Wednesday, August 03, 2005

The Good, the Bad, and the Cesky

I'm back, and before you have time to ask me how my trip was, I'm going to sum it all up nice and simple.

The Good:
Prague is legitimately cool. Sort of like what "Main Street, Europe" Disneyland would aspire to if there was any more room to expand in Anaheim. Just an amazing collection of old buildings and unreal sights that makes the place more foreign and exotic than anywhere I've traveled in Europe.

The Bad:
This amazing collection of buildings is clogged with 2.3 million tourists. I know, not all while we were there, but it felt like it. Walking around the Old Town on a summer night is like hitting Landsdowne Street 20 minutes after the game lets out. Which is fine for a couple nights. Then you want to start killing people.

The Good:
Prague food. Here I was told boiled cabbage and gray meat would be the norm. Not so! Great thin pizza, hearty pastas, and the ubiquitous Caprese salad kept us very happy everywhere we went. There was also this truly fantastic Cuban restaurant serving authentic mojitos, huge green salads with nuts and fruit, and slabs of steaks spiced expertly and slathered with avocado pieces. Didn't taste like Communism. (Except: I guess that is how Communism tastes in Cuba. Huh.)

The Bad:
Prague food. Somewhere along the way once of these delicious meals held my future pain and suffering, in the form of a vicious stomach bug that consumed the last two days of my trip and from which I am only now recovering. I will never know which one--best not to judge. The sketchy medicine, called Cloroxinum, prescribed to me by a quaint looking Czech pharmacy, also not the best thing about the experience. (Upon arriving home and talking to my doctor, was told "you probably don't want to put anything with 'Clorox' in the name in your body.")

The Good:
Getting away. Being able to have long, extended conversations with James on a wide variety of interesting subjects that never once drifted to the following topics: laundry, bills, car problems, scheduling, grocery shopping. It's really nice to remember all those things besides being married that you have in common.

The Bad:
Trying to get home. Woozy, in serious pain, and under the influence of Eastern European medicine, I was completely unable to contribute to the "get out of town" effort when our last day came. James had to pack my suitcase (only one or two important things got left behind in our hotel room), carry all of our bags, and shepherd my groaning self through sixteen and a half hours of air travel to get back to our blessed apartment.

And the Cesky:
Cesky Krumlov is a picturesque, medieval and apparently sublime town in the Czech countryside that about 37 people told us we "had" to visit once they found out we were going to the Czech Republic. For months, everywhere we turned it was Cesky Krumlov, Cesky Krumlov, Cesky Krumlov! We started calling it "f--king Cesky" (pronounced, in our expert opinion, "Chessky") For one thing, we didn't want to go. We didn't have a lot of extra time and we really wanted to explore Prague to the fullest. On the other hand, we didn't want to miss out on the life-changing experience that was presumably Cesky Krumlov. So we debated for weeks, looked into hotels, three hour bus trips, and rental cars. Cesky became a noose around our necks that we finally shrugged off only three days into our trip, deciding not to go and able to breathe easier as a result.

For the remainder of our trip, "f--king Cesky" worked well as a catch phrase for anything we felt we lacked adequate English words to describe, kind of the way "smurf" functioned for me in the early 80's: the ridiculous gift shop prices in Old Town, Cloroxinum, the interminable security check process at the Prague airport (about 8 minutes per person), the alarming number of bachelor parties run amok on the streets, a 25% automatically included gratuity at a restaurant that will go unnamed, all of our tv channels being dubbed in German, and the utter inability for any Prague citizen to know the whereabouts of Charles University (the oldest university in Europe and my conference venue that I searched for on foot for 1 1/2 hours). Oh, and Cesky means "Czech," so best not to throw about that little epithet too audibly next time you're in Prague.

I guess wherever you go you can make a list of both the good and the bad. That's traveling--the only way to avoid it is to stay at home in your own snug bed and eat your own organic, non-parasite-y food. But that would be missing out. So, as an alternative, you can just, as I chose to do, hitch up your sad rumpled traveling pants when things don't go your way and curse the locals. Good times.


At 10:22 PM, Blogger Ekamati said...

You are a brilliant writer. Inspiring. This is writeline in 2005. What did you present at the conference? I spent a lot of time in Prague when I was overseas, you may remember my rendezvous there with an old friend of ours. His hair was bleach blond that trip. I also ran a half marathon in that town--big mistake. Races in europe, including eastern europe mean, few signs, (am I at mile, oops I mean kilometer 4 or 15, it matters), coffee rather than water served at random points along the run, and about a total of 12 fans cheering you on--maybe 11.

At 9:42 AM, Blogger scs said...

