto the flight, I and the other guy going to Rome were allowed onto the plane. I feel a slight bit of a foreboding omen as if this trip were doomed to destruction from the start. I did, however, think ahead. Were I to be stuck in London for some unforeseeable reason I at least have my Underground Pass. Just in case…

9:21 P.M. EST (Over the Atlantic Ocean.)

 1:25 P.M. GMT

 I’m exhausted. I’m having a problem typing. I love beer but right now I need a bed more. I’m waiting for my flight in Terminal 2 now and drinking Peroni. I would love to have a bed now. I still have about an hour and a half to board. May the laws that govern the universe get me to that bed faster than not. Ugh…

 10/6/2008 11:30 A.M. CEST

 My first day in Prague. I couldn’t find the transport company that I was supposed to take from the airport last night and, being that I was accosted by about 20 other cabbies at the doors, I decided to take the second one I came across instead. It was a small bus transport service and I was with several Brits and a Pole. It took a good half hour to get to the hotel. I thought it better to stay in for the night instead of trekking out into a city that I didn’t know. The guy at the reception counter was very nice and spoke enough English to get by. He gave me my keys and I made my way to my room.

 The room itself was in another part of the building that I had to reach by walking out of the reception area, onto the street and to the entrance. As I walked into the building I noticed that it had a very plain façade and an even plainer interior; they must have been either built by the Russians or they were at least refurbished by them. My room is much more spacious than anything I’d seen in London. I was able to plug in my laptop to charge but I couldn’t get a reliable signal for wireless. The bed, while being strangely hard, was actually quite comfortable and I found it hard to even get up after I laid down on it. In changed out of my travel clothes and into my sleeping pants and it didn’t take long before I finally got to sleep.

 I woke up this morning and showered. I wasn’t too hungry but I figured I’d take a walk and look at the neighborhood. It would seem, at first glance, that the main city was much nicer than where I was. There was garbage strewn about and it would seem that some of the people that I encountered were not quite fond of travelers. I decided to turn back from my walk when I realized that it was going to rain. I do have to try and get down to the main city today at sometime. I may have to call a cab, though. The bus routes are very confusing and nothing helpful is in English. I’m beginning to think that I should have stayed in London.

10/6/2008 11:50 A.M. CEST

10/6/2008 1:22 P.M. CEST

Ok, I made it to the city center. There seems to be a lot of money mixed with a lot of trash here. You walk past a Versace dealer and you're shocked to see a Adult Film shop. I'm going to attempt to try and find my way to the older city, but I made plans to meet my cabbie back at a cab stop at 5:00. You probably won't be hearing from me until tomorrow. I'm still looking for another ATM. The last one I saw was at the airport. Should have taken out more. I'll figure it out eventually. 

10/6/2008 1:30 P.M. CEST

10/6/2008 5:47 P.M. CEST

 I have my issues with religion. I’m very clear on that and everyone I know would never deny my “problem”. I’m openly unobservant of holidays (except Christmas since my mother would most likely disown me) and feel no need to neither pray nor believe in any kind of “higher power” other than the conglomerate of energies that make up matter in the scientific sense. I have my reasons to have issue with religion. Today, while minding my own business in the streets of this borderline city, I ran across a small alcove in front of a church. The doorway led to a small alcove and in it, to my left, there were three statues most likely of saints. There, in front of them, were two middle-aged women standing in prayer. This nothing unusual in a country full of religious people. I heard them drop some change into the collection bin as I turned only to be greeted by the face of an old woman that I had not noticed when I walked into the foyer. She was clearly homeless and was begging for spare change yet these other women clearly were giving their money to the church instead of someone that actually needed it. The hypocrisy in this action was blatant and beyond everything that I thought possible. Do you want to guess where my spare change went?

Well, the local beers are cheap and excellent. At least the poor can drink well.

