BootsnAll Travel Network

Cesky Krumlov: Minutiae

I wake around 10am feeling lousy; a combination of the head cold that has taken hold of me the previous afternoon, and the beers I drank in spite of it. To sooth my head I reach for my headphones; some chilled out music for an hour will do me good. I pull the cord out of my bag, but it is broken; halfway along the cord has been split, it looks as though it has been severed. How the hell did that happen? Oh well, I go and stand under the hot water of the shower, letting the life run over me, holding my hand on the button continuously to keep the water coming. I leave the bathroom feeling marginally better, but must pick myself up, as today is Sam’s birthday. He’s the reason Bec and I have returned to Cesky Krumlov.

I wander down to the kitchen and eat some muesli for breakfast. Greg is there, chopping up ingredients for a spaghetti bolognese to eat for lunch. Sam is there too, speaking on the phone to someone back in Australia, in Sydney, where he’s from. They are talking about some racist-driven riots that occurred there over the weekend, in the beachside suburb of Cronulla. I go to the computer and check the web page of the local newspaper back home. I see pictures that make my heart sink; hundreds of young men, white, middle class men, drunk men, roaming the streets during the day in huge gangs, seeking out and beating up anyone they see of middle-eastern appearance. I see photos of police trying to protect young Lebanese kids, shepherding them down the steet, as a huge group of yobs, thugs, idiots, many of them shirtless, beer cans in hand, chase them with hatred. I don’t really know the full story, but I don’t have the strength to read any more. It is too sad.

I find Bec back in the kitchen, and we decide to go for a walk into town to buy some groceries, some cold and flu tablets, and look for a t-shirt to buy my nearly 2 year old nephew. I put on five layers of clothes, a scarf, some gloves, and a woolen hat. It is cold outside. Although it has not snowed here for a while, roof-tops and the surrounding hills are still rendered white.

The thin soles of my falling-apart sneakers feel every bump of the cobble-stoned road, and a little moisture seeps through to my socks. We enter the small grocery store, and search out the ingerdients for a vegetarian chilli; our contribution to tonight’s group cook-up. But with all my layers of clothing it is uncomfortably hot in the store, and so I go to wait outside. The street is quiet; people amble past, clearly in no rush to get anywhere. A lone pigeon sits on the road, and slowly walks to the footpath when a solitary car slowly approaches. I think about my family back home; it is 35 degrees there today. A bit different to the freezing temperatures here. Next door to where I stand is the tea house. We plan to visit there later on; sitting cross-legged on the floor, sipping tea, and smoking a sheesha pipe is a wonderful way to spend an afternoon, and we have done so many times. As I wait outside, the owner of the tea house walks by, a young Czech guy with a shaven head and slight moustache, and, recognising me from our many visits, gives me a smile and a friendly greeting; “Dobry Den”. A smile back, and wonder what is taking Bec so long. With that she appears, and we walk further into town to visit the pharmacy, located in the old town square.

“Dobry Den, uh I need something for a cold, uh, runny nose, uh, hang on,” getting some fairly blank looks, I pull out my hankerchief and give my nose an almighty blow. There, that did the trick. The lady reaches for some cold and flu tablets, and we are soon back out in the cold. Across the square, and into the tourist information centre we venture, where we had seen cute kids t-shirts the week before. We find a great little t-shirt, with a funky Cesky Krumlov picture on the front, but is way too big for my little nephew, and unfortunately it is the only size left. There is another, more daggy shirt that is smaller, but we decide to try our luck elsewhere; from the photos I’ve seen, my nephew is one funky little dude, so this daggy shirt will certainly not cut the mustard. We walk around for another 15 minutes, looking for somewhere with kids t-shirts, but with no luck.

“Do you want to just go home, and try again tomorrow,” Bec asks.

