A Last, A Band, An Energy Drink And A Return

Trip Start Jan 31, 2010
Trip End Jul 21, 2010

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Flag of Czech Republic  , Hlavní Mesto Praha,
Saturday, May 29, 2010

Time to leave. I wake early enough to pack quietly as the others around me continue to snore. One wakes with a start, fully clothed, grabs her bag and heads out the door muttering to herself. If only I could be that prepared. After breakfast upstairs I check out as I put a load of washing on, the pile of said clothes having slowly grown to more than the contents of my bag. And Prague has humidity and a heat to it, smells grow faster here. Today is largely a wasting time day with no real plan, the only part set in concrete id seeing Murder By Death, who will happen into the other side of town to make their Pragian debut. As that side of town is also reasonably unseen to me I head over. The post office on the way receives a number of large packages to myself back home, nearly spending more on the post than the train ticket. The lady behind the desk gives me several large sheets of paper and a roll of twine to wrap up my belongings – how very European.

The other side of Prague, behind the station, is a very different beast. My lap every night has taken in some of this, but not the extent that I do now. With cities built by the river it often comes across that they are built in a small valley, and nothing gets the feet swelling like an incline in hiking boots on cobblestones. As I swelter in the sticky heat I snap graffiti – wicked stencil work and other less amazing bits.

The TV tower looms over the city like another of the Tripods from To the White Mountain, this one appearing much more like a space station. Much like the copper head of Karl Marx the real imposing nature of the beast is much more apparent when the sun goes down and the artificial lighting comes into play. The daylight sees a statue park around the base of the building, some of which have made their way up the outside of the concrete tower itself. What look like four chocolate jelly baby people climb the outside of the tower about half way up, some standing, some crawling. I lie in the sunshine for a few hours, blogging and napping. A man and his dog come up to ask for change, the dog clearly doing better health-wise than the man.

After a while I head to one of the many corporate cafes that dot the shopping strips and sit inside with a soy latté – I haven't had one of these since KL!!! – which ends up being a good few hours of WiFi, before moving to the cubist café for a little more. The interior isn’t’ as disappointing today, and I get myself a ginger tea, which they’re telling me is something very very new they brought all the way from china. OK.

I arrive at the venue a little early, but there are already a few people outside. I’m in and drawing a little when the first band start – a very scary two piece with a backing track who have the mind altering ability to combine disco and electronic beats with the gruff voice and grinding guitars of an old metal band. It’s not something I would go out of my way to find and see again, but it was crazy. Talking to the guys behind the merch desk – who it turns out is the manager and another in search of wifi – none of the supports for the last piece of the tour are mentioned to them. They just know a band will be playing first. They did not expect this. I talk to them about touring Australia, which they hope to do at some stage, but it seems to require a lot more time, planning and money. You need to fly everywhere in Australia. It’s either seven shows in Australia’s larger cities or a three-week tour of Europe playing nearly every night. It’s an understandable choice, but I still tell them it would be worth it. The guy agrees, having never actually been there himself. Many of his friends have moved to Europe from Bloomington though, one in Berlin hated by his neighbours for his refusal to learn the language.

Three local youngsters are nearby, the girl looks over and sees my drawing, not really knowing English but saying Picasso, which is exactly what I had in mind. Her name is Maria and gets her boyfriend Revnik (maybe) to translate most of whcich she doesn’t understand. The third Dale (or similar) moves his hands like a magician, made ever more apparent by fingerless gloves. Should have brought mine. They all love Murder By Death too, talking at length about their favourite songs and which album they know and like the best. I don’t really know it.

