Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Gokwe Kid - Rogue Rhodie on a Roller: Part 13. Prague and the Police

Day 22. Monday 18th August.

Rise and shine and no kettle or coffee in the room. No big deal and after quick shower it is down to the communal breakfast room where you can eat as much as you like and have as many mugs of coffee your caffeine addicted body craves. The only small snag that we both landed up standing outside as no smoking allowed.

I was still feeling rather knackered from the drive, so a leisurely day was planned. Whilst not in the centre pure, the hotel wasn't that far. Prague isn't really that large as far as sights are concerned. The river Vltava (the same one that had the rafts and canoes on when I started the trip), cuts the city in half. Using the famous Charles Bridge as a sort of fixed point, we were the fourth bridge up stream and after a short walk down the drag leading past the hotel, hit the river.

These pics are from the way.. eish.. I stopped at some smoked sausage joint and it was disgusting!!!

Okay we move on...

Casually strolling along, sometimes the path is along the water front and sometimes set further back with quite some busy traffic. It was at the first junction that I solved another of my problems. When I had rocked up into the centre I had noticed at red lights an awful loud and hectic ticking noise that penetrated my helmet and only went when I accelerated away. I had concluded that the poor roller was giving its death rattle in neutral.

Now I knew what it was. It was for the blind and drunks to cross the road. The ones incapable of seeing the little green walking man. The volume would not bother the deaf but could awake the dead and the sound and speed sent goose pimples down my back because it sounds just like a flight of locusts (creatures I have a serious phobia with). Plus, who ever designed the timing must have been an ex Olympic 100 gold medallist as you had no way in hell of crossing in time. Then, just as the awful noise stops, it starts again, this time for the other way! No wonder no one hangs around street corners here. You would go mad.

I have been here twice before. The last time with my stepmother Katherine around I think maybe 96-97. I have little recollection besides we did stay at the same place from the previous trip – 1991.
Now that had been something...

I had about a staff of eight semi-skilled dryliners working for me. One from Tasmania (on a Brit passport), one a scouser from Liverpool, (profession – cook), and various motley English and Irish.
My ex Daniella, and I, along with a less than one year baby, were moving house and I made a deal with my pirates that if they helped with the move, I would take them on a firm trip to Prague and pay the accommodation. Job done.

The day we left, saw Pat ( a paddy) searching in his pigsty for his passport, so he never went. The others, all well fuelled from the night before, piled into the Transit van two hours behind schedule and off we went. This was barely two years since the collapse of communism and it was evident in the state of the roads and houses.

Cheap hotels did not exist and through an agency in the centre we were given an address of a private residence and after much getting lost, turned up at this house. There we were greeted by an elderly couple, who spoke good English and to make ends meet had turned the top floor into an apartment. No mod cons -  but clean and comfortable.

I felt a tad sorry for them. My peasants moaned about the breakfast that came with the lodging, having no interest in the fare of cold cuts of meat and bread. They staggered around between sleeps totally drunk, ripped the bannister off the staircase wall in one session of 'not sure if I was falling up or down', the Aussie dragged a whore back, and after bursting one condom had left it on the floor where the old lady dutifully disposed of it when she made our beds. All in all they acted worse than animals.

We had struggled to find places to eat and drink. Many a tin was purchased from small stands and one eating place was where the local whores hung out between clients. One drinking place was a working man's joint where a pot of Budweiser cost next to nothing. Evening entertainment Рwell we did find a Jazz club, but got soon bored. Another time we found a dingy joint underground at some plaza where the local young client̬le took turns to scream terrible noise into a microphone whilst the backup 'group' churned out incomprehensible noise.

We used the metro in and battered Skoda and Lada Taxis back or, as in one night, to pitch up at what was the only disco in town. It was at tennis club where the likes of Martina Navratolva and Ivan Lendl had played and trained. There was a queue to get in and some rather heavy set doorstops that melted when their hands were greased with West German silver and we were in.

It didn't take long for my lot to suss out that the available women, all good looking, were prostitutes. It was rife as the people struggled to make ends meet...