During my first visit through the city I ran across an Irish Pub run by actual Irishmen. THAT was cool. I must have talked to the bartender for well over and hour. We talked about traveling, the differences between Rugby and American Football, how to pour Guinness properly and such. I asked him why, at this time when there’s a bit of money in Ireland, is he here in the Czech Republic. I got an answer that I thought only I would give when asked such a question. “Bored, I guess’, he said.

I’m thinking about trying to get to Germany on Friday. I did buy a EU Rail Pass and I don’t want to see it go to waste.

This Krusovice is excellent. Trying new beer is the only real reason to live.

10/6/2008 7:41 P.M. CEST

10/7/2008 10:34 A.M. CEST

I just got back from a long walk around. I was hoping to make it to the city center but I was unsuccessful. So, out of curiosity, I tried the Cable Cars. I didn’t realize they were free. I did, however, get on the wrong one and I ended up going in the totally wrong direction. I think I have to try again, but first I think I’ll rest a bit. Walking here is different than walking in London. This place is partially uphill. I got lost walking back to my hotel and ended up walking through a fitness trail that brought me back to where I started in the first place. I ran into four soccer hooligans on the trail taking a leak in the trees. I couldn’t tell if they were talking to themselves or me as I walked by. I clearly don’t fit in here. I think I may stay in the hotel, buy some beer, and read for today. I probably won’t make it to the city center today. It’s been cold and wet ever since I got here and I really don’t want to walk in this weather.

10/7/2008 10:50 A.M. CEST

10/7/2008 6:33 P.M.  CEST

I have been thwarted again in my quest to walk to the city center. This is beginning to irk me. Something about this city doesn’t sit well with me. As I walk up the main road (can’t even tell you what it’s called. My Czech sucks.) that, from what I had seen while being taxied there, I assumed would take me to the city center, I walked though a very dichotomous neighborhood. Porn shops next to high-class cafes, low class hostels next to high-class ladies hair shops, etc. This city doesn’t make any sense to me. I have made one note to self. I have to get a place in the middle of the main city from now on. This outskirts shit sucks. I have found one restaurant that I have grown fond of, though. The strange pat is that it’s a Chinese place. I don’t really like Chinese food, but this place is definitely a step up from any place I know of. It’s a Cable Car ride but, being that their free, its not a problem.

10/7/2008 6:42 P.M. CEST  

10/8/2008 5:26 P.M. CEST

 I finally figured out how best to get to the Town Center, but it took me another cab ride with the right cabbie to figure it out. Had breakfast this morning at 9 A.M. here at the hotel. I have to say that the cheese that these people eat is incredible. I love cheese and this place is heaven for cheese lovers like myself. Pretty much, my plate in the morning has consisted mainly of cheese. This is absolutely no problem for me. I’ll probably end up dying from a severe stroke if I keep eating cheese the way I do.

I’ll actually attempt to walk to Town Center tomorrow. This taxi thing is too expensive.

10/8/208 11:55 CEST

10/9/2008 3:13 P.M. CEST

I decided to walk to the Town Center today. I took one wrong turn initially, but after about 20 minutes of aimless walking I turned myself around and sent myself on the correct road. Of course, I didn't do this until I found out that the road that I started on led to the other side of the river which was where I knew that I wasn't supposed to be. Either way, I finally got on the right track. It must have taken me about an hour to walk to the local Starbucks that I used as a landmark.  I did make it, though. Luckily, walking a lot isn't something that I'm opposed to. This is a milestone for me in this strange city. It felt good to "know" where I was. This city isn't as intuitively setup like London. It doesn't help that my Czech isn't great, either. I have recognized some words, though. The language shares some vocabulary with Russian so I wasn't TOTALLY lost. Words like "nove" and "stare" allowed me to distinguish between the new and the old areas.  I've also discovered a numerous amount of Window shops with the word "okno". I guess the Russian did pay off eventually in an unexpected way.