Thanks, Ekamati! I think you are right about Writeline 2005. I never thought of it that way. I also had forgotten that Prague was the scene of your rendezvous a few years back. Wow, romantic city for a rendezvous.

I presented a paper on Eavan Boland at the IASIL Conference (International Assoc. for the Study of Irish Literature) that discussed her poetry's exploration of the domestic interior as a forum for political engagement.

Coffee at marathons??! That would have been a good moment to mutter "f---ing Cesky."

At 12:37 PM, Blogger charles.bukowski.costanza said...

hiya and welcome back to our land of the nouveau comforts. here: have some toaster strudel-flavored laxative. it will make your tummy feel better.

i lost your number. again. will you send it to me -- i have a big sunny empty house all to myself for the week and am trying to barricade the doors as i have many pages to put out; convo with you would be welcome and well-serving distraction. and i could tell you about the romantic literature doctor i made out with, how she was brilliantly exacting in her spontaneity, how "rapier" is a less-hot pillowtalk word than i always thought it would be.

you are a brilliant writer, sull. i would actually love to read your examination of the domestic interior. for reals. also,

you are smurfing ridiculous.

At 11:09 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You "" americans!!!!!!! why don't you sit at home on your fat asses?? Your comment just shows how dumb you are! after reading your comment I need to use Endiaron (cloroxine)...

At 1:38 PM, Blogger Lucy said...

I don't think Czech food is bad, Czech cuisine is just considered heavy and very filling, with meals centered on meats and starches. This is because Czech winters are long and cold, which does not allow for a variety of fresh vegetables. In fact, if salads are available in Prague restaurants, they typically are limited to two vegetables, such as tomato and cucumber. You just have to get used to Czech cuisine. They love the dumplings, all sorts, and the pork is their favored meat. From picturesque farms comes geese (much favored over a duck), chickens and trout from mountain streams. They harvest carp from ponds for Christmas eve meal. Many kinds of variety of delicious edible mushrooms come from virgin woods and meadows. They know and like cereal products such as noodles. Their superbly delicious rye breads are served with cold meats and cheeses.

At 9:14 PM, Anonymous Chris said...

I got sick in Prague from the food as well last year (May 2008) after being there over a week. I took Endiaron and was better within a few hours. Apparently the chemical in Endiaron is CAS: 773-76-2 known in the US as "Chloroxine" but only as an anti-bacterial shampoo called Capitrol. Prior to that when I was at home in the US and sick with similar symptoms the doctor just told me to keep taking Imodium AD and that it would get better on its own... It did after 3-4 weeks and dropping 20 pounds later.

At 6:58 AM, Anonymous Hannah said...

For anybody wanting to visit Prague: don't believe any of this crap. The stag parties of 2005 are long gone. The food is good and chances of getting sick from it are as remote as getting sick in the US. And the part about nobody knowing where Charles University was is BS, perhaps you were asking tourists, not the people who actually lived there. What a lot of nonsense, honestly. Sadly, people like you make all Americans look like total dingbats, unjustly.

At 10:32 PM, Blogger scs said...

Wow. Apparently some of us seemed to have lost our sense of humor. Or perhaps never had it. Did none of the late commenters on this thread realize this was a HUMOROUS account of a trip to Prague? Has no one ever read Bill Bryson? It also should have been clear that I found that trip five years ago to be extremely enjoyable. Missing the joke and then calling someone a "dingbat" is an extremely effective way to look like one yourself. I'm just sayin'. Lighten up guys!!!

At 5:12 AM, Anonymous ritorujon said...

Nice blog! But you should probably get a new doctor if your current doctor is too lazy to do his research. Cloroxinum is a trivial name for dichlorchinolinol (to be exact 5,7-dichlor-8-chinolinol) a has absolutely nothing to do with Clorox branded bleach!
It is used for gastrointestinal infections and imbalance in gut flora (since unlike widespectrum antibiotics, it doesn't effect the desirable gut flora bacteria strains). It can also be used to treat vaginal yeast infections, giardia, streptococcus and staphylococcus infections. It is available as tablets (for gastrointestinal infections), paste (for vaginal infections), cream and spray (for skin infections). Btw. combination with activated charcoal (absorbs toxic products of bacteria) is recommended for gastrointestinal infections.
It works great and in summary it is far superior alternative to antibiotics you would get prescribed in US.

At 8:41 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello from Prague :). Charles university - is huge, is not just one building! Each faculty has got its particular building and they are all over the Prague. ThankĀ“s God we have the medicine called Endiaron :) - I have been suffering a bowels disease already for 3 years and I am grateful to this medicine. You know, this is debatable - some substances are forbidden in USA and not in Europe, but some which are forbidden in Europe are legal in your country. I mean that the unhealth american food (fast food and oven-ready foods) is bigger killer than our Endiaron :)


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