Czech Please, Day One

“Easy on the clutch, bub!”

Good one, voice in my head. We sure showed that airline pilot who can’t hear us and doesn’t know who we are who’s boss.

It's good, Ivan, but still too happy.

I know the Czech Republic isn’t a communist country anymore, but the airport planners aren’t making any big push to help tourists forget about good olde Husák. Arriving at the airport at night shouldn’t make a place seem more communist, but alas, there I was. Surrounded by what I hope is an unusually large amount of elderly people with missing teeth, there was a very noticeable lack of lights outside. It was very dark outside and the fluorescent-lit shuttle bus with one headlight cast its light on an awful lot of chain link fences topped with razor wire. I know all airports have this, but please shut up while I’m projecting unflattering impressions of a country before I even leave the airport.

Grumble grumble (in Czech).

Before we could find the shuttle bus to the subway, I did my best to communicate with an info-booth attendant doing his best impression of Argus Filch. He opted to drop the cat from the ensemble along with the charm. His lovely yellowing skin was probably from a few hundred thousand too many cigarettes or a pesky case of jaundice that never cleared up. I knew he spoke English because he was a regular Bill Shakespeare to the girl ahead of me. Along comes a penis, unassuming and in need of information, and he pretends there’s a language barrier. He pointed, said “D,” and “pay driver.” Then he went back to eating his sadness and regret sandwich.

I turn, no “D” in sight. I turn back to Filch. He’d receded into the corner of his booth like a feral dog, threatened by information-seeking tourists. That’s not really a problem if you’re actually a feral dog, more of a problem if you work at an info booth at a major international airport. At this point he developed a case of deafness, so my further efforts were in vain. The hearing impairment and English issue got better when Liz approached. Liz was a lot more successful. Maybe because she’s more insistent, clear-speaking, and direct, but also maybe because she has a vagina.

I fared a little better getting directions after flaunting my masculine charms to an older woman at the money exchange kiosk. She was pleasant and presumably helped me because I have a penis. My stringent scientific research tells me that gender roles are firmly in place in the Czech Republic.

We boarded the unflatteringly lit bus hoping that we could simply ask someone where we needed to get off. No dice. That Czech language is quite the communication barrier. Mandarin bad, except there’s a better chance that someone on the bus or the subway will mutter a word of English at you. Dutch can be a throaty mess of a language at times, but Czech is down-right aggressive. Compared to any Romance language, Dutch isn’t pretty, and Czech is the lonely post-op gal with the gruff voice and 5 o’clock shadow. Slings and arrows aside, the mouths from which the verbal onslaught came were all generally smiling. It’s nice to know that they’re at least happy about abusing my ears.

If you’re the one reading this and wanting to get to Prague while avoiding the lovely airport people, take airport bus 119 from to the Dejvická metro station on the A line. Or, you could follow the good-looking gay German couple who looked like they had their plans in order. Your choice. Body odor and dirt belied a good, fast, and clean subway system. Good job Prague! However, the escalators were absurdly fast. Like health hazard fast. After two years of living in DC, I pass all kinds of judgments at those not walking up escalators. Not this time. I’m that pussy not daring to walk up this Turbo-Lift precursor.

Walking to the hostel, Liz said she expected it to be more “third worldy.” Good old Liz looking on the bright side of things she knows little to nothing about. Moments earlier, I thought how “communisty” it felt. The patina of grime on the windows was cheered up slightly by the ever-present and colorful babushkas. And again with the language, even the signs looked angry. Good old Marc, holding to unfair characterizations he knows to be untrue, like an asshole.

That'll do, Ivan, that'll do.

We arrived at the hostel and passed through a den of iniquity, with the dense fog of smoke and oppressive heat making the Bard and Clown smell of mulch. It made good sense that the guy at reception was greasy looking. I’d been here for 15 seconds and I was full-on Tom Selleck sweaty. The sweating got worse. We were on the top floor, and with every flight of stairs the temperature rose a few degrees. By the time we got past flight 8, we’d arrived in a large sauna, but without all that pesky dryness. I can’t wait to showerwhyistherenoindividualshower!? Like an idiot, I forgot this was a hostel and the “large dorm” we booked was, well, a large dorm. Twenty or so beds lined the top floor of the hostel and a friggin’ group shower was the crown jewel.

Guess I’ll make the bed. Nope. Guess I’ll make the plush carpet draped on wooden slats. Yep. I suppose the sheets were fitted because technically a sock is fitted, and the bottom sheet was basically a mattress sock. If that sounds weird, trust me, it is. The mattress literally slid into a sleeping bag made for a mattress. Now, why is there a big cotton ball on my bed? Oh, that’s the pillow, fantastic. Let me just mash that thing into the bed-bug ridden pillow case. Success. Holy shit its hot. I’m hungry.

Our nightcap was a fizzy citrus drink and a salami sandwich from a gas station. No way that dinner could go horribly wrong in a dirty, Africa-hot hostel in Prague. Let’s just hope everyone is quite when they come to bed, which is sure to be the case because grimy hostel goers are always on the up and up. Oh, yeah, and group showers. That’ll be a fun little anxiety attack tomorrow.

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