Today was different from the previous days. The last couple of days I was trying to hole myself into my room and not come out unless I had to. Today I realized that I didn't have to. I had that feeling of freedom again that I discovered in London. Albeit, I had that feeling right from the get go in London, but I still had it. I feel like I'm beginning to get this place. This city seems like it's stuck in 1976 but it's working tirelessly to jump ahead and get to 2008 as fast as it can. It seems to be working. They are gradually rebuilding a lot of the city from the center out.  I had to stop for a minute during my walk to get here initially to reflect on this.  These buildings should be museums but many are run down. Some of them are in very sad shape. The center of town is like a whole different world unto itself. It's probably more like walking into Florence. I wish I could take some of them building with me. This is the first time that architecture has struck me so hard. 

I'm thinking Chinese food again and beer. 

10/9/2008 3:29 P.M. CEST

10/10/2008 9:34 P.M. CEST

I thinking I’m going to go through the old town again tomorrow and then either on Sunday or Monday I’ll head to Germany. I was going to go tomorrow, but I’m having an issue finding the proper Metro Station. The one I need isn’t on my map. I’m going to have to go back to The Dubliner (oh, damn!) and ask the bartenders how to get there. I mean, they ARE the only people here that speak English well enough to give me proper directions.

 

Today I saw a Dali/Munchen exhibit that was being held in one of the buildings right in the town square. I think I am definitely not in the minority if I said that I’ve always loved Dali’s work, but his over-whelming self-importance has always rubbed my nose in the sand. I can understand an artist promoting themselves even in the most, I guess you can say, “violent” way as Dali, but he always stressed his brilliance. Don’t get me wrong; he was brilliant but he wasn’t the crucified Christ like he would often portray himself as. I guess some people need to promote themselves using as many controversial themes as they can think of.

Munchen, on the other hand, seemed much more human to me. If you’ve seen any advertisements from the early part of the twentieth century with Venusian-style women clad in slight, draped silk and wreathed in flowers in a semi-erotic way then you’ve, without a doubt, seen his work. From what I gathered at the exhibit, he set the standard for women in advertisements in the teens. His girls seemed more virginal and almost saintly. These images are less about flamboyance and more about the glorious carefree existence that everyone craves. But then again, maybe I’m wrong. Most people seem to love daily annoyances. They usually bring it on themselves.

I can’t think right now. All the walking makes my brain slow down. Well, it could be all the beer…

10/10/2008 9:50 P.M. CEST  

10/11/2008 11:01 A.M. CEST

I would like to dispel a rumor. Not all Eastern European women are super-models. Come to think of it, many are, in the words of the immortal George Carlin, "down right unpleasant looking". I don't know WHO was responsible for such an irresponsible claim, but they clearly are suffering from a severe case of Glaucoma. Now don't misinterpret me. The girls that ARE attractive here are head-turners and they clearly have something that most women that I've come across don't have in their facial features, but, for the most part, they are generally pretty average. 

10/11/2008 11:06 A.M. CEST

10/11/2008 6:50 P.M. CEST

My Zen is back.

The first day of being in a new city is always panic. You’re in a new city, you don’t know anyone, you don’t know your way around and you, in some cases, don’t even know the language. I do this to myself knowingly and of my own volition. It helps me level myself. It makes me realize that, in the end, everything works out for the best. I starved my first day because I didn’t wake up early enough for the hotels breakfast and I didn’t know the local area. I did take a cab to the town center but, eventually, I had to find my own way. No one was showing me where to go and, even if they would have, they didn’t know enough English and I didn’t know enough Czech to do so. But, things worked themselves out. They always do. My bonds once again have been cut and I am myself again. Breathing is easy again.

