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Adventures in Writing, Reading & Book Culture

Day 1: Incoming

Thirty-six hours and running on only 4 hours of sleep, I’m at the keyboard, in Prague, my new home while I teach English in “the city of 100 spires.” There’s thunder outside, and the night has turned cool. I’ve not yet got a feel for my neighborhood, Suchdol (pronounced “SO-dahl”) because I’ve only really just arrived, taken a load off my feet, cleaned up, got wired online, and fixed a Jack ‘n water.

Frankfurt Flugle BahnhofBut let me back up. The UAL flight from Chicago to Frankfurt had its nice touch, cuz I got on BUSINESS CLASS, where the chairs are soft, and the children are back in cattle class where they belong. For lunch I started with the prosciuto and chilled prawns w/dill, sidebared by julliened summer squash; then I got into the salad, a nice bed of greens with Asian dressing. These were complemented by a Cote du Rhone, whose robust bouquet was reminiscent of a handful of mixed berries. The main course I decided to have the pecan-crusted chicken breast w/risotto and zucchini (frankly, the risotto could be best described as rice pilaf). More wine! Then for dessert, a spread of cheeses, highlighted by a Machego and a Rosenborg Noble Blue, beautifully blended with a 10-year-old port. Yummie!!

German-Czech FrontierI took a train from Frankfurt to save a bundle (the short-hop flight to Prague ran $300+), and even that turned out okay because the train station is within the airport. I was grateful, because with two 50-pound bags, and a heavy backpack, the fewer steps the better. The 7-hr trip started smoothly, and I had a two-seat area all to myself. This is a quiet train, a German train, and though the carriage springs squeaked like the Tin Man asking Dorothy for a shot from the oil can, I quickly drifted into sleep. A quick transfer in Dresden at 3 o’clock (I had 8 minutes to drag my two bags from track 14 to track 3, up two flights of stairs, etcetera), then ten minutes more on the rails and we were into the Czech Republic. There are high bluffs along an an unnamed river which the train skirted for most of the way, and I saw rafters, kyakers, sailboats, and on the opposite shore many bicyclists. On the train I spoke to a few Brits, college kids on the lamb for a couple weeks. One of them sounded just like my friend Jonno that I had to ask the guy where he came from in England. Sure enough, he’s a Devon boy. I also met Mario, a New Yorker who moved here in ’95 “to escape the first Bush’s recession,” only to be caught by Baby-Bush’s insult to America’s economy. Mark in Frankfurt

Teens and college backpackers crowded the platform at Prague’s Holesovice Station. I lugged my luggage behind me down a long ramp into the terminal, checked the going exchange rates (14.50 Kc to 1 USD) and decided tomorrow will be soon enough to hunt a better figure. I waited only a few minutes for Robert and his wife, Iveta, to ramble up to me (we had not met beforehand, and only had a photograph from which to go). They are a young couple with a 6 yr old boy, Bertík. Robert’s English is pretty strong, while Iveta has barely any words in command. Hand gestures and smiles go a long way in communication. Anyway, they own a home in Suchdol (remember the pronunciation?), of which I stay on the top floor: 1 big bedroom/sitting room, an eat-in kitchen, another sitting room that neither Robert nor I can really describe why it stands alone nor why it sits in the place that it does. Tomorrow I move into the apt, but for tonight  R & I set me up in a guest bedroom.

My Prague life really begins tomorrow, Saturday, Aug 23, when I venture out from Suchdol and into central Prague to shop for necessities and a few things to make my apartment “home.” With five days until school orientation, I’ll have the much needed chance to get my directions right, scope out the nearby markets, drop in at a coffe shop and otherwise local bar, and perhaps meet a few people.

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