The longest day
Trip Start Jun 20, 2005
10Trip End Jul 07, 2005
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At 9:30am Czech time, my watch still says 3:30am Toronto time. My body says I should be fast asleep but my senses are telling me it is a beautiful sunny day, which it is. The main question on my mind is 'how the hell are we going to get through this day?' We are sitting in the living room of Petr, a good friend of Maria. Those two and Jane are crapping on in Czech/Slovak, providing me with a good opportunity to write in my journal. Having drained a much-needed coffee, I must say I am markedly more awake than I was an hour ago.
The ride over here from the airport in Petr's car was predictably hair-raising. It didn't do much for the old stomach but it got us here quickly. Petr lives in one of these monolithic, omnipresent Communist-style apartment buildings, surrounded by more apartment buildings and sporadically-grassed 'parkland'. It's not unpleasant or depressing, don't get me wrong, but it is certainly a symptom of the Communist rule for so many years here.
A few hours later we find ourselves relaxing on the grass in front of Prague Castle. Mercifully I have managed to grab a few winks, so I feel vaguely normal. Prior to that I was not feeling too flash at all. In fact, I had a minor regurgitation in the Castle's gardens that was apparently missed by the royal guards.
We had left Petr's house at 11:30am, after I had an extremely awkward shower. How Eastern Europeans manage to remain relatively clean (if in fact they do) is a mystery to me, given the total lack of user-friendliness and practicality of their showers. The 'shower' is basically a half-sized bath tub with a series of rubber hoses poking out of various parts of the wall. The idea is that you try each of the hoses until you find the one that actually sprays warmish water, then try to wash yourself and hold the hose at the same time, all the while squatting uncomfortably in the miniature tub. There is no shower curtain, so by the time you have finished this ungainly exercise, you step out into a pool of water that has covered the floor, and put on your clothes that have been soaked by the spray.
Somewhat refreshed, we hurtled back into town in Petr's Skoda and ducked into a semi-trendy restaurant, even though none of us were particularly hungry. That didn't stop us from ordering virtually everything on the menu, then unconvincingly picking away at it. I was fine until I went to the bathroom. It had a smell of chlorine/disinfectant that was literally overwhelming. I would have thrown up had I been able to bear the smell long enough to do so. Now, not only was I very tired but nautious too. Maria felt similarly and Jane wasn't well either. Naturally, we jumped back in the car and sped through the winding streets across town to the Castle Gardens. We strolled through them and up to the Castle proper, with my brief chunder break along the way. I had visited the Castle in my one previous trip to Prague, back in 1999 but it was better to see it again now, with knowledgeable local guides to assist us.
At around 4pm we walked back to the car and drove off to the airport as Petr had a theatre engagement that evening so he had to drop us off early. Jane and Maria's well-being was moving inversely to my much-improved post-nap state. We arrived at the airport at 5pm and all headed straight to the bathrooms before waiting and waiting for our 9:40pm flight to Sliac.
Things went from bad to worse after that. While I was feeling fairly good, Jane and Maria were struggling. Maria in particular was well under the weather, making a couple of pilgrimages to the porcelain shrine. The Prague to Sliac leg was only a tiny little plane (about 40 seats) and it bounced around the sky nicely but it was only an hour's flight. Sliac is a small town and its airport is tiny - basically just a customs guy, a baggage guy, and guy who directs the plane and someone who sells tickets. As far as I know, they could all even be the same guy. There isn't even a baggage conveyer belt - luggage just gets dumped on these wooden blocks for pick-up. Speaking of baggage, unfortunately Maria's main suitcase didn't make the trip with us. This meant that Maria's day went the same way as her lunch - down the toilet. Because there are no flights from Prague to Sliac tomorrow, it will be at least two days before her back might show up. I felt sorry for Jane's brother, Janko, who showed up to meet us with a great big smile on his face, only to be met by a bunch of exhausted, unwell, somewhat grumpy travellers.
When we finally arrived at Jane's house, at around 11:35pm Friday night, her parents were waiting up for us. Maria's lost luggage was obviously the main topic of conversation and she made sure everyone knew all about it, casting a bit of a pall over what should have been a happy family reunion.