Litomerice - Excuse me, do you speak English?

Trip Start Mar 26, 2010
Trip End Apr 04, 2010

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Flag of Czech Republic  , Ústecký Kraj,
Monday, March 29, 2010

Breakfast was just as informal as dinner the night before. Walk in, grab a plate, fill it from the buffet, find a seat, and eat. It's served from 7-9 and the food was the same as the breakfast at the hotel.

Martin gathered everyone in the Lounge after breakfast for a lecture (aka 'interesting talk') about the Czech Republic. He himself said that he was from the Slovak area of what was Czechoslavakia and was 17 when Communism fell. He briefly described the money, culture, the transition from communist to capitalist, and then answered questions. Martin is a very good public speaker. And when I say good public speaker, I mean he never dwells for more than 5 minutes on any one subject. He covers just enough to give you a taste but quickly moves on to the next subject and no one was able to ask him a question he could not answer. Very impressive, as all the questions were about a country that wasn't his home.

Afterwards there was a tour of the boat, which I was not remotely interested in. The Clara Schumann is a very small ship and it doesn't take but a day of regular activities to see what's what (although someone did ask who Clara Schumann was). The 'library' is mostly consisted of two small shelves of books in the lounge. That's how small it is.

At lunch you have two options: lunch in the restaurant or the light lunch in the lounge. The lunches in the restaurant are more like mid-day suppers, and the lunches in the lounge are more soup and sandwich-y. I personally prefer the light lunch, although there are quite a few people who go for the mid-day ordeal. This particular lunch the meat was meatloaf, and it did not look like mom's meatloaf. Their's looked very much like I would imagine spam looks like. Meat pounded into a compact loaf and then heated. No one else said anything, but I thought it was pretty bad. Perhaps my mother is the only person who knows how to make meatloaf
an appealing meal?

The afternoon tour was of the town Litomerice. Upon boarding the bus I turned on my camera and the screen flashed 'CARD FULL'. I knew that wasn't true, as I had emptied the card onto my computer the night before and had worked on un-corrupting the card so it wouldn't do in Litomerice what it did to me in Prague. I tried and tried to get it to recognize that it was, indeed, empty, but to no avail. I was so mad I couldn't look out the windows for fear that I would see something and want to take a picture of it and then realize 'oh wait, I can't because my memory
card HAS DIED. WHILE I'M IN EUROPE.' I didn't say anything to anyone until we got off the bus a hour and a half later. Our tour guide was not a native of the town so she couldn't help me. I was fuming. I skulked in the back of the group looking into shop windows for signs that said anything about cameras.

Litomerice is a small town. There really isn't much to buy souvenir wise, let alone technology wise. Our tour wasn't long, we just followed a street to the main square and then went down a corridor into a courtyard overlooking a section of town. It was gorgeous and made me, of course, very mad. Back in the main square we went into a hotel where we were supposed to be treated to a beer tasting, but as I wasn't interested in tasting beer I asked the tour guide if I could be excused. She remembered about my camera card and suggested that I try the drugstore across the street, as they had a sign for photo development.

Walking across the street all by myself, without a group, in the Czech Republic made me feel very European. Prague and Lito are both paved with cobblestones so no matter where you walk to you feel very old fashioned. To think of all the millions of people who have walked the very stones beneath your feet, who have admired the very buildings you're admiring, is enough to make you feel like you're in the middle of time itself. Like you're in the eye of the storm and you're seeing the past, present, and you can sort of see the future; right next to the 400 year old buildings you see a 2001 Prius with a woman talking on her cell phone whilst driving.

In the drugstore I looked in the photo development section and I didn't see any memory cards, so I asked the attendant by the counter who wasn't doing anything if they had any. She got this blank look on her face and smiled blandly at me and I thought 'Oh no...English?' and she shook
her head. I, in my ignorant American way thought that when the guide book said most young people in the Czech Republic speak English, that ALL young Czech youths speak English. I thought 'Well, how different could memory cards look in Europe?' So I took out my camera, popped out the sd card, and held it in my palm and said something like 'Do you have any?' She shook her head no. I held out my hand, shrugged my shoulders and said 'Where could I find one?' She talked to the other attendants and then took me outside. Pointing down the street she said 'Greenk. Greenk.' And lo! There was a green building down the street. I thanked her and walked a block until I came to the green building.

