i am learning to be a minimal packer, and i’m starting to feel pretty good about it. when i go on a trips for just a night or two, i can fit everything in a normal-sized backpack, for sure. i even pride myself on certain packing choices, for instance, my tiny slipper socks. i bring those for some extra comfort on the road, because sometimes you need something between winter boots and socks for padding around the room or property. also, my lightweight cotton bathrobe. easily doubling as an after-swim cover-up, it’s much nicer to throw on over pajamas or underwear when you need to run out to the shared bathroom at your pension.
(yes, i’m over thirty and i still like to stay at hostels and pensions that sometimes feature a shared bathroom)
but nothing could have really prepared me for what happened on the train ride to brno (czech republic’s “second city” southeast of prague) last weekend. a tiny sniffle (is it allergies? kind of early in the season…) that became a big cold really quickly. in the same train ride, mangling my poor pointer finger and so.much.pain. to spare you the details of what exactly happened, i’m just going to issue this vague warning and say: always, always keep a lid on sharp things. even if you think you are careful.
so with a cold on the rise and a disfigured digit, i was not in a good place as we left brno’s hlavní nádraží
(central station) and started climbing up the hill to the city center (holding back tears seems a more apt description). i was able to get a few supplies from the drugstore for my finger, but not enough for my sickness as it quickly progressed because everything is closed on sundays. i thought i was clever to bring a travel-pack of tissues, but of course, it wasn’t enough. next time: pack tissues, bandages, sunglasses and allergy meds. even off-season.
brno is a city i was so looking forward to exploring. besides a couple lunch stops while enroute to more southern or eastern places, the last time i had really spent time there was my whirlwind day of visiting my dad. very longtime readers might know that my father and i met up in brno a few years ago with only a few days notice. i think that’s why this city is already special to me. to walk by the hotel he stayed at and the lovely czech restaurant we lunched at that time…
so it’s been a long time coming that we get back to brno (and, well, get alex to brno) to experience the wonderful food and nightlife scene i have heard so much about. this little trip had been years in the making… and unfortunately, i think that was part of the problem.
i had such high expectations of all that we would see and do. of the bars we would surely hop, of the sights we would surely visit…. but i didn’t prepare myself for that all coming to a screeching halt with an illness and a throbbing finger.
instead of nightlife, i spent most of the later hours in bed, trying to rest and recover; in my pajamas at what, for a hostel, is an embarrassingly early hour. when i did go out, the sun blinded me; my eyes, already sensitive to the sun because of my cold, began to water. for the record, i am not complaining about sun… it was just stronger than i could’ve planned for! south moravia, yo.
this left me in a bit of a sour mood for most of my time. annoyed at the way things had gone. seeing what could have been so plainly in front of me. i have never been really ill “on the road” before. and “on the road” is pretty much the last place you want to be when you feel like that.
it wasn’t until our last day that alex said this to me that really cheered me up.
“you know, we had a really nice trip together. we ate at some fantastic places… drank so much good coffee, went to a famous villa and a castle. it was a great weekend with you.”
and this, readers, is what i couldn’t consider. that just because the trip didn’t go how i had planned (for years!) didn’t mean it was a failure. i needed to start looking at it for what it was, not what it should or would have been. i know that seems like one of those painfully obvious realizations you would see the main character go through at the end of a movie and think “duhhh”, but it’s hard to think like that when you’re in discomfort, illness, and pain. but it was true. we had ourselves such a nice little time in brno with our doggie.
– we visited such lovely cafes, like this one – skog urban hub in dominikánské náměstí (above) which played the beeeest music and drank the most delicious coffee. i can highly recommend the columbia at kafec, and their waffles looked amazing. i baffled the baristas with my insistence on only wanting to speak czech while clearly being not czech. i found my favorite brno cafe for breakfast (cafe podnebi). such a sweet little joint (it’s garden, below)
– we enjoyed moravian beer at the famous zelená kočka (this was when i thought i still only had allergies – so at least i got some nightlife in!) we even tried beer from that one brewery that they filmed a famous czech movie at… (dalešice).
(i dedicate that beer i had to a certain friend here in budejovice, who, when sick, will still go out but only order small beers instead of large ones. may the beer forever heal us.)
– we wandered the super romantic brno streets in the evening on a whim after dinner, even though we were headed back to the accommodation but the beautiful nature of that night gave me a second wind. i started taking photos of things that were meaningful to me, not because i thought it was a good photograph or i could post the photo somewhere later.
– we marveled at the stunning architecture around ever corner. (if there ever was a city where you had to #lookup, it would be brno!)
– we took much needed refreshments at the suprisingly sweet cafe of the beautiful villa löw-beer, walked in the garden, and peeked at villa tugendhat, which was closed to the public due to shooting ‘the glass room’. (one day, tugendhat…..)
– we poked into little shops and boutiques in the center and picked up some lovely souvenirs. for me, i can never go wrong with bringing back coffee and tea! my jaw fell to the floor when i saw that there was a sonnentor shop just near šilingrovo náměstí. i came out with this special tea z brna, “happy easter” tea, and told the shopkeeper with wide eyes, “miluju všechno!” (she smiled and gave me a catologue).
– we also made out well at place store at moravské náměstí – the perfect stop for locally-made czech goods – everything from housewares, cosmetics, clothes, or jewelry – it’s all here.
i can’t believe that i’ve been traveling for how many years?! and still have made some key travel mistakes, but thanks to our time in brno, i’ll surely never forget them. and as the pain from my poor finger fades, the feeling of joy that occurs when i think about czech republic’s second city grows and grows.
when we arrived back in budejovice in the early evening, the sun was just setting. the rainy morning had morphed into a beautiful sunset, pink clouds streaking the sky. wherever i go, our little south bohemia seems to always be welcoming us home with smiles and friendly skies. each time that happens, i believe there is a reason. it’s not for nothing.