BootsnAll Travel Network

Czech: Earning a living

It had to happen eventually, and I guess it started when we got to Krakow and some friendly person decided I would be better off surviving an Eastern European winter with a shitty windcheater rather than my toasty warm fleece, and kindly swapped them when I wasn’t looking. The amazing luck we’d been blessed with so far on this little trip could not continue, and so, with a lack of connecting trams passing our hostel on Thursday morning, we walked to the bus station and arrived at 8.35am, five minutes after our 8.30am bus left for the Czech border. Bugger.

We waited in the bus station. No, let me rephrase that. We waited at the bus station. The word ‘in’ would indicate that there was some sort of building, yeah. Well, not here at the Krakow bus station. This was more like an abandoned car park that had been adopted by some bus companies. A couple of fast food vans sat along one edge, with a few plastic chairs strewn about, and it was here that we waited for a mercifully short two hours before another bus would take us to the Polish border town of Cieszyn. Or the Czech border town of Cesky Tesin, depending on which sie of the Polish-Czech border you were standing. Back home, Bec lives in the border town of Echuca-Moama. Echuca sits on the south side of the Murray River, which forms the border between the states of Victoria and New South Wales. North of the Murray is Moama. But other than some slight differences; the designs on police cars, and the number of entertainment venues from which the mind numbing chatter of poker machines can be heard, there’s not a whole lot that distinguishes the two.

But that a town can straddle itself over the border between two different countries, where standing on a particular side of a river will dictate what language you speak and what currency you use, all within essentially the same town, that I found mind boggling.

Our bus dropped us at the station in Cieszyn. We had been told by staff at our hostel in Krakow that crossing the border here was quite simple, that many travellers take this route. And, I suppose this was correct; the actual walking across the border was a straightforward affair. Our problem was finding the damn border in the first place. Upon asking at the information desk at the Cieszyn bus station, we were given vague directions to walk along the train tracks for 10 minutes and then turn left. Or did he say right, shit, neither Bec nor I could remember. We reached the point on the tracks were we needed to turn. Left, we went, for a few minutes, but it didn´t look promising. Back, and to the right this time. Nup, it can´t be that way, surely.

I walked back to a small bakery stand situated in a car park alongside the rail tracks, hoping to get some directions.

“Dobry den. Uh, do you speak any English?” The lady smiled apologetically, “Very little.” Ok, so this wasn´t going to be easy, but so far on this trip things seemed to have a way of just working out. I pointed to a nearby bus, “Uh, Autobus, to Praha.” She looked a little confused, I could see her trying to figure out what it was we wanted. “Autobus,” I pointed again, and her face suddenly lit up, the lightbulb going off above her head. I turned to Bec and smiled, see, too easy. I looked back to the lady, “yes, yes, autobus,” she said enthusiastically, and pointed to her right…….straight back to the bus station we´d just come from. Darn. But I wasn´t done yet. I optimistically perservered; shaking my head, I tried again, “Autobus, Cesky.” Jackpot.

“Ah, yes, autobus Cesky.” She knew exactly what we were after now, and this time pointed even more enthusiastically behind her, using both hands as though guiding a Boeing 747 down the tarmac. Had we turned left when we were meant to, we would´ve been headed in the direction she now showed us. Sure now that we were headed in the right direction, we took the left turn, walked up a busy street, over the crest of a hill, and saw the border crossing at the bridge over the river up ahead.

At the passport checkpoint, locals strolled through chatting to their mates nonchalantly, flashing their passports to the passport control officer as they waltzed through, and not even turning to see what response they got. Bec and I on the other hand, after waiting for a lull in the foot traffic, walked tentatively up to the counter and handed over our passports, wary that such border crossings could be drawn out affairs with nasty passpoort officers. But after a few brief minutes, and not even a sideways glance in our direction, our passports were returned to us with shiny new stamps, and we walked into a new country, simple as that.

From here, we had no idea where the bus station was, or if there was even a bus going to Prague this afternoon, and so we walked into a tourist information office to see what we could find out. Upon inquiring about the bus, we were greeted with, “Bus?! No, no, no, bus takes 10 hours. You want the train, only 6 or 7 hours.” Ok then, looks like we´re taking a train. One was leaving at 3.20pm, so we found the train station, and waited a couple of hours for it to leave. After short couple of hours on the train, we had to change trains at the town of Olomouc, and waited another half hour or so for our new train to arrive here. When it finally did pull up, we jumped onto a darkened carriage; the lights from the platform enough to guide us into our own compartment. We figured the lights would flick on once the train started moving. Not so. The train left the platform, and we were in total darkness. We´d heard dodgy stories about trains going to and from Czech and Poland – muggings, gassings and the like, and the lack of lights was doing nothing for our nerves. For twenty minutes we travelled in darkness, I could hardly see Bec sitting across from me, before thelights came on, and we could finally relax.

Four or five hours later, we found ourselves in Prague. After rising around 7am to get our bus in Krakow, it wasn´t until 11.30pm that we arrived at our hostel, a long day in anyone´s language. But I still say, it sure beats working.

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One Response to “Czech: Earning a living”

  1. sean Says:

    been reading along for some time (and caught up from the beginning in the interim between updates) … a big fan. felt compelled to write from the last paragraphs summary : you’re absolutely right. you’re out and about, figuring things out and moving along, and i’m at the office, reading it all, wishing for the same. a different sort of stress, for sure.

    interested in eastern europe for some time now, may find myself in krakow at the very least, in about two weeks on a hop over from a short trip to london. the plitvicka images from croatia will really put a foot up ones ass … in a good way. been trying to stir up some slivovic from serbian friends here in chicago, i know theyre just keeping it all for themselves. who can deny the umbrella effect?


  2. Posted from United States United States
  3. Jaime Says:

    Hello there, have been following your adventure since the beginning and I’m posting for the first time. Your story telling is wonderfull!!! I really enjoy them and it’s the first web page I open every morning at work looking for new entries.

    Just got back (a month ago now) from my own trip to Europe. But, reading your trip brings me alot of good memories and brightens my day for the dreariness of the working day.

    Living vicariously thru your trip. I will continue to read and enjoy your posts.

    Travel safe and have lots of fun!!!

    God speed.


    PS- you’re absolutely right! “Any bad day outside the office is better than any good day inside the office.”

  4. Posted from United States United States
  5. admin Says:

    Hi ya Sean. Yeah, nothing like the photo of a 70 metre waterfall to distract you from work.

    When you get to Krakow, if you see a guy wearing a black Mountain Designs fleece, with grey bits down the side, punch him for me, will you. There´s a good lad.

  6. Posted from Czech Republic Czech Republic
  7. admin Says:

    Hey Jaime, thanks for the ego boost. It´s nice to know that it´s not just my brother reading this crap, and that I´m not the only one who sits at their desk at work, pretending to be productive whilst reading online travel journals. Man I did that a lot.

    Cheers. Or, nastravi (I think it is in Czech)

  8. Posted from Czech Republic Czech Republic

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