Monday, May 25, 2009

Prague Blog day one

Ilia, Elliott and I checked in to Czech yesterday! :) If you would like to follow our adventure, then grab a moment, a beverage and a breath and join us below:

We are surrounded by a myriad of people, glitz, rubble, glittering gold spires in the sunshine, a cornucopia of languages and tourists, fresh produce, partying punks, flocks of senior tour group stereotypes, fashionistas, masterpiece marionettes, swanky coffee shops and even swankier McDonalds’!, cavern-like booze & tobacco shops, serpentine bridges, rowboats, cobblestones, and luscious greenery....

Our flight was absolutely serene, just as I prayed for. And when we landed – to my heart’s delight – the passengers actually clapped! I have been a sad, solo clapper for years, and this was the first flight in a long time where other people were moved to gratitude as I was. J

And this is actually a little surprising to me now because I have found half the Czech people – SO FAR – to generally be a little standoffish, remote, chilly (kind of like their preferred state of beer.) I am not closing my books on them; we are still tickled by those who are challenging this perception for us (mainly the younger generation.) But for us, so far, it started with the lady who ‘Czeched’ us in at the airport (made us feel like criminals cause we didn’t know to tag the stroller!), then continued with the flight attendants – military-like service without a big helping of hospitality - then a passenger who wanted me out of her way (but oooooh, I oozed the charm and, I think, won her over a little bit!) Then there are the people on the street. They do not fawn over babies. They do not take much interest in you. When you ask for instructions, they do try to help, in a very brief sort of way. They seem to be rather serious, actually. Perhaps it all goes back to the communism, I don’t know, but a big dose of clowns here would be a welcome change! J Funny, for people who are famous for building toys and puppets!

Anyway, I also must give a shout-out to the European airlines. If you are ever flying to Europe, DO NOT fly on a North American airline unless you want to pay for everything by the tooth and nail. On our Czech airline, we got FREE water bottles, FREE blankets, earphones and pillows, FREE baby food & supplies, a FREE alcoholic drink with our FREE dinner, FREE breakfast! And sitting in the bulkhead seats with our bassinet was like living in first-class! Woo-wee!

And the VIEW. Oh my gAWEd, the view! We flew for hours into a lovely sunset, we zoomed into a time warp where night time lasted for an hour, and then flew again for hours into a spectacular sunrise. Damn, I was more tired than a gypsy's donkey, but I forced myself to witness that gorgeous work of art before me.

And how did Elliott handle the flight? Most admirably. He slept for maybe 1 ½ hours, thankfully during dinner time. The rest of the time he played, watched the baby across from us, flirted MADLY with the elderly couple behind us, fought sleep like a champion of insomnia, ate, drank and was merry (for the most part.) Of course, he fell asleep again in the last hour of the flight and woke up in a WHOLE NEW WORLD! We were picked up by a very sweet Czechian man named John, and in his beat-up van I held on tight to little L whose car seat was (of course) broken! Welcome to Europe, baby.

Oh, to see him looking from his forward-facing car seat out the window was my 'raison d’etre.' He was exactly as I pictured in my imaginings…like me on a North American FPP bus tour…eyes WIDE open, glued to the visions passing by. We even discussed his wonderings, as he felt compelled to babble to me about all he was seeing. That kid is our divine little adventurer. J

Oh yes, and I forgot to mention we landed earlier than schedule. So we were already at our accommodation by 6:45 a.m.!! Yes, we got to see the Prague NO ONE else sees because all the sane people are still in their beds, snoozing. Of course, it was too early for our room to be ready, so we just got Elliott all set up with a diaper and some food, and then off we went, galavanting by 8:00 a.m. on a Saturday in the streets of Prague…which is to say, as if we suddenly morphed into a European ghost town. Everything was closed! Even when we returned to our hotel at 10:00 a.m., a lot of places were STILL closed and many don’t even open on Saturdays…not even some of the theatres do shows on Saturdays! Such a shocker. But we got our bearings, and made a detour through the park of the big train station, where the only awake people all seemed to be parading through, and a very interesting assortment of characters were hanging out on the benches.

We walked around parts of the Old Town, no idea what was what or where we were, dazed and dopey, but nevertheless enjoyed the glorious architecture, marveled at the early morning sun, learned some important Czech words like “cigarety” and “alkoholski” – a funny little note about that: the booze and tobacco shops were open before any cafes or bakerys or restaurants that we saw! And we wandered into a cafĂ© WAY TOO swanky for us and at 9:00 a.m. in the morning I saw a guy there drinking beer!! Ew. And I thought Ilia was bad.

Anyway, at the peak of our morning jaunt, we stood humbled before a magestic place of artistic prowess and like 2 people obsessed with crosswords, tried to figure out what its place of prominence is in the Prague elite…turns out it was the (Art Nouveau) Municipal House (home of the Prague Orchestra) and 'Powder Tower' (where they used to house the gunpowder back in the 15th century.) And we passed some black light theatres and a (closed) marionette shop, and a super cool street market that we sadly had to turn away from because Ilia’s ‘flight indigestion’ was hitting him in a hammerhead sort of way.

So we returned ‘home’ for a 4-hour nap. I think that makes it 8 hours of sleep for me in the last 2 nights. But I’m OKAY!!!!! (That’s just my head about to explode.)

Then, later in the afternoon we went on a train ‘adventure.’ Our goal was to get to the grocery store: Tesco, the great big chain of Europe. And Ilia, who I think is obsessed with asking for directions, has a terrible instinct and lack of discretion with whom he chooses to ask for those directions…and then after they give him the information he has requested, he doubts their knowledge about the subject!

So there we were, with clear directions that our destination was “4 or 5” stops away. We ride along, enjoy the view. One, two. Oh, the shops are open! Three, four. Man, the streets are packed. Five, six. Hmmm, the neighbourhood is getting a little shady. Seven. “Um, Ilia, don’t you think we should get off the train now?” Our train rides over the bridge, to the OTHER part of Prague – not the part where the grocery store is supposed to be. I get out the map. I point at the circle where the Tesco is supposed to be. I point out that the bridge and water are several BLOCKS past that little circle. We get off the train…and walk back. Elliott has peed his pants. He is fed up with being in the stroller. We change him, we carry him; we walk and walk. We ask multiple volunteers for more directions, but this time I get involved and become more choosy with my 'helpers.' We find Tesco. We get L’s milk, and food, and all is good.

But there is much to see yet, and much to do. Our apartment – at Amadeus Aparthotel – is a DREAM. We got a great deal on a 1-bedroom apartment with a kitchenette and a little balcony and tons of windows, in a quiet neighbourhood, with free breakfast. I think we are loving it more than our condo back home. J And yes, we brought a crapload of stuff, but it’s funny how the smallest person traveling with us has somehow manipulated me into packing the largest amount of stuff. Oh well, he has his little walker and his playpen and his books and toys and he is a happy camper. And so are we. Now hopefully we can just get some sleep.

1 comment:

  1. It sounds like your trip is off to an amazing start! I hope the fun continues as you travel.