Friday, January 20, 2012

Perhaps Awesome Was A Bit Of A Stretch

This New Year M and I decided we needed to travel, and it so happens that my very good internet friend from exotic India was in Germany as an exchange student. We got together in a dark coffee shop at the corner of the internet and hashed out the plans. We’ve both always wanted to see Prague, and this was the perfect opportunity. However, M and I were in a bit of a hurry to get back to work, and Eesha would be leaving Germany for India just a couple days after New Year’s Eve. This, of course, made things a little bit complicated. But after hours of deep contemplation, 27 virtual lattes and 14 not-so-virtual doughnuts, we had it all figured out.

Eesha, the lucky bitch, would arrive in Prague on the 29th. M and I would try to get off work early on Friday the 30th, hop on a plane to Stockholm, take another plane from Stockholm to Copenhagen and catch a connecting flight from Copenhagen to Prague, arriving late in the evening. Arranging this wasn’t easy, I’m telling you, especially since I needed a double seat on every flight on account of having 14 doughnuts in one session.

Thursday night, Eesha checked in with us, letting us know the hotel was perfect, and the city even better. I had all my bags packed, and on Friday I woke up at 6 am to go to work with a smile on my face. After work we left for the airport and set out to travel all across Europe on the death-machines called airplanes, before we could finally arrive in Prague.

The flight from Copenhagen to Prague was perfect. It was on time, and since there were so few passengers everyone got to ride in first class. The flight attendants asked everyone what they wanted to eat and cooked different meals for everyone. Alcohol flowed and the captain made jokes over the intercom, including a very good imitation of Pablo Francisco. The weather was perfect, and because of a decent tailwind, the flight arrived an hour early. In the middle of the flight, Elvis (I’ll have you know that the rumors of his death are greatly exaggerated) stood up and treated everyone to a fantastic concert and signed everyone’s plane tickets. After the performance, all the passengers decided to play the lottery, and miraculously won 72 million dollars. Each.

At least that’s what I assume happened. I wouldn’t really know, we never made that flight. Nope, we were stuck in Stockholm. Norwegian airlines apologized for the delay, gave us a hotel room, fed us and put us on a flight from Stockholm to Prague at a time when not even breakfast was awake yet. It was an extraordinarily ordinary flight; two minutes late, bland food and indifferent flight attendants. But it got us to Prague.

We arrived in Prague 12 hours later than we had planned, but luckily Eesha hadn’t run off and left us with the hotel bill. We spent about 10 minutes making sure we didn’t spontaneously hate each other, and then set out to conquer Prague together. We saw everything we could possibly see in one day, and even if I tried I could never, ever pronounce, spell or remember any of the names of the things and places we saw. But we saw a nice square with a nice statue for the late Vaclav Havel, we saw extremely deep subways and ate very good local delicacies. We went in search of a castle on a hill, found it, and nearly died from the climb up the hill. We witnessed the spectacle that is the Astronomical Clock and climbed the tower. We saw the Powder Tower and the Charles Bridge, where we together with ten thousand other people also became the very mangled audience of the most spectacular fireworks ever while sipping a miniature bottle of absinthe. We also saw a lot of furry hats and museums of torture. The Czech clearly have a thing for furry torture.

A Finn, taking a picture of an Indian, taking a picture of a building.
Searching for the castle, finding only empty streets.

We found the castle! Too bad it's too big to fit in the picture.
Around the castle a great wall ran, and beyond, the city of Prague.

Next stop, Hell.

"Don't mind me, just holding up a building here."

View from the tower at the Astronomical Clock.

Have I mentioned I hate heights?

This charming little fellow rang the bell every hour at the Astronomical Clock.

New Year's Eve at Charles Bridge, where someone standing behind me either has a banana in his pocket, or just sexually assaulted me.

The next day we woke up early and rode trains all day long. Unfortunately, so did a lot of other people, and the first hour or so was spent trying to ignore an extremely loud family of two mommies and two kids. When they weren’t screaming and crying (even the moms), they were playing loud videogames on little portable devices from hell.

