I took a trip to Prague! I've been wanting to visit Europe for some time, and Prague seemed like a great entree to the continent. It's not very well-known in the US, but is actually the 6th most-visited city in Europe. Largely untouched by the world wars, it retains architecture and infrastructure dating back to the middle ages. The Nazis occupied the city, but didn't destroy the Jewish Quarter. Later the Soviets took control, but mostly limited their defilements to the outer boroughs. Horrors were certainly committed in the area, but were apparently limited to the humans, leaving the structures intact.
Wow, when I write it out like that, it sounds incredibly ghoulish. Let's say instead that it preserves tangible remembrances of Europe's history, and change the subject.
My trip was marred by problems that ranged from inconvenience to disaster, and they kicked off at the airport before I even left Portland. After we boarded the plane we sat motionless for about 10 minutes, before the pilot announced that the ground crew had run some equipment into the plane, denting it badly enough that the engineers wouldn't clear it to fly, which was inconvenient for the passengers, and disastrous for whoever had to explain to their boss why they broke an $85,000,000 plane. We all filed sullenly off the plane and started making calls to reschedule our flights. I got a new flight set up, and everything seemed fine.
Many hours later, tired and smelly, I arrived at Vaclav Havel Airport outside Prague, went to the bag check, and waited. And waited. Finally I went and talked to the baggage desk, where I learned that not only was my bag not in Prague, there was no way to know where it actually was. I was furious: misplacing the bag is a simple mistake, but the lack of a tracking system seemed (and seems) ridiculously incompetent. I was also mad at myself, because I'd packed my critically-important medicine in my checked bag. Being without it is really rough--not only does my depression resume eagerly, the withdrawal symptoms include weakness, lightheadedness, and problems regulating my heartrate.
I couldn't accomplish anything by yelling at the baggage clerk, though, so I bought a local prepaid cell phone, gave the baggage office my number, and headed off to my hotel.
I got checked in, grabbed my camera, and went to do some sightseeing around my hotel. I'd reserved a bed in a shared room at the A-and-O Prag Metro Strizkov, a hotel/hostel in the hills above the city center. At $100 for the week, I wasn't expecting much, and I didn't get it. The staff were distant and unhelpful, the furniture was Ikea, and the room smelled of industrial chemicals. Still, in a city with Prague's reputation, who wants to spend a bunch of time in their hotel anyway?
Unfortunately, the area around the A-and-O isn't particularly pretty. It's not a particularly old or affluent area; there are lots of crumbling walls and car-repair shops. I did find a restaurant with absolutely excellent food, at least.
That's all for today, but be sure to take a look at the pictures I took.
Tomorrow: sunburn, psychiatry, and senselessness!