I should have gone there first. I had noticed it when I was crossing the street from the beer tasting to the drug store and I had even seen the neon LG and Sony signs in the windows. I remember thinking 'Huh. Wonder what kind of electronics they sell?' Walking into there from the drugstore the first thing I saw were five teenage guys. I thought 'HALLELUJAH! If anyone could help me, these guys can!' After the drugstore incident, I said 'First off, does anyone in here speak English?' One of the guys behind a desk said 'I do a leetle.' I took out my memory card
and placed it on his table and I said 'I need a new one.'
'How big?'
'I just need one that works. Give me whatever you have.'
He picked up my camera and sd card, looked at them for a second and handed them over to another guy. This guy took a 2gb memory card package off the shelf behind him and with his knife, cut through the package and put the card in my camera and made sure it worked properly. I hadn't even thought about how I was going to open the package on my own, as I had
no knife or scissors, so I was thrilled that he did it without even knowing if it would work or not. He turned my camera on and when the 'CARD FULL' sign didn't come on I squealed 'Do you take Visa?!' He looked at me kind of funny and shook his head yes. I handed him my card, although I didn't bother asking the price. Czech's currency is currently 18 krona to a dollar so when I see a sign that says 300 krona my eyes glaze over and I just hand them the money. I found out later that I only paid $12 for the card; I was elated!

After I thanked them I rushed outside and I started taking pictures of everything. 30 pictures of the square later I went into the hotel where the group was still working on downing their beer. I asked the tour guide if it was alright if I went on my own to take pictures of all the places we
had covered in the morning. She told me to wait a bit, so I went up to someone who worked at the hotel and I asked him where the bathroom was. He looked at me and didn't say anything, so I kept saying 'Bathroom? BATHroom?'
'ah ze toilet?' I forgot that no one calls the bathroom the bathroom except Americans. This was another 'toilet' that had four 'rooms' instead of stalls. Solid wood doors with real handles from floor to ceiling and that fun flush button that's popular over here.

Someone exiting the bathroom put a coin in a dish on a counter by the door and I said to the British lady in front of me 'Do you think we need to put a coin in the dish even if there's no attendant and you don't have any coins left? Cause I spent all my money yesterday.' She assured me that I was fine. In Germany you're expected to tip the toilet attendant even if all they do is just stand there. Just another reason to never use public rest areas.

We met the rest of the group in the main square and our guide dismissed us and said that we needed to meet back in either 30 or 15 minutes, I forget which. I asked her if it was ok for me to go back to some of the places she took us earlier so I could take pictures. She told me how to get there and I walked on my own. The place with a wonderful view overlooking the lower section of Lito had a lot of great lookout places and walkways. I just made it back in time to meet up with the rest of the group (although one of the British men told me that I was late and holding everyone up, which I believed until his wife said 'stop teasing her'). While we waited for some stragglers I took more pictures and then we walked back to the bus.

On the walk back I started talking to a woman named Mary. I don't remember how we started talking but she was very sweet and was very easy to small talk to.

I was so excited to have a working camera that I took quite a lot of pictures while on the bus. There was one house in particular that was magnificent but looked like no one had lived in it for years and was in much disrepair. The couple from Cockeysville were sitting in front of us and Mr Johnny turned to me and said 'I bet you'd like to live there wouldn't you?' I laughed and said 'Yes, but it looks like it'd be quite the fixer upper.' His wife, Su, chimed in the conversation and
we talked the rest of the ride. She asked what I thought of Baltimore's new mayor, whose name I couldn't remember (she's only been mayor for what, 3 weeks?) and then gave me her personal opinions of her and of our last mayor Sheila Dixon, who was recently convicted of rather some rather poor decisions she had made since elected. Su surprised me by telling me that she had met our current mayor and our two previous mayors and went on to say that she didn't like Sheila and never had ('Her head was too big even when she was City Council') but that O'Malley was charming and Stephanie was nice. Su has never met a stranger in her life and is a very sweet, blunt woman from Thailand who I think met her husband when he was stationed in her
town in Thailand. That last bit I could be wrong about, as she hasn't told me that herself, but I overheard her tell someone else. However it iss hilarious to be on a river cruise in the Czech Republic and to talk to a woman from Thailand who had met my small city's past mayors
and give me her personal opinions of them!

Arriving at our ship (6pm)we went straight to our room where I found that housekeeping had not only made up my bed, but had fashioned my pajama t-shirt in such a way that Ms Jones and I looked at eachother and the word 'camera' immediately flashed through my mind. Our briefing was on 'European food culture' (lots and lots of bier), and then dinner.

Dinner is a four course meal. Appetizer, soup, main meal, and then dessert. There's usually two choices of each and each day the meal has to do with the current area we're in. I never remember what I order after I order it so I have no idea what I'm eating by the time they bring it out, but I've liked most of it. After dinner we went into the lounge to listen to Martin talk about the flood from 2002, the ship and the locks. Then sleepiness followed and we went down for the night.
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mom on

Love the PJs!

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