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"How vain it is to sit down and write when you have not stood up to live!" -- Thoreau
|Episode 39: Prague--Bohemian Rhapsody|
@ Where`s Cherie?
Aug 05 2002 - 16:42 PST
cherie writes: November 2000
A chandelier made completely of human bones. In the Czech Republic, crystal is out!
I cheated on my Venice (my ex-favorite city) and had a love affair with Prague (my new favorite city.)
Mecki borrowed a friend's car and we took a road trip to the Czech Republic. Running low on gas, I amost freaked out when I saw the sign saying the next gas station was 2000 m. Two thousand miles? Then I realized the rest of the industrialized world has graduated to the metric system and 2000 m means 2000 meters.
Just for future knowledge there are two places each car must stop at the Czech boarder patrol. Mecki and I discovered this when we blew past the second boarder stop and had a handful of Czech police officers running behind our car barking Czech obscenities like wild dogs.
This was my first introduction to the Czech language. When the Czechs have a conversation it sounds like they hate each other. There are many words in German that sound similar to their English counterparts. Beer, coffee, and milk is "bier", "kaffee", and "milch." Okay, sure the Germans spell the words wrong, but at least you get the point. There are no words like this in the Czech language. I looked up how to say the word "hostel" is Czech. It is "mladeznicka nocleharna." The event of trying to pronounce this word foreshadowed our future. Seemingly impossible, a hostel was harder to find than it was to pronounce.
Once we entered the Czech republic we were perpetually lost. The street grid of Prague is similar to that jumble of skinny brown tape you create when you pull a tape out of the cassette player mid-song.
Between us, Mecki and I spoke four common languages--English, German, French and Spanish. Still, it was an incredible task to find someone with two simple qualities. 1. The ability to understand one of these four languages and 2. a basic knowledge of the city. Anyone who spoke English was as lost as we were, and anyone who spoke Czech gave us directions in Czech.
After being lost for two and a half hours and stopping twelve different people, the most coherent advice we received was from a uniformed guard who said "Go strange." (Go straight?)
Night encroached upon us with its black impending doom. Mecki sighed, "Great, it's getting dark, this should help us find our way."When we finally found our youth hostel we no longer looked like youth. We grabbed only what we needed out of the car and checked in. Had we known that it was going to be the last time we would see many of our valuables, we would have given them a proper goodbye.
The next morning we realized we were relieved of all of our non-essentials (like car radio, camera, luggage...etc.) All Mecki could do was laugh and say, "Why didn't they take my shoes? I am insulted, these are good shoes!" They didn't like my sweater either, because they left that, too.
There was only one solution: Absinthe. I was thankful that the Czech Republic is one of the three countries in the world where Absinthe is legal. I realized it's illegal in the rest of the world for a very good reason--it tastes like nail polish remover, except it has more alcohol (160 proof) and less flavor. Then we ate things I thought people only ate and drank in the Middle Ages--Grog and Guelash.
Prague is a gorgeous city of bridges, castles, gardens, towers, cathedrals and monuments. We walked up the hillside where you can attempt to wind yourself through a sickening maze of mirrors. It's a must for all narcissists--it's the best place I have found to get completely lost in yourself.
Next we went to Kutna Hora where so many people wanted to be burried in the town's church, the monks didn't know what to do with all the bodies. One kooky monk decided he wanted to adorn the church with the human bones...so he did. The result is a church drapped with a garland of human skulls and femurs. In the center is a peculiar chandellier created from every bone in the human body. Over 40,000 bones decorate the church. It was enough to make you want to take a breath of fresh air and look at the dead people who were lucky enough to still be buried outside and not apart of the inside bone display.
When we were outside admiring the grave markers Mecki said "Why is everyone here named "Rodina?" Incidentially, "Rodina" was the word printed on each of the hundreds of tomb stones, but it is not a female name. "Rodina," in the Czech language, means something equivalent to "rest in peace."
We ended our trip in Kutna Hora by gearing up with excavating equipment and exploring the undergound silver shafts. The passageways were drippy dank tunnels that had little room and less light. When we turned off our flash lights all we saw was ink black space. It was the complete darkness that only two things can give: caves and coffins. (I prefer the former.)
By the way, for those of you who failed Geography, or were educated in the United States, Bohemia is a region in the Czech Republic. It was when we left this region that we hit bottom. We crossed the border into Germany and we didn't have any Deutschmarks. We only had Czech Koruny (the Czech currency). But, we hadn't eaten in seven hours.
We fumbled through the car, bags not stolen, and our pockets until we scrounged up enough money for a meager McDonald's meal. After we ordered, the total was more than we had, so we had to take things off one by one. (Make that large fry a small fry.) We did this to the irritation of other customers until it was one Pfennig (a half a cent) below what we had. Then I asked for ketchup and Mecki said "We don't have enough money for ketchup." Yes, in Germany you have to buy the ketchup. You also don't get ice in your drink and to top it off they call the "Filet of Fish" a "Fish Mac". Hitting Bottom--not having enough money for ketchup.
Next stop--Italy and the $1000 mushroom.
Note: The spell check was not working, so send all spelling corrections to the attention of Kristi Carter (please allow for human error.)
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