No recollection whatsoever of where and how and under what circumstances Scotty (a drinker, he) and I caught the train from Berlin to Prague. None. Blank tape. Well, after all, Berlin was a rough couple of days, alternating between Prussian diurnal discipline and nocturnal depravity.
But the train ride, itself—that I remember. A train full of international travelers: Aaron, (agreeable, mellow) , from California, beautiful Danielle (warmth, simplicity) from Brazil, and Dr. C. (swarthy, suspicious) professing to be a professor at Oxford. Scotty and I shared a compartment with this assortment of intriguing personalities until we stopped at the Czech border where armed guards checked our passports and hauled Scotty away because Australians need a visa to enter the Czech republic. Oops.
"Get us sorted in Prague, mate," said he, as the guards led him off the train. "I'll be on the next train in." Not a care in the world.
|Train ride jam session... Danielle looks on|
Danielle knew a place we could go. We negotiated the subway lines to end up at a hostel in the outer hub of the city. The hostel managers were Africans, an Eritrean and an Ethiopian. A hopeful, if somewhat puzzling circumstance, given the war raging between Eritrea and Ethiopia at the time. Got a room, unpacked, relaxed for a bit, then back on the subway for me. Back to the train station, hoping to find Scotty.
He was there, on the platform. Told a tale of sitting in a dark room, facing a Czech border guard, being compelled to buy a Visa. Neither of us was sure it wasn't just a shakedown. But Scotty was in Prague now so let it go, let it go.
Back to the hostel where Scotty dropped his pack. "Let's go get a beer," says Scotty (a drinker, he).
World-class brewers in Prague. Czechs laugh about American beer. They call it lemonade. We found a place. Knocked back a few. Locals were smoking dope in the corner. We went to have a look at the Charles Bridge.
The Charles Bridge, built in 1357, named for Charles IV who was not only King of Bohemia, but Holy Roman Emperor as well. The bridge was lined on either side with Baroque statues. Buskers played for coin all along the length. Gawking tourists took it all in.
|Along the Charles Bridge|
|Gates of Prague Castle|
|The Prague gang: Ben, Jo, Robyn, me, Danielle, Carlos, and Scotty|
A bistro table that looked out on the stone-paved square near the Astronomical Clock served as our point of rendezvous, from which we would go off in twos and threes to see the various sites.
Robyn (prim, friendly) said, "I think Spanish is a beautiful language."
"Bah!" spat Dr. C. "It is the language of slaves." Dr. C., (swarthy, suspicious) decidedly not of Anglo-Saxon descent, was an Anglophile in the worst sense. In the Rudyard Kipling sense. Carlos (tragically proud) was offended.
Dr. C. tried to mend fences. He pulled a quote from someone, some king: "When I speak to my accountants, I speak English. When I speak to my lovers, I speak French. When I speak to my soldiers, I speak German. But when I speak to God, I speak Spanish." Too little too late, I'm afraid. Carlos left in tears.
Scotty, well into his cups, says to Dr. C., "The thing is, you're just a bloody wog."
Danielle and I followed Carlos out.
|Dr. C.'s soireé. (Dr. C. is in the back row, wearing a necktie.)|
Next day. Our gang gathered again at the bistro near the Astronomical Clock. Ben and Scotty had not been to bed. Both stank of beer and cigarettes. They had decided to go on to Vienna that afternoon. Ben tilted his head toward Scotty, and said to me, "I'm not sure I can keep up with this guy."
Remembering Berlin, I said, "I'm telling you right now, Ben, you can't." Scotty smirked (a drinker, he).
So, Scotty and I said goodbye. It had been a long, hard road together. All the way from Stockholm to Prague. And now he was on to Vienna with Ben. Good luck, guys! Have fun!
|So long, Scotty!|
Jo and Robyn urged me to go see the Jewish Quarter and the John Lennon wall as they climbed in the taxi for the airport. "Take care, Dade," they said.
Then I was alone in Prague and feeling a little lonely. They were a lovely group of people. Scotty, Ben, Danielle, Jo, Robyn, and Carlos. All of us brought together by the most random of chances, to form a little community of friends from five different countries.
Next day I walked through the Jewish Quarter that the Jews abandoned when the Nazis came. I visited the John Lennon wall, covered with graffiti and lyrics from Beatles songs. Some Czech graffiti artist had painted John Lennon's visage on a wall in the Grand Priory Square in the '80s, spawning a movement of Czech students, which they called "Lennonism" to irritate the Communists. Unlike the monstrosity that fell in Berlin, this wall endures.
To be continued...
- Pt. I Amsterdam - Arnhem - Copenhagen
- Pt. II Copenhagen - Oslo
- Pt. III Bergen
- Pt. IV Flam fjord - Goteborg
- Pt. V Stockholm - Gavle - Stockholm
- Pt. VI Berlin
- Pt. VII Prague
- Pt. VIII Budapest
- Pt. IX Vienna
- Pt. X Munich
- Pt. XI Salzberg - Innsbruck
- Pt. XII Venice - Florence
- Pt. XIII Siena
- Pt. XIV Rome
- Pt. XV Naples - Pompeii
- Pt. XVI Cinque Terre - Geneva
- Pt. XVII Avignon
- Pt. XVIII Arles
- Pt. XIX Barcelona
- Pt. XX San Sebastian
- Pt. XXI Bordeaux - St. Lo
- Pt. XXII Paris
- Pt. XXIII Brussels - Waterloo
- Pt. XXIV Brugge
- Pt. XXV Amsterdam at last