Day Six (Sept 23)
I sleep in (until 8am), but I didn’t go to bed until 1am, again. I would sleep in the day I’m supposed to go to church. No problem. Service is not until 9:30am – plenty of time to shower and have breakfast. 9am I run down for breakfast (tea, croissant and egg). Turns out Lizzie slept in too. Another American is eating with us. He is in his late 50s and from Milwaukee. He retired in January. He said it was amazing how his blood pressure dropped after he retired. He’s taking two months to travel. He’s been in Prague 5 days, then to Hungary, Switzerland, Germany back to Prague then Western Europe. I mention that I haven’t had a vacation in four years. He said I was too young to let that happen. Enjoy while you’re young and able to move freely. The other older Americans said that too. Lizzie invites me to dinner with her daughter and partner (the food critic). I accept. She reminded me that the Church of Tyn is Catholic. I told her I hadn’t been to a mass since Catholic grammar school but I needed to be in someone’s service Sunday morning. I had to run off because it’s 5 minutes to mass. I had dinner reservations tonight at a restaurant highly recommended but this is her second invitation to me so I’ll have to reschedule.
Darn, as I turn the Square corner I hear the mass bell – I’m late. The church is ornate. I am respectful yet cautious. Each denomination has different rules of reverence and I don’t want to be rude or ignorant. During the “peace be with you” (greet your neighbor) I find out the two couples next to me are American. The church is half tourists and half Czech. Service is over in an hour (coming from an apostolic upbringing having a one hour service is unheard of).
I’m tired but decide to wonder through the street market off Wenclesas Square. Fresh fruit, nuts, berries. Too much smoke. I’m really tired and hungry. It’s lunch time. I want french fries and they taste so much better here (no trans fat fake grease here). I’m not a chocolate fan but potato chips and fries are my weakness. Sad to say, I go to the KFC where I know my craving will be satisfied. I order my fries with Pepsi and run into four old ladies from Dallas. “Bless you sweetie for helping us order.” The questions come like a flurry – where do we get tours, which is the best, etc. I find out they flew in, rented a car and plan to spend a month traveling from Prague to Budapest to Warsaw then back to Prague. “Sweetie, you must settle a bet. Are you a student or on vacation?” Vacation, because I was in desperate need of one. The petite one with a stylish short haircut said, “I knew it.” The other one replied, “Good for you. Don’t wait till you’re old like us. We decided we had to come because we won’t be around much longer.” I tell them I’m impressed with them – to drive around Prague and stay at a hostel. That’s bold! “Sweetie, we have you talking so much your food will get cold. We’ll go. Bless you” (as she gives me a grandma hug). They make me remember my dream in college – to be well traveled. I wanted to dance the flamenco in Sevilla, see the running of the bulls, learn belly dance in Cairo, walk the Via Appia (Appian Way) in Rome. Nada. Ms Chic told her husband they only go to a place once because there are too many places for them to visit. I’ve been so busy with billable hours and building a career I forgot my passion and the reason for working – to enjoy it.
I walk out of KFC and decide to walk off the beaten path. I find a park. This is where I should be. Dinner with Lizzie tonight but tomorrow I have a date at the park with my copy of the Aeneid. I’ve been on the go trying to beat tourists to the punch that I’ve forgotten to rest. Rest is scheduled tomorrow. For now, a nap before dinner with Lizzie.
I take a three hour nap and wake up still tired. However, I must get ready to meet Lizzie in an hour. I decide to get some fresh air. I realize that my friend Jenny made the perfect recommendation for my hotel. Not only is it within 5 minutes of everything, but the goods are cheaper. All this time I’ve been running around Prague and turns out it was right outside my hotel. Coral earrings, and a necklace – I like. Silver is cheap here. I find a beautiful pair, but let’s comparative shop. The amber is less expensive and a place around the corner has a fabulous amber and silver necklace. He recommends the coral because it compliments my skin better. No pickup line, he is right. The coral pops against my color. I get the coral and silver earrings. But wait, there is a fur hat for 100 crowns less. I’ll take that too. “Vhy do you need hat? It’s hot. From Chg, I alvost live there but instead go to Sydney. Be very careful. Many pickpockets. Plus many man will want to talk to you. If I see you when I am not at work, I will take you to drink. You must drink Czech beer. Be careful.” Flattery never hurts. Let me check out some more stemware. Turns out the Russians gave me a terrific deal. The same stemware in Prague is going for 4000-5000 crown – more than triple.
I meet Lizzie for dinner with her family. Her daughter is wonderful and her fiance a little embarrassed of Lizzie’s tourist habits – stopping to take photos. We are going to a tex-mex restaurant that is better than anything in Texas and they know because they’re from Dallas. We go to a restaurant in Lesser Town near the Castle. I admit the food was great. We talk politics – US and foreign. Lizzie’s daughter has only lived in Prague for 8 months so I’m curious about her adjustment. She says the ex-pat community (Canadians, Brits, Americans) are extremely helpful and close – closer than her friendships back home. The language is a problem but she doesn’t miss home. She works in Marketing/Customer Service teaching Czechs the value of it. She says the place has come a long way but a lot needs to be addressed with customer care. Her fiancé the food critic chimes in. The issue is consistency, he notes. For example, with the food, it is not a quality issue but consistency. Work ethic is different and turnover high, so consistency is the issue. I mention that some of the best Italian I’ve had has been here. He comments that the Czechs are great at mastering and creating, but again it’s consistency which is why the good restaurants require a reservation. They understand consistency. However, Lizzie’s daughter comments that right now is a good time to be in Prague. In ten years or less it will become over commercialized and will be like Paris. She asks if I’m interesting in becoming an ex-pat (don’t tempt me). We talk about living abroad – pros, cons. We exchange cards. She says even if I don’t become an ex-pat I have someone to visit on a second trip.
She is becoming agitated with her mom and tourist ways. Lizzie is sweet but a mom. She requests the waitress to take our picture. She worries about traveling to Bratslava by herself. Now the roles reverse. Her daughter tells her she will be fine, she is prepared and has the vodafone for emergency calls. Her daughter resembles a parent sending a child off to college.
We talk about American tourists. “Have you noticed how loud and rude they are?” I replied watching loud Americans has made my lower my speaking tone. I relay the scene at the restaurant Ms Chic, GI and I visited where the Americans across the way were extremely loud kvetching about Europe, Europeans and how it wasn’t like America. Idiots. I overhead a Czech vendor say burin (sp) and American. Burin means rude or boorish. I must say watching Americans abroad is somewhat embarrassing. No it’s not America and why did you fly 12 hours to come here to eat McDonalds and Subway. Lizzie’s daughter tells about three American college kids she overhears in the square. “Oh my God, we are like so rich. If I need more money, like all I have to do is call my dad.” I said they need to be pickpocketed for saying it so the world can hear. Lizzie’s daughter replied that for Americans some of it is cultural ignorance, but most of it is the need to be seen and noticed to make others jealous. We walk back over the bridge to Old Town – only two and half hours for dinner. Lizzie leaves for Bratslava in the morning but her daughter gives me her number so we can meet up for dinner before I leave.
I must thank Jenny for recommending Betlem Club Hotel. Lizzie’s daughter wondered how I discovered “her gem.” Other Americans are paying triple my cost but not the same accommodations at pricier hotels. I also discover that most of the recommended restaurants (at least four) are within a block of my hotel. Tomorrow is the concert at the Rudolfinum. At Lizzie’s daughter suggestion, I’m taking a cab because heels and cobblestone don’t agree. She said her only regret about Prague is that she had to get rid of most of her heels.