sometimes, i think where you stay when you are traveling has a big effect on how you end up feeling about the place. ease of your arrival there can really set the tone, too. but what if your arrival just goes haywire?
as we are nearing our fourth czechaversary now in a couple of weeks, it gets me thinking a lot about our arrival to prague on that cold, mid-november day. such a thrilling feeling to be on the road for months and then have a one-way ticket to a country that you don’t know when you’ll leave (as you might know, i never did). however, the arrival definitely did not go as planned. i am incredibly tempted to use some pretty photo here, perhaps of the tyn church or prague castle, but that would take away from the general feeling of the day, which was by no means a glamorous one.
we traveled by train from berlin hauptbahnhof to praha hlavní nádraží, a line i have taken a few times in my life, a route that always makes me feel happy to ride it. that happiness was wiped off my face when the conductor came to check my ticket and i only had a pdf file of said ticket on my computer. (really stupid of me, yes, i know). he would not even try to scan the computer, instead saying my only choice was to purchase my ticket, at least to the czech border for the premium “buy it on the train” rate. just the cost of berlin to bad schandau was more than triple what i had purchased my original berlin to prague ticket for.
i am all about those ticket deals and i will buy tickets in so much advance to get the lowest prices imaginable. this broke my poor (no really, we had like no money) heart in several places, and i handed him my payment card as i held back tears (which as soon as he left, burst out from within). this whole moving to prague thing was not off to a good start.
fortunately, and i will never forget this, as soon as the czech conductor got on the train at the border, i quickly explained the situation to her, showing her the pdf on the computer, and asked if i had to buy another ticket – she said no. first sign that i knew i would like it here.
i thought all my troubles were behind me until about twenty minutes after arriving at prague’s main train station (hlavní nádraží). our contact, that was supposed to meet us near the taxi stand, was nowhere to be seen. after an hour and a half of waiting and some frantic phone calls, she arrived. turns out, we had been waiting in the wrong spot. our contact actually had been at the platform but finally, gave up and went home. i had received so many emails that week about where to wait if you are arriving from the airport or train station and i had mixed up the meeting points. so much relief, but my terrible travel day limits were pushed to the near limit that day.
on the taxi ride to vysočanská, where we would live for the next month, our taxi flew through the dark main streets of prague like a bat out of hell, cutting off a tram one point and inciting angry bells. glowing lights of storefronts and street lamps shone in one big blur; all of it seeming a touch familiar but mostly steeped with that exciting, unfamiliarity of a new city.
we arrived to our new flat, and i cannot tell you what feelings came over me, a few minutes after we bid our contact goodbye and i sat on the bed to catch my breath. here we were in lord-knows-where prague, where we will be for the indefinite future. alex, my husband, was undergoing his own personal thought-storm, i later found out, of “where did i let her take me?” vysočanská isn’t exactly old town prague – the view from our — floor flat looked directly out at a gigantic dirt field and abandoned factory building. it is the real thing! alex had never been to the czech republic before, and for all he knew, i just took him to the hidden wilds of eastern europe.
the first thing we did in the czech republic was set out to find food, so the first place we found was an asian restaurant near the vysočanská metro stop. it was, as we would later know, just generic shopping center asian cuisine, but it was something. while we ate, i realized i knew nary a word of czech. as the end of the meal neared, i started feeling embarrassed. how do i even say please? thank you? we ended up tipping a huge percentage of what the meal actually cost (by accident) because the czech koruna was still a total mystery. our waiter’s eyes were wide with confusion, and possibly happiness.
then, before coming “home” and collapsing we made a quick stop at galerie fenix, where the nearest shopping center was that contained a supermarket (the worst billa known to man). we should have just gone back to the flat (too much excitement for one day) but we had to struggle through obtaining at least some basic groceries.
i have had far better arrivals – if you are really looking for a perfect arrival story, i would probably point to our touch-down to santorini last year, being whisked away to imerovigli and fed one of the most delicious greek breakfasts while we waited for our room to be cleaned. you can go check out that story if you’re interested, but this particular imperfect story is one i often think about this time of year. it marks just how far we have come, and reminds me of that feeling of pure adventure, embarking on a new life in central europe.