Archive for April, 2009

Volejbal Vortex

Friday, April 17th, 2009

I play volleyball at an elementary school near Olšanské hřbitovy (the cemetery).  Men aged from their 30s to their 50s + arrive in business suits and casual attire.  They swoop through the rotating human sized turnabout and enter the court area, immediately staking out their gym bag spot around the court.  “Nazdar” and “Ahoj” are greetings echoed throughout.  Then a few short minutes later, the sport jacket comes off, along with the ties, button down shirts, shoes, belts and pants.  Yes, you read that correctly  PANTS!  The court seems to be the whirling mass of men in their tighty-gray-ies and blue-ies that appear to have been bought about 20 decades ago.  They are just loose p-articles of clothing swirling by the net, sidelines and bench.  Who’s ready to volley this ball?

Czech Excursion – Be Forewarned!

Tuesday, April 14th, 2009

Trip’s paid for, skis are rented and snack food is all bought.  We are just short of packing when Marek decides to throw in the wrench.

“So I sort of have to warn you about this trip,” Marek mentions over dinner, “It may be a little different then what you are used to.”

Offended, I say, “Oh come on, I’ve been in this country long enough, nothing can possibly shock me.”

“Ok, I’m just saying,” replies Marek coolly.

A few seconds of silence pass by when I re-entertain the original comment, “What do you mean that things may be a little different?”

“Well, this trip is going to be very Czech.”

“Czech? Of course it is…it’s through a Czech travel company.  Give me something I can work with!” I demand.

“Well, the organization will be a little different and well just don’t be surprised that people will be very Czech. It won’t be like an American trip,”  huffs Marek.

I think, whatever, I’ll just see it when I see it.  I mean what could really be so different?  So I’ll just see some more naked people or something.  No biggie.

Friday March 14th…we are flying out of the apartment and mentally praying that we’ll catch the 10 or 16 tram as we rush onto the platform.  It’s 5:25 a.m.  Within a few minutes the Number 10 saves our day, but we continue to hope for the same Metro luck.  We eventually arrive to the front steps of Hotel Diplomat where our bus is idling with tour guide standing aside, clocking us.

“Mr. Randonsky?”

“Yes”

“You are one minute late.”

I just was instantly reminded by the first day of boot camp.  We get on the bus where we are surrounded with plenty of weary red-eyed Czechs sizing us down, by our ONE minute of lateness.  Oddly there remained 4 seats available.  As we head back, I think, what the hell?  We aren’t the last ones, there are at least 2 others LATE.  We are immediately instructed to sit in the third seat from the back of the bus.  The moment we are seated the bus pulls out from dock.  We get our things situated, as Ivan our tour guide mumbles away a greeting mixed with thanking mostly everybody for their punctuality.  That angry thought is immediately rammed over by the immense alcohol cloud seeping into our area.  And like a thunder and lightning storm.  The thunder started with a pack of wild drunk 30 or 40 something year-olds, yelling in vacation fraternity spirit.  I turn on my iPod in hopes of drowning them out, but without the risk of blowing out an ear drum, I keep it at an elevated audible level.  This did not help.

I thought, well give it an hour and these guys will tire from all the guzzling.

6:30 a.m. we stop just outside of Prague where we pick up the last two skiers.

7 a.m. I become instantly religious as I pray that these guys will shut up!  I just want to get some shut eye in before we arrive to Austria.

8:10 a.m. Emergency bathroom stop.  Mind you, we do have a toilet aboard the noise capsule, but the insecure driver warned via Ivan, that we could not use the toilet since  it  freezes when we get up into the mountains.  This guy obviously was fishing for a lousy excuse so that the drunken passengers wouldn’t create a modern pee masterpiece.  In the end we all had to pay the consequences of bladder damage due to this driver’s mad science.  The drunkards fell out of the buss and lined up in parade stance, with unanimous golden arches crowning the highway shrubbery.

9 a.m. McDonald’s parking lot.  Last chance to stop for “cheap” Czech food before we crossed the boarder.  The frat brothers once again in full public view, now recrowned McDonald’s arches with their very own liquid ones.

10 a.m.  I seriously consider going to a mental facility not for those guys, but for me.  They are driving me crazy with their idiotic talk and constant screaming.  Ivan our lovely tour guide, did nothing, but in true guy spirit joined the drunk jamboree for some shots.

11 a.m.  AAAAHHHHHH!!  Are we there yet!!  Oh, thank goodness, Ivan just put in a film.

11:15 a.m.  I can’t hear a damn thing!  I contemplate if this is a version of noise torture and think that these guys would have been a perfect record for Waco, Texas.

I shut my eyes and turn up, NPR’s “This American Life”.

12:15 p.m.  Wow, NPR saved me through an hour.  I can always manage a loud voice over loud music.

