To the Lost, From Those That Remain; Or, Why Prague

So here’s a story, well-told, often repeated, containing a Lie and a Truth. For more detail, consult my first entry on this blog. 23 year old misses his friend, books a trip to see her, wine turns 5 days into 2 months. He gets a job, he gets a girlfriend, he joins a community, he embraces the culture with it’s plentiful meat, dark humour, and warm below the surface people. 2 months turns to 7, seasons change, and here I am with a fortnight’s worth of luggage seeing very good wear.It’s a good story, one I’m happy to tell, mostly True, fits my image well. It’s missing something.

No regular person or even an extraordinary one as I pretend to be sometimes would ever make that jump without something else motivating them, pushing them, or else driving them. As I have said elsewhere, in several places, teaching doesn’t exactly create fat stacks of wealth and prestige. It doesn’t by itself create greater freedom, there are still bosses and there are still customers even if the personal relations differ greatly. It doesn’t fulfil a person’s wildest dreams, though I have been exceptionally lucky/very deft in making good friend and occasionally wise choices. No.

This is the reason, the real, overriding, reason that I came to Prague.

A new story. A boy, recently finished university, out in the Big Bad Real World, making money, making networks, making some form of cobbled together life of drink and companionship, missing something important. Changes jobs to get out of his home city. It draws him back. Irrevocably. But something has changed, in the city, in him, hard to say. It does not feel like a home. It feels like a haunted house.

For the four years of university he had made friends and acquaintances, had the prestige of studying in one of Scotland’s top academic institutions, and had the pleasure of a fine setting and fine folks. At the beginning of every year, effervescent, adolescent joy at meeting people from around the world, a continual influx of new people to love. Every 3 – 6 months though, well, the tide goes out as well as comes in.

They leave. They always leave. The boy never realised such things though they happened all the time. Wrapped up in the moment, the eventual parting always seemed so far off and the company always seemed so worth it. But, see, they left. And he remained.

Part of them stayed. In memory. Every corner, every bar, every alley, every nightclub, every walk, in every part of the centre. Ghosts. Scores, hundreds, even. I couldn’t handle it. Each street became like that square on Monopoly you dread because it signifies the loss of everything. That one Orange property that some tactician has filled with hotels. Every street bore a flat that I recalled, and the recollections grew too many and too difficult. The first was hard enough. My Ex’s street, jutting like a dagger through the Heart of Newington.

Others followed, in varying intensity and character, and by 23 years old with all the uni pals gone and a new clutch of them, made through a Norwegian, going off to do their thing I’d had enough. I needed out.

So I got out, but I may never truly escape. I realise now that I’m back in a similar uni situation. English teachers are by nature rolling stones. Tide goes out as well as the tide comes in. Already the group recedes. The girl I came to see moved home. Others move abroad as the East is where the money is. Some find different opportunities. It’s easier now as there isn’t a time limit I just keep forgetting about, the outflows and influx comes at different times.

Still, I fear the eventual half life. That point where I can see the switch so clearly and memories again flood everywhere. The tide comes in and the tide goes out. One day the same will be true for all.

Cesky KrumLove

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This weekend, I was in Cesky Krumlov celebrating my girlfirend’s birthday – she was also there, in case you are wondering and can sustain a bad joke and the self-aware, self-referential, commentary which followed it.

It was, by all accounts, an amazing trip. The city is more like a town from what we saw, though there were definitely the houses of real people just outside the centre, behind the castle and on the far south bank of the River Vltava. It is the same river as that which goes through Prague, but it meanders more here and curls itself around the centre.

The weather was gorgeous, almost as gorgeous as the girl whose birthday we were celebrating – forgive the mush but next to good food, sunshine, and fun, mush is among my favourite things.

Speaking of mush, the Czech food is certainly not mushy here. It is strong meat, very flavourful. At one restaurant we visited, it was cooked over a log fire in the centre of the restaurant. It took a while to come out, but if you are there and eat meat it is highly recommended to give Satlavska a try.

In terms of places to stay, we were given an ideal recommendation of Hostel Skippy. Check out the view of the riverside private room!

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One of the major advantages of the hostel, other than a nourishing but surprisingly affordable breakfast, decent alcohol prices, cleanliness, good coffee, and friendly staff, was the fact that from the terrace you get to watch kayaks and canoes capsize.

“It is pleasant, when the sea is high and the winds are dashing the waves about, to watch from the shores the struggles of another”

– Lucretius

What more can I say as sound travel advice?

Well, the journey from Prague is a little long by train. You have to go to Ceske Budejovice, then switch to one going to Volary. The wait for the transfer is about half an hour, and the trains suffer from the same problem as many Czech trains. From Prague to Ceske Budejovice you are liable to look out the windows and see only concrete. The West Highland line, it ain’t. Furthermore, the train from Ceske Budejovice seems to venture through numerous small stations and I can’t help but feel that takes a while longer than you might want. The bus seems quicker and more direct.

Cesky Krumlov definitely costs slightly more than Prague, but what of it? It feels nice to not feel like I’m counting crowns – 1 of which is equivalent to 3p in UK terms – in order to survive in Prague. Fortunately, as I wrote about in a former post, I saved some before this month and even more fortunately, a bag of gold basically came sailing through my window before this trip. It’s great to feel like a provider, and my girlfriend seems to have appreciated it. I will know if, when she is finished reading, she kisses me on the cheek.

As a final sign off, presenting the most spectacular street name of the trip.

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Jam Today

When I was 22 or so, I wrote a comic play in which a flat’s money troubles are solved when bags of gold fly through a skylight at the end. It suffered from several problems along the way, the dialogue was gold but the direction was a bit dry, plus the plot wasn’t fully up to scratch. That endin though: so positive, so optimistic and, occasionally, so true.

A student paid me recently and this puts me in a far better mood for the coming month. Now, I havea weekend away with my girlfriend for her birthday and currently I am eating toast with jam.

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So no updates for a couple days. I will leave you with what I feel is some great advice for English teachers and for all people who earn their money in occupations with occasionally irregular cash flow. Plan accordingly.

if one month you work a ton and are paid well, make sure to put some of it away. Lean months do exist. Summer has been a bit temperamental, one month more than enough to live, the next barely enough for rent and other associated costs. Make sure you keep some surplus to balance out the shortfall or you will find yourself in a tickier bind than I have just escaped.

Beware the Summer shortfall. Rejoice in the Septmber inundation. Eat toast, frequently.*

 

*Unless you are gluten intolerant