I’m happiest when I’m free. I don’t like the burdens of everyday life. Sometimes I wish that I had been born maybe 100 years or more earlier. I would have made a grand vagabond, a man of the road. It calls me like it’s my true mother. I don’t know any other way to explain it. There is one person who gets this about me (Christine), but she, so far, has been only an internet friend. How this happens I don’t know. I never had to tell her. She just saw it in me. You would assume that the people that would notice such a character “defect” like this are the ones that know you personally, but this fact had to be brought to them and displayed like an orangutan at a zoo. And, like someone that’s never seen an orangutan in real life, there was a sense of shock and wonderment to the ones that should have noticed. I can’t blame them, though. They just weren’t looking and it wasn’t expected of me, I guess.

I’m going to Dresden tomorrow. I’ll be stopping at Starbucks to upload this blog and load up on tea first, though. I may go off to Berlin, too, if I feel like spending more than one night in The Fatherland. Well, it’s not my Fatherland, but that’s what it’s been called by its natives so I won’t buck the trend now. In Germany hey would say that I have an insatiable wanderlust.

I think James Taylor got it right.

And the walking man walks…

10/11/2008 7:02 P.M. CEST  

10/12/2008 11:12 A.M. CEST

Ok, I missed the train. I was having a slight issue trying to figure out how to use the Metro line but, once I figured it out, I realized that is the simplest Metro on the planet. There are only three lines; yellow, red and green. They all only go in two directions and that's it. I did get to Holesovice train station, but I had already missed the train. Tomorrow I won't.

10/12/2008 11:14 A.M. CEST

10/12/2008 7:08 P.M. CEST

The more I watch Monty Python and The Holy Grail the more I can’t believe that Graham Chapman was suffering from “the shakes” throughout the filming of it. For those that don’t know, he was the King Arthur character in the film and he was also, at that time, a raging alcoholic. John Cleese has been very open about the issues they had making that movie along with the rest of the cast.

I’ve watched this movie so many times that I could probably recite it in my sleep after a severe auto accident that left me in a vegetative state. Monty Python always did it for me. The first time I saw The Meaning of Life I didn’t get the meaning of the film. I had to watch it once more before it began to sink in. I look back on that film as being the ne plus ultra comedy. Most people won’t get it, but that’s okay; they probably weren’t supposed to in the first place.

The reason I mentioned The Holy Grail in the first place is that it was one of two films that I ripped with Handbrake before I left for my trip, the other being Ironman.  I’m actually beginning to get sick of both of them. Note to self; rip more films next time. I was, of course, working on borrowed time to begin with the day I left. I didn’t find a copy of Handbrake that actually worked on OS X 10.4.11 until a few hours before I left in the first place. (The current version of Handbrake only works on 10.5.) It took me one bad rip of Ironman to figure out how to work the software, but after that it was all waiting on the ripping. I love technology. It saves space in your bags that may be, otherwise, taken up by DVDs.

As I said before, I missed my train to Dresden today. Tomorrow will be different. I know where to go now. The Metro in Prague is quite simple, I just had to get used to figuring it out on my own since there really isn’t any good English instructions posted. After a dry run through the subway, I got to my final destination without any speed bumps.

I decided to take it easy today. Between 11 A.M. and 2 P.M. I just hung out at The Dubliner and drank Guinness. Not a bad way to start a Sunday, really. The rest of the day was left for finding caffeine. I’ve noticed several small coffee shops here that make excellent cappuccinos. Some of these places could probably run into the World’s Best categories without a hitch.

So, tomorrow is Germany.

10/12/2008 7:29 P.M. CEST 

10/13/2008 12:14 A.M. CEST

I’m sitting on a train on my way to Germany. I’m not sure how long I intend to stay. I may leave today, tomorrow or the day after depending on my mood and how much I connect with it. The train is running about 10 minutes behind. This is something to be thankful for. I have never been patient enough for real delays.