Luckily we soon crossed into the country that boasts not only Oktoberfest, sauerkraut and bratwurst, but also 5 million skeletons in their closet. At the same time the Czech announcements on the train stopped and a very well-organized lady started doing the announcements in German instead. And that’s pretty much how the rest of our trip was, extremely organised thanks to the Germans and their obsession with neat and orderly. We jumped onto another train in Dresden, and yet a new one in Leipzig. We arrived in Magdeburg in the evening, and didn’t have time do to much more than take a walk and have dinner. Oh, and share quarters with a dozen ghosts or so. We spent the night in an old University dormitory that was clearly haunted. It looked haunted, felt haunted and sounded haunted. The bathroom was at the end of the hallway, and I’ll bet you anything that the clanking sound in the pipes wasn’t made by rats. And it wasn’t Casper the Friendly Ghost clanking either, no, this was The Shining, dubbed to German. Luckily we only had to stay there one night, and then it was off to Berlin.

Berlin was lovely, and just as well-organized as the rest of Germany. We had 24 hours in Berlin, and we used the time well. We saw the Bundestag, Brandenburger Tor, the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe (quite the fetching name for a memorial, don’t you think?), what is left of the Berlin Wall, the hugely phallic TV-tower and Checkpoint Charlie. We had some currywurst and were ridiculously happy when we didn’t have to pay extra for Wi-Fi at the hotel. We rode the subway and the trains and marvelled at the railway stations, built high above the city. And even I who have only taken basic German, ages ago, understood almost everything said. A lovely place, it was.

I looked up "haunted house" on Wikipedia, then hit "Deutsch", only to learn that there is no such listing in German. Germans are clearly too sensible for ghosts.
Not actual wall.
The square at Brandenburger Tor.

The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe.

The one thing that really truly stayed with me, though, was the very aptly named memorial. Huge slabs of concrete, lined up perfectly over an entire block. On the outside it looked perfectly even, all blocks the same size. And then you started walking between the blocks, and the ground sank into the earth, you found yourself walking down a slope, the concrete blocks on either side of you growing taller and taller. What started as innocent blocks at knee-level grew into 15-foot tall monsters, blocking out the light, towering over you in a perfect metaphor for the deep dark secrets of Berlin. I could have walked around in it all night, but alas, we had things to do, places to sightsee.

We left Berlin the next day, and I got that familiar angsty feeling when I heard Finnish spoken on the airport. After another death-defying flight home, the bus driver’s laconic welcome made me feel perfectly at home again. We arrived in Turku at 10 at night, crawled into bed and got up at 6 am the next day to go to work. 

And just like that, the adventure was over.


  1. Wonderful pictures Ziva. And sounds like a great trip. But I'm going to Jamaica.

  2. Wonderful pictures Ziva. And sounds like a great trip. But I'm going to the grocery store.

  3. That's awesome Nicky! Can you bring me back a few things from the grocery store?

  4. Wonderful pictures Ziva. And sounds like a great trip. I will not succumb to peer pressure.

    Your pics make me long for Prague. I was there in 2002 and it was awesome. I even had a totally Kafkaesque experience of alienation and surreality at my hotel.

    Sounds like you had a blast! God, Prague looks good in any season.

  5. Oh whatever, Jamaica is full of people playing cricket or running track, you'll never get any rest there. It's probably cold, too.

  6. Oh you're picking up groceries on a Saturday? You lead such an interesting life, it's practically riveting. Please tell me more!

  7. Thanks, Mike, I think having a Kafkaesque experience is mandatory when you go to Prague. ;) It was truly fantastic, I definitely want to go there again and stay a little longer than we did this time. And even though winter in Prague wasn't very cold at all, I still really want to see it in the summer, too. 

  8. Oh wow. Wonderful pictures, Ziva. And sounds like a great trip. But, much like Nicky, I'm going to the grocery store.

  9. Oh my, you guys lead such exciting lives! ;)

  10. Yeah, we get it: You went to fucking Prague, you went to fucking Berlin and you live in fucking Europe so you're cool.

    Well, I'll bet you've never stopped in North Platte, Nebraska for gasoline and a Coke, have you, little Miss Nose-in-the-Air? I'll save my awe for the day when you post a blog about that.

  11. Maybe next time you're in Prague you can get some prawns at the grocery store. Then you could say you had prawns in Prague.

  12. It is cold, but nobody cares on account of all the pot smoking.

  13. I love the photos and it sounds like a really fun time.  I don't like heights though so I don't go up high except in planes and that's when I pretend I'm on a bus.  Berlin is a city I would like to visit.  Prague scares me.  I think those "Hostel" movies were made there.  Lord have mercy!

  14. I thought I would like Prague better than Berlin, but I totally fell in love with Berlin. It is a beautiful place, and much less scary than Prague.

  15. Challenge accepted! Be ready with that awe, I'll demand it when you least expect it.



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