Trip Start May 31, 2007
72Trip End Ongoing
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Eb here (finally!). Sorry about the wait, folks.(Eb goes a little red-faced, looks at her shoes)Will try and make this entry worth yer while...
Go make a cuppa, you´ll need one.
We left Berlin in a shower of sparks. Literally.
"Huh!?" you say.
Well, you see, we´d been shacked up in a hostel in the area of Berlin known as ´Mitte´ - a surly little place where you stick to the pavement and dangerously unpredictable derelicts leer at you before attempting to loft their lungs skyward with the kinds of heaving coughs you only get from German cigarettes
Mitte is, or rather was, I´m sure, once a lovely suburb, judging from the occasional pre-war building relic you see. However, since much of Berlin was bombed off the face of the earth, these relics are few and far between in Mitte and are instead replaced with grim, Communist-era housing tenements which have themselves seen better days.
About 20 seconds after the Berlin Wall came down, some enterprising scamp had bought one of these tenements, lobbed a half-dozen ex army bunks in each room and called it a Youth Hostel. For us it was Home, sweet home.
All was going nicely enough, since all we really needed was a place to lie down in at the end of the day, until I decided that it´d be nice to get out of Mitte and get ourselves a nice dinner in one of the nicer areas. Since we´d been living on cardboard and free cheese for the past few days, we figured we were good for it.
So, off we went, in our best ´non-backpacker´ clothes, through the wild badlands of Mitte and into the posh-ish bit. Dinner was nice and the restaurant even played the kind of music you´d hear in an 80´s movie as a backdrop to a restaurant scene to indicate that it was fancy
Now - here's where it gets a bit "interesting". I´d cast off the backpack for the night and put all my girly junk that girls feel compelled to drag about with them into a handbag - an item I´d not used since we got here. I didn´t want to look like a tourist for a while. All good.
When we got back to Mitte, I threw everything back into my locker and went nigh-nighs with the view to Liam and I getting up early so we could plan evacuating Berlin for another city, namely, Dresden. So, I dutifully got up at the crack-o'-dawn and went to my locker.
Locker has lock
Lock needs key.
Key not with Eb.
Key in handbag.
But that´s cool, right? They´ll have boltcutters at the front desk, because dimwits like me do this all the time! No worries! The reception´s manned 24 hours, it´s 5.30am now, I´ll sneak out, sneak in, cut lock, problem solved.
Apparently locking yourself out of your locker is not, as I would have thought considering I was in a youth hostel, (a place the caters mostly to people whom I´m sure aren´t the most reliable of folks) a frequent occurance. And getting into the locker means finding a mysterious ´Building Manager´ named´, as the lady at the desk blithely put it, "Peter, or Pierre or something" who doesn´t arrive til 9. It was 5:30.
Okay, no sweat, I´ll just kill some time by finding train routes to and accommodation in Dresden. I can wait til 9.
9 came. Peter, or Pierre or something didn´t.
10 came. We were Pierre-less
At about 11, I cracked it and went trawling the bowels of the basement for Peter, or Pierre or Something and found him casually eating a dripping ham sandwich while leaning on a water heater. He´d been there for quite some time.
Anyhoo, I explained my plight to him and he wordlessly grabbed a ridiculously inadequate set of pliers, you know the ones with the scissor-y bit in the middle to cut hardcore metals like fuse wire....
But I don´t think The Artist Formerly Know As Pierre spoke English, so we wandered wordlessly to the hostel room. The wordless part was good, since I was trying to be quiet for the sake of a small, Spanish woman sleeping off a late and heavy night in the bunk in front of my locker, not more than a metre away. Peter/Pierre took one look at my lock - the kind you would shackle a rabid mastiff with - and left the room without a word. Moments later he casually returned with a circular saw.
We ducked for cover behind a door as Pierre-or-Something spontaneously fired up the saw and proceeded to attack my lock, sending sparks and slivers of white hot metal hurtling violently towards the sleeping Spanish girl, who threw her doona over herself like it was a lead shield. It's possible she may have soiled herself.
The lock was thick and P-o-P took about 5 insanely loud and stinky minutes of solid power sawing to get through it. When the lock was finally cut, P-P wordlessly threw the red hot remains into a rubbish bin, wound up the cord and left.
