Monday, March 11, 2002

From Berlin to Prague

Berlin, Germany
Well, first off, my alarm didn’t go off. I played with it a few times, but couldn’t hear anything. It all worked out though, because I intermittently woke up at 7, 07:20, and at 07:40. On my way to the shower, I ran into the hyper-talking British girl from yesterday who was just coming in. She said that she was just going to change and go back out, but changed her mind some time while I was bathing. In water that never really warmed up. I check out of my room at 08:30 or so, and recounted the night’s events to the Canadian girl I had talked with before I went out Friday night. As I stepped out of the hostel, I saw my U-bahn train pulling into the station. I knew it was too far to run, pay for a ticket, and make the train so I caught one 10 minutes later. I made it to the station around 9am, changed a $20, validated my ticket and got on board the 09:41 train.

With a little luck, I got in the right car. The conductor punched my ticket and I struck up a long conversation with Len and Casey. Len is a grad student at Brown studying German, so he’s living in Berlin. Casey is just about finished with her MBA at Georgetown, and is headed to Prague for a class project.
Casey watching the world go by
The train followed the Elbe river for quite a while, with a nearly vertical wall of rock towering behind the houses that lined the opposite side of the river. Len told us that “East German rail is notoriously bad. One time we were delayed because the train hit a deer. We all thought it was just an excuse.” Then we saw a herd of deer in a field. We had no problems on this trip.

Prague, Czech Republic
The Czech border guard didn’t stamp our passports. Just inside the border, a local kid hopped into our compartment, and told Casey that she was in his seat (or at least we think that’s what he said). He promptly fell asleep.
One of many stations we stopped at.
We arrived at Prague-Holesovice around 3pm. Casey and I split a cab to her Marriott in Prague 1. 600 CSK total, at 36CSK:1USD, I reckon that was about $9 each. We parted ways and I set about finding the Metro pass (3 days) at Mustek. While I walked there, I got my bearings. I also found that the pass will be sold tomorrow, not today. So I bought a single fare ticket, validated it, and rode the steep, fast escalator into the train platform. While I’m headed for my train, this big, burly guy approaches me and shows me what looks like an old Russian badge that the guys in east Berlin were selling. So I said, “nay, nay” and that seemed to piss him off. He body-blocked me towards the wall and said something more angry sounding. So I again told him “Nay, nay.” The only think I understood him say was ‘controller’, at which point I realized that he wanted to see my ticket, not sell me something. So I showed it to him, and he seemed a bit disappointed. I took the Metro one stop, found the place I planned to stay, rang the bell, and nothing. They are expecting me at 19:00, and it’s just past 16:00. So, I walked down to the river and sat in the sun, collected my thoughts, and generally enjoyed the nice weather. For dinner, I had 2 klobasy, and a palacinky-a crepe pancake.

I was back at the designated meeting point for the apartment, but still no answer when I rang. I waited for about 30 minutes before I strolled over to the nearest hotel-$54 per night, vs. $30 at the apartment. So I called the number of the guy I’ve been trying to buzz. He was a bit surprised that I was there so early. Huh? He showed me the room, I paid for it in cash, and then laid down to rest. That rest turned into sleep around 22:00 because last night caught up to me. I went to sleep thinking that I only had one full day to see Prague. But then my math skills kicked in and I realized that I had given myself 2 full days.

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