Murder By Death are amazing, blowing away the crowd of us thirty that. The Electric Cello is a work of art – black, shiny, sleek and with Iron Maiden artwork on the front and back. Sally the player moves seamlessly from cello to keys nets to her. We talk a bit afterwards about travel and how in a band you may be in the city but you don’t see much more than the venue. I tell her to bring the band to Australia, whatever it takes. The rest of the band is laid back and cool about everything, rather pleased to have a rest day soon. They’ve chosen to drive to Amsterdam tomorrow instead of sticking around in Prague for another day, for obvious reasons. I head off into the dark and artificially lit night with a few hours to kill before the train. So I head back to the TV tower, getting terribly lost on the way. Not lost like I don’t know where I am, lost like I cannot seem to find the tower. It’s the same old tale of you can see the tower up ahead and keep walking straight down the street only to have it turn away and take you somewhere else. There’s a couple finishing off a piece on a garden wall, sadly not worth photographing. They seem rather pleased with it, albeit rather immaturely including a '4 LIFE' line in the bottom, the rest in Czech. When I do eventually find it the tower is lit up with numerous lights of different colours, casting shadows on the crazy now looking chocolate babies crawling around on the sides.

After doing a few laps of the town again, passing the Black Madonna, the Powder Tower, the dozens of marionette stores with painted faces staring out through the window, I rest my feet at the station. The doors are locked, the lights are on, the cleaners are busy. I, along with several other apparent travelers thought the place was open all night, their luggage trailing behind them in differing parcels and cases.

I sit myself at the bottom of a strange flight of stairs to draw till the place opens, the heavy snoring of a homeless man up top filtering down. There’s security in that, more so when I stops and he starts swearing at on one in particular, than someone in particular, followed by rapid heavy movement amongst the assumed garbage. I move away.

The morning train is on time, the growing masses outside the locked doors pouring in as they are unlocked one by one. I’m sharing a carriage with two others who have the sleeping plan worked, out of folding down the chairs across. Shoes are off; the room is slowly filling with the soft aroma of stinky feet. I sleep to keep from thinking about it. We get to Berlin without a peep.

A girl asks if the seat next to me is free, keeping my eyes from closing. She is heading back to her small town after a weekend in Berlin. She absolutely loves the city, and I reflect on my time over a week ago there. We trade music tastes – 90s German Hip Hop is blasting from her headphones, and trade stickers. Here friend works in a skate shop – she too and avid skater – so she will often get lots of freebies. We talk a lot about travel and life after high school. She is eighteen and has only recently completed her high school education. Unsure of what to do next, she plans to spend the year seeing what she can of the world before starting up again later on. She seems really easy going about it all, which I find surprising, as the amount of study hours the Europeans seem to put into everything is phenomenal. I think if I had that workload I’d have even less hair than I do now. The line that stands out "… do you know this?" – is appearing first as a challenge at my intelligence before I realise the off handed nature of it. Instead of “you know?” the very American counterpart, it appears this has been reinvented for the German English speakers.

Sleeping on and off, I wake one last time to find the carriage emptying of half its passengers, a strange bottle in the chair/bag/thing in front of me. Alongside it is a note, “Have a safe trip, you seem really cool. Let me know what you think of this, it’s a German favourite. I cannot believe the kindness of strangers. She is on the platform outside and waves to me as she passes.

After hearing the announcements change from Czech/German/Dutch/English to German/English/Dutch to Dutch/German English I find the old stomping ground nothing like it was. Utrecht it green! Everything is green! I arrive at a very different city and almost don’t know where I am. Everything that was once a twig or a stick or a trunk is now hidden beneath the sprouting leaves and buds of eventual blossom. I walk the streets I know get me back to Robert’s, but have to stop every few meters to marvel at the change that three months makes.

The music is head from the end of the street, the movement lines of Robert pacing as he plays almost shooting out the top floor window and raining down on passers by. The doorbell goes unanswered once, twice. I call upstairs, shouting to be heard over the music. The top window opens and a curious face peaks out. “Oh!” he says, and is down in a flash. It is good to be back.

The first thing we do it head out to the balcony, but this is kept short as Robert is getting into the performers mindset for a performance tonight. There is a slight discomfort in tonight, as the band is opening for someone else, not something they usually agree to. He leaves me on the balcony overlooking the garden estate – sun shining, warm enough for t-shirts, birds singing, and gypsy blasting down from upstairs. I nap in the sunshine.

Robert’s gig is amazing! The band has the place shaking and people cheering ever song. It’s great to see them all again, and the manager is so impressed they’re called back to play again after the last band has played.

I walk the streets after, knowing I’ll come back to an empty house. The trees along the canal whisper in the wind, something they could not do a month ago.
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