“Yeah,” I sniffle, and so we trudge back to the hostel, where I scoff down a couple of cold and flu tablets, and eat some of Greg’s now finished spaghetti. It is getting close to 2.30pm now, and Bec and a few others are headed to the tea house. Feeling like the heat in there might be too much for me, I decide to stay at the hostel, and return to reading my current book; a weird novel covering the history of philisophical thought, called ‘Sophie’s World’. It is fairly heavy reading, like a text book hiding inside a jumbled narrative, and is translated from Norwegian, which may not help some of the stunted language. I am alone in the hostel kitchen, and so put some of my own music on to stop my mind getting all tangled up with the stories of Socrates, Aristotle, and Plato that I am reading.

At 3.30pm it begins to get dark outside. I decide to grab the tripod and camera and go take some pictures as the sun goes down. I also grab a snickers bar for the journey, I have become a bit addicted to them. I put the five layers on again, the gloves, the scarf, and the woolen hat, and head back out into the cold. I walk down to the river, and try some long exposure pictures of a small spillway, but they don’t come out as I’d hoped. A cloud in the sky begins to turn a slight pink colour, but before I can even set the tripod up it has turned grey and dark. My fingers are beginning to hurt, even with the gloves on, and I pack up the tripod and head for home. I pull out the snickers bar for the walk, but as I go to unwrap it, I notice one end has been chewed away; the wrapper is gone, and the bar has been half eaten. What the hell? Then I remember hearing stories of a mouse living upstairs at the hostel. I am sleeping upstairs. Bugger.

Then it hits me; not only did the mouse eat my snickers, it bloody chomped through my headphone cord. Bugger.

I get back to the hostel around 4.30pm. It is totally dark outside, and the girls are yet to return from the tea house. Again I am alone in the hostel kitchen, and continue with the book. But they soon appear, and suddenly the kitchen is abuzz with people beginning to cook dinner. The head cold is still affecting me, and, keen to get away from the noise, I head for the computer to read more about the race riots back in Sydney. After reading a number of articles, the simplicity that I saw in the morning is gone, repalced by a tangled web of blame. It is a horrible situation, a complicated situation, with no easy answers. If only the country had a leader that could show the way out of this mess. I watch some grainy news footage, but it doesn’t look like Australia, at least not the Australia I know.

I head back to the kitchen, and a group of about 8 of us sit down to a big dinner of cous cous salad, nachos with chilli and guacomole dip, more spaghetti, another pasta dish, home-made sangria, and potato and leek soup. It is all splendid. As with most of our cook-ups, there is way too much food, and soon we are all leaning back on our chairs with hands folded across bulging bellies.

“But c’mon, today is Sam’s birthday,” someone reminds us, and we head to the hostel bar next door to celebrate. Sam used to work here at Hostel 99. Bec and he became good friends when she stayed here 4 years ago. He even once drove from Sydney to Melbourne just to go to a house party Bec was throwing. He has spent the last 6 months working for the UN in Afghanistan, and had been away when we were here a few weeks ago, but was returning for just a week before heading over to the US for Christmas. So after a week in Berlin, Bec and I returned here to Cesky Krumlov to catch up with Sam, and help celebrate his 31st birthday.

I drink a couple of beers that go down slowly; my throat still a little sore. But by the third that is forgotten, and I soon lose count as they go down quicker than I realise. Then Sam begins to buy everybody rounds of shots. Czech tradition, he says. The shots are easy to knock back, Fernet Stock Citrus is the drink, one you cannot buy in Australia unfortunately. Shit, you can’t even buy it in Germany or Poland, and they are right next door. Even the bar stuff indulge in a couple; our group is the only one in the bar, and they have all known Sam for years. The mood is jovial. It is hard to remember that a lot of us have only known each other for a day or two. But it is like that when you are travelling; friends are made easily and the usual hang-ups are forgotten; education, class, money, language. None of it matters. We are all just people having a good time, together.

Some time after midnight I fall into bed.

And this is my life in Cesky Krumlov.

Tags: , ,

Leave a Reply