On the move again
Trip Start Aug 18, 2006
149Trip End Ongoing
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On the 25th, despite my hangover, I managed to get my Hepititas B inoculation, so I'm now completely invincible until February. Its actually been quite interesting having to deal with the health services of different countries, without actually having to get sick to do it. In socialist France you get your prescription, go to the pharmacy, go back to the Doctor, who runs his own practice from a terraced house like lawyers often do in the UK. It feels like all the people involved are autonomous agents, interacting. In post-communist Czech republic, on the other hand, you have to go to the main hospital, to the special foreigners section, where they will tell you where to go and what to do. No autonomy, but organised, efficient equanimity. In the UK, with capitalist ideology running a nationalised service, there´s no autonomy and no organisation, but at least its expensive.
In the afternoon I went to see the castle and cathedral, which I had been putting off becaue they´re up a hill. On the way I passed the Earth From Above exhibition, which is touring the world and was in London not long ago, so you may have seen it
The cathedral and castle are impressive to look at and from, with a view of all of Prague. I loitered for a couple of hours, before heading back into town for the evening´s entertainment- Mozart´s Don Giovanni performed by puppets. Inspired. I didn't know the plot beforehand, and I still don't, but it was thoroughly enjoyable. The music was a recording of the London Philharmonic, so not bad, then. The puppeteers were skilled, using marionettes, which google informs me are possibly the hardest types of puppet to manipulate (let alone sword-fight and seduce convincingly), as well as various kinds of glove and rod puppets. Apparantly it's not normally a comedy, but this was very funny (contrasting content/medium, style/substance, that kind of thing).
The lure of free internet access kept me at the hostel until after midday on the 26th
-Erm, hello! I´d like to camp
-How much is it?
-Where should I go?
This exchange was later modified, when he had recovered his senses, to 200crowns and you´ve pitched your tent in the wrong place
I had enough for the pitch, but I was hungry, and I didn´t have enough left to buy dinner.
-Ten minutes, I drive you to Bankomat.
Ten minutes later, we drove to the supermarket in the next town, where he said
-OK. You get money. I pick you up, here, twenty minutes.
So I drew my cash, sat at the little cafe outside the supermarket, read my book, and waited.
After half an hour I was just irritated at being kept from my dinner, but after 45minutes I started to contemplate...
-I need a taxi...
-(with the surly insolence of almost all Czech waiters) We don´t have
-(a little agressively, perhaps) What don´t you have?
- a number for taxi
- so, do you know where they wait? can you look one up? can you please help me just a little bit?
He consulted his colleague and returned a moment later with a scrap of paper with a phone number on it.
-(pushing my luck) do you know the country code for Czech Republic?
He gave me a look that could cut diamond and stalked off. I dug out my Czech phrasebook in the hope that it would have a ´useful things you should know section´ that could answer my question. It didn´t, but it did print a helpline in full, countycode included. I rang the taxi company, who fortunately spoke decent English, and booked a cab.
- The car is a white VW. It will be there in thirteen minutes. (really, thirteen).
Aproximately thirteen minutes later, an hour and a half after I was dropped off, the VW pulls up. The campsite owner had still not reappeared. I asked the driver if she knew where she was going.
This was not an understatement.
She had a road map, on which I pointed out the campsite. We drove for about five minutes down roads that didn't seem to resemble the ones I took to get here, with me telling myself that she's not deliberately running up the meter, and she's not lost, the campsite owner was just local, knew the short-cuts. She, I reminded myself, has a map.
Then the road ahead became a gravel track. We turned around and she asked a passer-by for directions. After about 100m, she asked another. Eventually, with the meter reading the equivalent of around 3pounds, we reached the point where we started. I made a mental note, and prepared to engage in battle at the end of the trip.
Eventually we made it to the village, where she asked another pedestrian for directions to the campsite. He gave what seemed to be comprehensive instructions, and she drove confidently away
-That was it.
She backed up. The meter read 450Kc, and I had determined that 300kc was a fair price. I was ready for war.
- (with a kind smile) Thats 300kc please
- Oh. Ok.
Throughout the otherwise fraught cab ride, I had been running through possible scenarios for when I arrive at the campsite.
What if the man's there, laughing with his friends at his brilliant practical joke?
What if he's there, loading all my stuff into a van?
What if he's there, polishing his gun?
What if he's not there, but is waiting at the supermarket?
What if I'd misunderstood the arrangement, and he was there all along, just around the corner?
What if he comes back, furious?
What if he never comes back?
He wasn't there, and my stuff was, so it wasn't a joke or a robbery
In the event, he reappeared after I'd finished my dinner, and was moderately apologetic. I asked what had gone wrong,
-A private problem.
There's not much you can say to that.
Dinner, by the way, which was after all the initial cause of all this hassle, was an interesting combination of bland and slightly nauseating ingredients, brought together in an unimaginative and almost certainly unhygenic fashion.
It has to be admitted that, as a rule, Czech cuisine is little altered in appearance by the digestive process, but it's normally palatable, wholesome and nutricious. This is also probably true of prison food. As Autumn approaches, however, meaty stodge that sticks to your ribs and repels the wintry chill seems increasingly appealing.