Figures. Me spotting a huge classy wine bar on my way to the hotel. Decided to take a cab from the airport as the public transport journey with transfers (there's no direct connection) and an equally expensive minivan option, was not appealing, to say the least. So, after haggling with the driver (I think he took 50 euro cents of the price) I was on my way. Later, as we would be zigzagging through the streets I would try to get an idea of the layout, but as the old town had a very illogical and chaotic town planner. The fact that the lady saint who was said to have envisioned the actual location of what was later to be called Prague, was a collector of herbs and mushrooms, says enough. She probably passed on her herbal tea drinking traditions to the city's town planning department.
When you drive toward the city, the initial impression is slight depression. It sounds negative but big blocks and grays, and the darkening sky not helping, cannot make me write otherwise. But then, as you leave the city frills behind you, and move into the actually city Prague is known for, you have an inkling already what made Kafka say that…. Although he implied much more than the city's looks. Somehow it feels like I've entered Russia's St. Petersburg once more, the large facades of the palaces stretching over the hills which are, as I will learn later, serving as a cover for the original building because Queen what's-her-name thought it needed to look neat and tidy when one would look up the hill from the Old Town. The façade is said to count half a kilometer and it would not surprise me if that were true.
Anyway, back to the wine bar. Praguanians (made that up) are initially quite distant people, I soon find out. My reception at the wine bar brings me back to some 25 years ago when a friend and I went to Venezia in October, when all the waiters and restaurateurs were sick of tourists and would make no effort to make you feel they were worth the tip you would give anyway because you thought it was the right thing to do. (One of life's lessons: a tip is a complementary sum of money with which you express your gratitude for the service which extended beyond your expectations. Made that one up too.)
When I try to explain I'm on my own, the head waiter shrugs his shoulders and points me to a table near the window. I study the menu and settle for a mouth watering (I hope) pate with black truffle and a selection of cheeses accompanied by a glass of Moravian Merlot. I take out my notebook. My novel. My pencil. No pencil. I ask the young waitress with a grumpy face for a pen or pencil. No, she only has hers. May be one of her colleagues? No. And that's that. When a colleague of hers who smiles at me passes by, the result is a pencil and I'm content.
A great start of what will hopefully be a wonderfully intriguing weekend.
That´s what you get for waiting to long to write your travel blog, intended to be a bit of a non-fictive story. New plans blur detailed information, which was so gracefully supplied by my guide, Marketa. But as I am preparing for my next trip to Sheepwash (look that one up) for my writing retreat, I will sum up the most important insights of these 3 days of bliss.
In short, should you ever treat yourself to a trip to Prague, remember the following: it's not just fun as a pair although it's said to be equaled to Rome as a romantic city (I do get that), but wandering - even on your own - about the city is one big fest. The buildings, its ornamented walls, the art work which is scattered all over the place, historical and modern, the fact that most of it can be walked (if you leave out the Royal summer houses) and that its quirky, but you need to know where to go. If you're limited in time, skip the major museums, go to the Kafka Museum. Avoid the big opera/theatre houses, get yourself a cheap ticket to an intimate church concert in the city centre. Avoid the major café's listed in your guide book and allow yourself to sit with the locals in back streets café's even though you don't speak a word of Czech. Don't be put off by the initial distance of the locals because it is initial. Return a seemingly grumpy face with a smile and you will be rewarded with good service and a kind face. In short, great weekend, great weather (was I lucky or what…) and definitely a place that stole my heart.