So now I looked around as we progressed. How things have changed. The old buildings all beautifully renovated, the cars all modern, with many a luxury auto amongst them. At Charles Bridge, the mass of tourists from all over the world greeted us in groups of thirty plus following like bleating sheep a guide holding up an umbrella – a far cry from the few backpackers and nutters like us from 23 years ago.

Now you had no problem finding a place to sit outside by the river and eat and drink. The nearer the bridge, the higher the prices, but still relatively reasonable compared to say, London. Neither of us had any inclination to go into museums or art galleries and at one watering hole we simply chatted our language, Rhodesian, and watched the people and absorbed the surrounds. Luckily, whilst the sky was 50% covered with sulking clouds, it stayed relatively warm, and crucially...dry.

Charles Bridge hasn't changed much. The same offers of artists doing your pencil characters, stunning photographs and original water colours with scenes of the city. The prices have changed though. There were some neat bands, and we didn't stay that long amongst the jostle and crowds. Turning right, we followed the river back but more on the waterline. Of course, it strikes up a real thirst and I need more golden nectar.

Day 23. Tuesday 19th August.

I awoke feeling a bit woozy in the head. I was soon to find out why. Returning from her shower, Sue politely asked if I had slept well as she had not. (Please note, separate single beds.) I know she does have problems sleeping but -
“a sty full of drunken pigs, snorting and snuffling intermingled with the shouting of a deranged mad man, gave cause for me not having a comfortable night's rest.”

Ah, it took a moment to comprehend but then I promised on Scout's honour I would be the best Sixpence from now on.

“I hope so,” she said with a wry smile “because otherwise you will be sleeping in the foyer. See ya downstairs for coffee.”

After a shower, I looked up the British Embassy. I suppose I better go see the clowns.
Down in the foyer, Sue has forgiven me and we are planning the day, when Sue says
“There are a couple of cops at reception, I wonder if anyone else has had something stolen.”

A minute later they are at our table “We are looking for a Mr Greenberg.”

I confirmed that I was but as for proving it, I only have a photocopy of my passport.
Whilst I went to retrieve it, I puzzled over the fact that they had found me. I blame it on last night's rum and coke (Sue brought me some lovely Captain Morgens that I had to test along with Brut (less the number 33 and a bottle of the splash on stuff. I had given a Rhodie macho grunt and said - “In the old days, Brut drove the girls mad with desire.” Her reply - “It smells bloody awful!”)

I asked the police. I felt so stupid with the reply. There is me, The Gokwe Kid, the greatest bush detective of all time, and I had registered at the hotel with a stolen passport number. Still, what other number was I suppose to give reception? Make one up? Hah-hah. Since I had the notebook, I amused them with pictures of me and the Amazon books. I was glad they were not interested in my blog regarding certain driving mishaps involving motorways and illegal rollers...

Sue had her passport photocopied and had to sign a declaration that I am who I am. They then spent the next 20 mins (they must have been bored) looking on their smart phones for ceramic shops for Sue to go to and see after she had explained she wanted to visit handicraft shops.

With that giggle sorted out and much to the disappointment of the shadenfreude tourists that I had not been dragged out and beaten to a pulp – we had brekkies (the same as yesterday) and next stop - British Embassy.

After some paffing about we find it. Going in (you buzz a bell and the huge heavy, iron clad door must be pushed with all your might), I asked the heavies behind the mortar proof glass, the classic opening line - “Hi, Do you speak English?” (And I giggled stupidly at my own dry wit. Sue looked at me with disgust.) Luckily the peasants did speak the Queens...)
I explained the situation but before I can get to meet those in the know, we had to dump everything in lockers and go through metal detectors. Eventually we are in and, after a minute, behind more bullet proof glass, I get to chat with a Czech. WTF?

She was very helpful. There is no such thing as an emergency travel document, and if you hang around a bit (not sure how many weeks), for a cool 110 Euros, we will give you a new passport. Sod that for a lark – I take my chances getting home. It was just as well that Sue was lending me money to get back. Can you imagine working some plan out with these clowns? I was given a form to fill in, and left and chilled on this steep road that leads to the Prague Castle. We were eventually served by an extremely obnoxious waiter who became even more snotty after I refused to give a tip. Tip of my boot more like it.