10/13/2008 12:16 A.M. CEST

10/13/2008 2:42 P.M. CEST

Dresden is a museum. I really would never believe that this city was leveled during World War II if I hadn’t known it as a fact. This city is incredible. I would stay if the hotels weren’t out of my budget. This is a city to visit. As soon as you come out of the train station you walk onto the cleanest streets you will ever see. The English only wish that they were able to build on this kind of grandiose scale. I can’t imagine Versailles or St. Petersburg being much nicer than this. It’s a living museum. I’m sitting in the train station on the platform wishing I had come here instead of Prague. This city is much nicer and seems to be the place to explore. Of course, I doubt I would have come across any buildings older than, say, 1943 that weren’t rebuilt like I did in the city center in Prague. Twenty minutes until my train. Maybe this will be another trip all it’s own with Munich or Berlin.

10/13/2008 2:51 P.M. CEST 

10/14/2008 7:31 P.M. CEST

Ok, first I would like to give a very due “Thank You” to Swiss Army for creating a backpack that has done me so much good since I purchased it in conjunction with my Mac. This backpack has seen several cities and survived my abuse to stay in surprisingly excellent shape. I will be endorsing Swiss Army bags from now on for travel, hiking and just plain walking.

It’s coming down to the last few days here. I think I may just see if the bartenders from The Dubliner and that cute barista from Starbucks would like to send me off properly. Of course, I think if I were to drink anymore here I would need to detox for about six months afterwards. I spent the good part of today sitting in Starbucks and The Dubliner fixing my pictures that I couldn’t correct in Apple Preview. Thanks to Mike, he showed GIMP, an open source photo-editing program that I had always been hesitant to download. Either way, it works and it works well. I love open source software. It’s free. Free is good. 

The first few days I didn’t think I was going to miss this place, but some part of me may be left here although I really can’t say what that is. I would like to say that I’ve actually gotten used to the “beautiful ghetto” of Prague. Could I live here? There is a definite answer to that question, a resounding no. I could, however, come back to visit again at some point in the semi-distant future. After yesterday I think I would prefer to head to Germany by itself first, though. As of yet, there still is no place that sits as well as London did, though.

Then again, I still haven’t been to Ireland yet.

That is the trip for next year I think. Beijing and Tokyo will wait for me.

10/14/2008 11:17 P.M. CEST 

10/16/2008 12:05 A.M. CEST

I honestly can’t hear the word “amazing” anymore. It grates on my ears like nails on a chalkboard. It’s blanket term that people that don’t know what they’re talking about seemingly always use to describe people that I would, quite often, refer to as plain and simple amateurs. It is most often, or at least I’ve noticed since I’m a musician, used in terms of other musicians that could never pass muster on my list. Most of these “amazing” individuals wouldn’t be able to tell you the difference between an A or a C chord, let alone attempt more advanced musical endeavors such as humming out the harmonies with what they’re playing in anything beyond intervals of a 5th or, if they do have some ability, a major or, God help us, a minor 3rd!

I would think the definition of amazing would be someone more along the lines of, say, a Mozart. I think were anyone to come across a child prodigy of Mozart’s ability, they wouldn’t know what to make of him. Someone of his caliber would be viewed by many as a freak, I fear. I’m just sick of people that don’t know what they’re talking about pontificating as if they were studied scholars on the subject.

The people that actually developed the “new sounds” that everyone seems to think are so “revolutionary” are always the ones that never get the credit. People talk about someone like Eric Clapton as if he created blues-style guitar playing, when in actuality he did nothing but rip off almost all of his licks from The Three Kings (Freddie, Albert, and BB). It’s this kind of things that irks me. I won’t blame Eric for this; he’s always been upfront about the homage that he pays them the three of them in his playing. I will, however, blame the critics for attempting to know what they’re talking about. They may want to take a step forward to get away from what they would probably site as being “the big picture” and take a look at things on a slightly more quantum level.

10/16/2008 12:29 A.M. CEST

10/16/2008 1:27 P.M. CEST

I'm sitting in The Dubliner as I type this with, yup, you guess it, a pint of Guinness.

Tomorrow is my last day here. I wish I could bring this pub with me. The bartenders here and I are intending to stay in contact. They're cool guys and it's always good to have friends from places that I tend to visit more often than others (The UK). Looks like next year will be either Ireland or Scotland or, maybe, both. Only time will tell, but I can guarantee it will be at least one of them.

