Thursday, January 28, 2010

"Fate is not just whose cooking smells good, but which way the wind blows..."

On January 10th I had my goodbye dinner at Maly Buddha, an Asian-influenced tea lounge-cum-restaurant with lots of vegetarian options by Prague castle in Hradčany. On a Sunday night on the 10th of January, 15 of my friends showed up to bid me farewell, enough to book three full tables and an American waiter just for our English needs! The food was delicious and the company great; I’m really going to miss these kids. Luckily, I’ll be back for a few days for my birthday on February 8th.

From the left: Sara, Bryan, Jess and Ali

Miriam, Josh, Jillian, Pete, Klara and Dusan

Katie, Anna's friend, Anna, Viktor and Andrea

After dinner I decided I should finish how I started, which meant U Sudu, one of my favorite bars in Prague that has a couple levels underground and is a maze of caverns. Later, I went with Jess, Sara and Miriam to Red Room—another expat haunt where I always seem to know everyone by the end of my 5th month. There is live music that may or may not always sound like Jack Johnson. This can be good or bad depending on your taste, I guess, but I generally vote bad. It’s the kind of place you’re not sure you like, but forces attract you there nonetheless.

The trek to U Sudu from the restaurant in the snow

Eventually, I had to get home and pack up my life (again), so I bid everyone goodbye. The fact that Jess won’t be here when I come back for a visit made the reality—the ending of this strange life in Prague I’ve grown so accustomed to since August 8th—set in. I walked teary-eyed to the tram and packed from midnight or so until 4:15 am. My procrastination skills are one thing in my life that seems to stay constant.

Oh, and because I never actually put up a picture of the babies on the TV tower. Here they are!

After a hearty 2 hours of sleep, I was off to Hamburg, Germany. I woke up at 6:15 am, rushing madly with my suitcase through the snow, terrified I was about to miss my 8:31 am train and almost in tears over the rough snowing terrain and the lack of cooperation from by oversized suitcase. I didn’t factor in the extra time it’d take to lug my heavy suitcase by myself through the snow. When I got there the train was of course delayed by over an hour because of the weather. Finally getting on the train, I wandered confused through the compartments. They looked much more posh than I was used to, so when I heard a woman speaking English I asked if I was in 1st class. She laughed, told me no, and offered to share her compartment with me.

One thing I love about traveling is you meet so many interesting people. There’s definitely a sense of camaraderie that exists between those living out of a suitcase for some period of time. This woman was a roughly 40-something massage therapist from Vancouver traveling through Europe and Northern Africa (re: Morocco) for several months. She started in New York and had already visited many places in Southern and Eastern Europe, aiming to see as much opera as possible. Opera’s not really my thing, as far as I know, but whatever inspires you, all the better!

As we watched the Czech landscape slowly fade into a German one and the voice on the train switch languages, we talked about rock-climbing, back-country skiing, how I’m fed up with academia, her travels, the Czech language, books we’ve read, her son and daughters’ tree-planting gigs, etc. Eventually some German people got on in Dresden and we talked to them for a bit, too. It still amazes me that everyone can speak English.

My compartment friend, Enid, got off in Berlin and I was on my own. Unfortunately, the internet told me I only had one train to take, so I was startled to find that I needed to switch in Berlin from the conductor. Again I rushed, only to find the train delayed. I am already tired of snow. Once onboard, we go one stop only to have the doors break because of freezing conditions. Out in the cold again, we all wait for another train that shows up packed, leaving us to stand the entire 2-hour journey to Hamburg. Alas.

Four hours later than expected, I finally made it to Hamburg and was greeted by Kassia, a friend from Geology class at Smith my senior year, who took me to German Smith College (a.k.a. the Smith Center in Hamburg). I met another fellow Smithie staying with her, Stephanie, and we were off back to Kassia’s dorm. After looking at German TV, some tea and making small-talk with Kassia’s German dorm-mates, the first thing I did in Hamburg was sleep. After my long day of travel, I couldn’t think of anything much better than that.

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