Prague (2012)

Arrival at the Pension

We fly KLM to Prague, attempt to find Vysoký Újezd and watch Arabian television!

Swipe left and right to browse through the photos.

Hmm, pretzels. Shortly after the steward and his trolley passed through the Fokker 70 to offer the choice of a sweet or salty snack, I am enjoying a bag of pretzels, specially selected by KLM. Our Czech Airlines flight turns out to be operated by our own ‘boys in blue’. From the chair in front of me, I can also hear the cracking of pretzels, which indicates that Vonne too has chosen the salty snack. As we checked in at Schiphol Airport, it turned out we had been appointed in two separate rows and our choice of seats is limited to deciding who gets to sit in row six and who in row seven. Fortunately it is only a short flight to the capital of the Česká Republica: Prague. We will be staying in a pension in a small village just outside of Prague for two weeks.

Why do you need to go to that hamlet, who in their right mind would want to go there?

Not long after, the pilot parks the Fokker skillfully onto the Czech asphalt and we can go collect our travel bags. Step one is to get some Czech Koruna: the Czech Republic is not a part of the Eurozone (yet), which means we can once again honor the tradition of calculating prices: one euro is about twenty-five koruna, so the Czech prices are divided by four, times a hundred, or was it times two-and-a-half, or times twenty-five and then ehm… the exact intricacies of the correct calculation do not spring to mind, but what it comes down to is that you can buy a fancy box of tea—to name a random example from the airport supermarket—and pay for it with a hundred koruna bill, which is like four euros.

We get a few minor supplies at the airport supermarket and then set out to find a desk to purchase bus tickets. When we indicate that we would like to go to Vysoký Újezd, the desk receptionist throws us a dumbfounded look and repeats the name as if to say “why do you need to go to that hamlet, who in their right mind would want to go there?” But she quickly recovers and says she does not offer tickets there: they are available on the bus itself. Instead, we get two tickets to Zličín, the metro station from where our bus departs. In fluent Czech, I thank the receptionist and wish her a good day. Vonne is suspicious and accuses me of secretly having studied our ANWB Czech language guide during the flight. Which is indeed the case.

It does, however, come in useful. As we transfer to bus 311 at Zličín, I can use a carefully memorized line to purchase two tickets to Vysoký Újezd. Buried beneath our travel bags we peer through a few gaps in the luggage at the Czech landscape rolling by outside. After a short ride we make it into the village and, once alighted, we soon find ourselves at the entrance to Pension Speller, which we recognize from the photos. That is a good thing too, because the only indication that it is the place is a mural, conveniently hidden by a tree and all but invisible from the road.

At the pension

After ringing the doorbell, the door opens and we are heartily welcomed by a very friendly Czech woman and her daughter. They show us to our room, give us the tour, inform us how to get to various locations, checking in can wait until tomorrow and do we already have dinner, because Vysoký Újezd has no stores and the best place to do our groceries is in Prague, but we did not come by car, so how will we get there. We can ease her mind: we have indeed brought dinner and shall not starve in her pension. Our appartment turns out to be a nicely furnished bedroom with lounge area, a second room with a small kitchen and dinner table and a spacious bathroom with shower.

We unpack and I immediately promote a windowsill to bookshelf (bringing an e-reader is for sissies) before changing into some more comfortable ones, as the Czech weather is considerably more agreeable than ours. We decide to walk around town before dinner and return about two minutes later. Well, that is a bit of an overstatement, but it is a small village with about two highlights: a modern and luxurious golf resort named Albatross (about ten years from now this rustic seven hundred year old village will have a modern borough of villas, currently being built one by one) and a castle. Well, what remains of it, for it has more nettle growing than it has glasswork remaining. Granted, this would be a true statement even if it had two or three nettles growing, but half the terrain is covered in them and the building looks as if no one has set foot in it for at least fifty years. Curious about its story. Another highlight might also be the local school, but I refuse to count that. I still believe that when we passed three children on the street, we saw the entire 4th, 5th and 8th grade right there.

After a plate of homemade pasta, we try out the satellite TV that is in the room. We can apparently receive about a 100 Italian, 1 German, 1 English and 398 Islamic stations from Morocco, Iran, Saudi-Arabia, Iraq and Afghanistan. And yes, they include Arabian adult content, islamic homeshopping (“Tell me more, Ahmed! Fascinating!”) and a station where a very serious looking gentleman in djellaba with a headscarf and an impressive moustache was loudly wondering whether Arsenal’s defense would be strong enough this season with Thomas Vermaelen, and whether or not Luka Modrić would leave Tottenham Hotspur. One does not make this stuff up.

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