The Spanish girl may need years of expensive counselling.
Embarassed, We grabbed our gear and ran out of Berlin with the speed of two startled gazelles. We hunkered down in the train to Dresden so nobody could see us as what we can only assume were unflattering remarks being hurled at us. Or maybe that was just an auditory hallucination since neither of us can hear properly now.
Either way, Dresden turned out to be a very nice city, full of galleries and museums and scorched buildings, and we had a very nice (though expensive) time there.
We got off the train from Dresden at Prague Holsovice station and into a place I`d like to call "Hobotown"
The smattering of `Policie` we saw at the station - men who were armed with so many weapons that their utility belts groaned under the weight, seemed to care about these men and were more interested in practising their 1000 yard stares at the two tourists with backpacks.
We quickened our pace a little as we headed towards the first exit we could see, only to find that it led to a tram stop with a facinatingly vague sign directing us to something that was either a hostel (or possibly a metal refinery) that existed somewhere at the end of a bendy arrow near some blue boxes.
There were no pictures of hobos near the blue boxes, so we set off on foot in the vague direction of the vague arrow. Now, we could have taken the tram, but neither of us knew how the Czech tram system worked and, judging by the attitudes of the `Policie`, we would probably be shot in the back while trying to board.
We followed the tram line along the types of streets you see in films that start with an establishing shot of a scorched playground and a caption listing the year as '2056'.
We finally reached the blue boxes, which turned out to be a `Bazar` selling piles of creepy knick-knacks which would look great in a dark and rickety house owned by an old woman with 40 cats, and a supermarket called `Albert`
To our mild disappointment, the "metal refinery" turned out to be a hostel. We checked in and decided that even though the sun was still up, a self imposed curfew wouldn`t go astray.
When we set off the following day, headed for central Prague, we couldn`t help but notice a taxi with two slashed tyres resting limply outside the hostel. Perhaps the driver upset someone at one of the thousands of `Herna` bars Prague has - casinos advertising jackpots out the front of 10, 20, 30 thousand Czech Crowns. Amounts that, until you figure out the exchange rate, seem awesome. We ignored the cab and kept walking. The centre of town and all its glory was calling.
Prague is a beautiful city - or at least the central part is; the part where busloads of American tourists are hurled at each and every day to oggle at the gorgeous buildings and spend money like water on souvenirs. The buildings in central Prague are a visual feast. The city boasts row upon row of the types of carved and ornate edifaces that would each be deemed national treasures had they been anywhere else. Here, they are lost in a sea of other buildings like them, or more ornate, more beautiful and more choked with folks like us, gawking at them and taking happy snaps.
Liam and I went a little boggle-eyed from looking at all the nice things to see. Or perhaps it was that we were still a little shell shocked from narrowly missing being collected by a guy who, when seeing he`d driven past his friend on a crowded street, decided that a casual U turn was an inadequate measure to take. Instead, he opted for a tyre-flamin', smokin' "Dukes of Hazard" style handbrake turn which, had he screwed it up, would probably have sent the car skittling into a group of nuns pushing baby carriages and sending them 40 feet into the air. Something like that anyway.
Since we were still to figure out the tickting system for the Czech tramways and our Eurail rail pass seemed to be valid everywhere in Europe except Prague it seems, we walked everywhere.
I think we managed to cover the entire stretch of central Prague in one day. Wearily, we retired to a park near an 11th century battlement ruin to get our bearings. The park was up about 90 bajillion flights of stairs. Oh. You think I`m joking. 90 BAJILLION.
When we reached the top, I had legs made out of molten metal - however my butt looks awesome in jeans now! (Liam says he could use his to crack walnuts). The main square of the park overlooks the entire city and the view was great - all soaring church spires and gothic towers. The square however was neglected, graffiti-strewn and ruined. It seems that parts of Prague where the tourist buck can`t be easily trooped through are left to be reclaimed by nature, skatekids and hobos. A real shame.
Prague is beautiful. Just not all of it.
We´re in Vienna now. But your eyes are tired. And you need another cuppa. I can feel it. We'll write more later.
Thanks to all those who have written emails and sent messages to us - keep ´em coming!
Cheers to all.
Eb and Liam