10/16/2008 1:35 P.M. CEST

10/16/2008 8:57 P.M. CEST

I’ll be going out for a drink tomorrow with the bartenders from The Dubliner for my last night. Looks like I’ve made some friends from the UK in the oddest of places. This is always a good thing.

I’m thinking a mini-tour next year with Jennifer Ann in the UK. By the way it’s looking, I’m thinking we’ll be doing Ireland, Scotland and, of course, England. I haven’t figured out how long this “tour” will be or, more importantly, how much it will cost, but I have more than enough time to make all those minor details pan out. I will hope for something that will see us break even financially. Making money doing this sort of thing is always tough unless you have connections or are just playing with the right people. In this situation, however, I am the man and all responsibility lies with me. I have to start looking for venues in major cities. I’ll make it work.

Tomorrow is my last full day. I have to call the taxi service in the morning to make sure of the time that they set as my pickup time. I really don’t want to leave, but life back home calls (along with my instruments) and I can imagine that going back in to work on Monday will be a miserable feeling. After all the beer, though, I think my liver can have a long rest. Of course, there are the two cans of Guinness in my fridge at home that Natasha gave me…

10/16/2008 9:08 P.M. CEST

10/17/2008 10:41 A.M. CEST

This is my last day here. The baristas at the local Starbucks had me take a picture with adorable and very tall girl that works here for their "Returning Customers Wall". I felt honored as I won't be returning after today. I like this Starbucks. It reminds me of the Starbucks in Freehold, but it reminds me of the way it used to be. I have, strange as it is, felt almost at home here. Not quite enough, though, to warrant my staying. That will, one day, be reserved for London.

10/17/2008 10:45 A.M. CEST

10/18/2008 6:23 P.M. GMT

I'm sitting in Heathrow International now waiting for my flight back to the US. Last night was a very memorable night, that is, if I could remember much of it. I figured getting a few drinks with some friends would be a good idea. The phrase a few has a very different meaning to some, though. Sav and I started at The Dubliner and then Joe and I went to this other place, of which I can't recall the name, but I can say that it is, literally, a 10 second walk from the Dubliner.

I woke up this morning in a rather ripe haze. It took a good portion of the day to get over it. It actually got worse as the morning went on until right before I landed in London when it subsided much like the ebbing of the high tides. I took a few hours in London as usual, just to eat (twice) and see if I could check my emails at the Starbucks or even The Prince of Teck Pub, but the connection has gotten a bit backed up lately and I had to wait to et here to check my emails.

So, as is the norm on my adventures, I'm sitting in an airport. This is always the part of the trip that can go either way. Some layovers/flight delays/waiting times can be fun. (Generally, I've found that their most fun when there's a decent pub in the place.) Others can be torture with the hours of nothing to do but bask in a anti-consumerists nightmare; the mini-shopping malls that all airport terminals have become. I can buy everything here from a new wardrobe to some of the finest whiskeys in the world and it's entirely duty-free. No local or government taxes are taken out as this is considered "international territory." I guess I'll just head over to the not-so-corporate coffee chain and get myself a cappuccino now. 

10/18/2008 6:38 P.M. GMT

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Frank

Oddly I find your trip very interesting. I will keep track of you adventures.

Good luck and god speed

Joe Lombardi

Ola said...

I`m not that tall, ok?!? :-p

Anonymous said...

i don't know..you travel but it seems as if you keep comparing to what you are comfortable with or "used to." the world and it's people are diverse. to try and convince yourself that the world will transform itself into what you deem it needs to be is contradictory to the life of a vagabond. take it all in, judge but not too harshly, and realize that the world does in fact reach beyond one's comfort level. i believe that is why the barman in the Dubliner is now living somewhere else. Humanness is universal. Utopia is a state of mind, not place.