12:30 p.m.  We pull over, bus trouble.  Golden liquid arch salute.  Apparently, some air discharge tube had gone awry, therefore we couldn’t continue on our journey.  The drunk men found random pieces of fabric and garbage bags from under the bus to help “fix” the bus.  It’s about 3o degrees out and these guys are walking around in just their jeans and sneakers to have the mechanic view from underneath the bus.  Ironically, with all the drinking in their lives they still fit under the bus, as on the contrary our driver would have been stuck under there for a while.  We all hiked back onto the bus and continued further.  The failing air tube continued to do just that which forced us to pull over again.  This happened about 3 times until we found a service station for buses.  We were given an hour before we’d need to meet up at the bus again.  Finally, some peace and quite, although a little chilly.

1:30 p.m. We were back on the road and back to the frat party.  All my hopes of them shutting up, stayed back at the bus service shop.

Another 45 minutes and we finally arrived to Hinterstoder ski resort of the Austrian Alps.  We all had paid for 1/2 day tickets, but due to the bus trouble we had the option to return the 1/2 day pass and wait around.  We decided to go for it.

2:10 p.m. Oh yay! We arrived a little early as we pull into the parking lot of Hinderstoder 5 minutes sooner.  I looked all around to see where the hotel was.  I wondered why everybody was getting off the bus so fast.  Then it became an instant changing party.  The young and the old all came together and miraculously in less them 5 minutes flat went from travel clothes, to bras and underwear and finally to ski garb.  I wonder if everybody trained for the Army in a former life.  I looked wearily at Marek and said,

“I guess this means that we aren’t going to the hotel first.”

Marek shock his head.

Great if I knew we’d have a changing party I would have come already prepared with sport bra already in place. I carefully maneuvered but frivolously took some time.  For the sake of not freeing the girls by accident, I bought a few extra minutes, by watching the bus load scurry up the steep stairs to the gondola.

The frat boy bonanza stayed in the parking lot, to do but none other, drink.

Geared up we finally arrived to the mid-ski lodge of Hinterstoder.  We adjusted the creaky rental boot and bindings until we decided it was time to straddle the T-bar.

We managed a few slow runs through the ungroomed wet ginormous Slushie.  The agreed upon time to meet at the bus was 4:30 p.m.

We arrived at 4:31 p.m.

“Late again Mr. Radonsky,” signed Ivan.

A short 5 minutes later we pulled up to our Pension (Bed and Breakfast).  As we pulled up we were instructed to be ready for dinner at 18:00.

Tired and hungry we battle slippery ice as we make way to the front door.  Immediately upon entering, Ivan unloaded a whole new set of instructions, “Take off your shoes here and put on your house shoes.”

I wish I knew how to say in Czech, Yes Drill Sergeant.

Marek was out of luck as he only had “outdoor’ shoes.  For his mistake he was given a pair elvish slippers.

“Mr. Radonsky you have room #3,” squeaked Ivan.

We trudged up the stairs and were pleasantly surprised by the room, however, we had no bathroom or shower.  We ended up sharing the WC and shower room with our neighbors.  At least they were a nice quite couple.  However, our room was at the base of the one and only creaky wooden staircase.

Our bed though had a few tattered thin blankets with no sheets.  We also noticed that there were no towels.  I’m thinking more now that we entered into a clean hostel.

We found Ivan playing traffic cop in the hallway, and found out that in order to get clean linens we need to dig through 3-hefty sized garbage bags in the mess hall.  We were still missing towels, so we split up, as i went to the 3 mountaineous sack and Marek went to bargain with the kitchen chef for some kitchen towels.

The linens were a smorgasbord of 80s print and patterns that K-Mart probably couldn’t even sell on a blue light special, but at least they smelled clean.

At 18:00 we entered the mess hall.  Immediately were were directed by Ivan to our assigned seats.   Here we seated with 4 others, who patiently waited for their Czech meal.  Yes, you heard right, a Czech meal.  I was surprised to find out that all staff were Czechs and center table was the drink and snack menu, priced in Czech crowns.

One poor woman was fluttering around the mess hall, collecting drink orders while in-between bringing out soups in tank like bowls, and cauldrons of goulash and noodles.  I really needed a beer.

We waited and waited and the one woman show never came to us.  We finally gave up and ordered right from the kitchen window.  Each couple, group or frat party got a slip of paper, where drinks were annotated and tick marked.

While clenching the cold Czech Pilsner in hand I look at Marek and say, “So I have to give it you, you surely gave me a fair warning.”

And this was just day one.

At some wee 0-h-my-God-it’s-early-hour a train wreck of people collided on the stairs.  Without second thought I dozed back to sleep.

The next day we found out that the drunk party of 8 become a party of 6, as two guys were arrested for damaging local property and they ended up staying the night in the slammer.  Karma baby!