It was refreshing driving to Prague from Berlin. Air travel is like being boxed, wrapped and squeezed into a cylinder that cannons you to your destination, but driving the four hours really gave me time to chill, adjust and take stock. There wasn’t the stress of the cattle call. I used to travel from Sydney to Brisbane a lot during a tough stage in my life, and I always found that when I decided to drive instead of fly I’d arrive far more balanced and relaxed. The unfamiliar landscape rolling by out the window was therapeutic and gave me a chance to remould.
Prague is stunning, it’s postcard Europe. I dragged my gear up cobblestone streets, passed ancient moss tinged churches and over rivers dotted with white swans. It’s an age away from the packed, raging streets of Manhattan. It’s been good to just sit on the street and enjoy not understanding the conversations happening around me – it’s been a solace.
And always, just when I’d had enough of my own head, some friendly inquisitive Czech, or tourist, or camera enthusiast, or *paper-bagger would stop and ask what it is I’m doing, and just like pulp-fiction I’d have a single serving friend. Sometimes I’d take their photo if they were really memorable, sometimes I’d get their Instagram, but most of the time we’d just chat for a while and they’d move on.
At one stage I was waiting for day to turn to night opposite the Dancing House. As the most beautiful red sun burned orange behind the sandstone buildings the temperature dropped with it. I was fresh off a plane from sunny Berlin and was wearing Havaianas. Rookie. I found a haphazardly packed sock in the front of my camera bag, and had another one housing my GoPro. As I was slippingthe odd pair onto my freezing feet I heard this wicked cackling laugh over my shoulder. I looked up into a haggard bearded face. The wrinkles that linked the corners of his eyes with the corners of his mouth danced as he barked Czech at me and pointed to my feet. In one hand he had a bottle in a brown bag, and in the other a trolley bag with what seemed like all his belongings.
‘I’m sorry, English.’ Is all I could say through my bewilderment.
He managed, ‘You… Feet… Cold.’ And then he laughed at me, thick and heartily.
I smiled at him, ‘Yep, freezing as a…’
He interrupted and pointed to his bare feet, ‘My feet, Heat.’ And then he laughed again and turned around to leave.
I smiled and adjusted my cap on my head.
He turned back around and mumbled in Czech as he fished for an English word, ‘weak, weak… weak.’ He finally declared in unison with his gesturing hand, more proud of himself that he’d figured out how to explain himself than insulting.
Before I had time to answer he released his grip on the trolley and knuckled me endearingly on the shoulder, ‘Soon my feet, your feet. Same.’
And then he left.
Favourite single serving friend yet
*Brown-bagger is anyone who’s drunk (Usually carrying a bottle in a brown bag – usually homeless)