Down we went, crossed the bridge again and wandered into the so called Jewish Quarter. That was very disappointing. I was puzzled that anything remains after the NAZIs were there but at one place where they had the ancient cemetery, you had to go in via an old synagogue, now a museum, and emerge out via the graveyard and for this... they want serious money! In fact ALL the Jewish sites demanded cash entry. No thanks - I have no shekels on me.

Wandering, a bit lost, but no big deal, we make a plan to eat on the river side. Then early bed...

Day 24. Wednesday 20th August

Rise and shine with a cup of Tanganda tea – hardly. What’s the plan? I for one, am sick of walking and popping up to the castle was not my idea of fun. No problemo. You can catch a tram there. Sue loves walking. But I explain that with the tram we get to see things as it goes around the bloody hill. Yeah, one problem though, it seems half of China and Japan have the same idea and as we get crushed more and more at each stop, I thought a tin of sardines had more freedom.

So we wandered around the 'castle' – here it was twice the HQ of the Holy Roman Catholic Empire and after Hitler took over the joint, gave a speech from here. (It turns out, he had invited the then PM or President for a little chat in Berlin and in clear terms had explained that if he didn't hand over his country just like that – his Luftwaffe would bomb Prague. The poor bloke suffered a heart attack there and then and was pumped with drugs to keep him coherent enough to hand his country over to the NAZIS.)

You seen one castle you have seen them all. Not quite, but seen it got the T shirt. It is the same with the churches. If get in free, exactly how many arches, domes and stained glass windows are going to hold your interest? Especially when you know the peasants starved as they built these monstrosities to a non existent deity, whilst those in power exploited their simple minds and lived the high life...

From there we searched for the famous Lennon Wall. I am not here to give a history lesson, but, one china of mine, upon seeing the video I posted on Facebook , The Gokwe Kid, wrote - 'Very interesting. Where is this?' - I sometimes despair for the human race. Considering all my posts were from Prague and his five words of a stupid question - had he googled two - 'Lennon Wall'...just like that.

From there we wandered slowly back. We found an open air market. Very sad. Just junk. 23 years ago, I was in one (now long gone) and there the locals were flogging anything to stay alive. The retreating Russians had passed on their uniforms, and I picked one up. Really smart. Two decades later when I was penniless, I sold it on Ebay for a nice profit. Sue didn't buy a thing – all tack.

Chilling, me drinking beer at waterholes (Sue doesn't drink alcohol, an occasional wine), we grab a bight on the way and rock up at the hotel. I check the roller, and, I have been robbed again!

In broad daylight, parked up against the side of the hotel by the door the cooks use for a quick fag. The gas cooker on the top of the pannier had been ripped off, but had not been taken. The only thing knicked – my sleeping bag. I had to laugh. There was a Tesco next door and I bought another. I made a bit of a gaff, as this was really for kids, but I didn't care. I will manage somehow...

Day 25. Thursday 21st August

Time to move on. But first, before I pack, I need petrol. Yeah, play with one way streets and 40 mins later, totally knackered, I get back and load up. I say goodbye to Sue and with the sat nav on, soon get lost. After much wandering around with the dumb thing screaming at me, I find my way.

Now I have installed ' no motorways' and much to my amazement land up going backwards to get forwards. Of course there is logic in this madness and also why I had been trapped before. Without an absolute, and very large scaled map, it is impossible to get from A to B without hitting the forbidden roads. Loads of the old routes have been converted, so for the peasants on cycles and rollers, you land up criss crossing all sorts of back roads to get anywhere. Not only does this make an 80km trip twice as far, you also run the risk of never seeing a petrol station!

What happens next is so mad, you think I might have made it up...


Anonymous said...

You're a douchebag. The only reason the Jewish sites of Prague charge money is because the decimated community barely has funds for upkeep and restoration of old sites.

Seriously, "we have no shekels"? You come off like such a smug prick in this post in general, but this really is surprising, even for you.

Karl (aka Lore) said...

Comment noted and will be answered in full. Sorry to offend. So hang around a bit. Cheers.