The Aresan Clan is published four times a week (Tue, Wed, Fri, Sun). You can see what's been written so far collected here. All posts will be posted under the Aresan Clan label. For summaries of the events so far, visit here. See my previous serial Vampire Wares collected here.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Exeter to Prague

When I was a Junior in college I took a year abroad studying at Exeter University in England. One of the nice things about going there, was they had a very long and generous spring break, lasting five weeks and falling between the end of the Lent Term (Spring term) and the finals term (which lasted four weeks and was called Trinity Term). Like many other of my American peers, I decided to use the break as an opportunity to travel Europe. Unlike them, though, I adopted a strategy of visiting only a few cities and spending relatively long periods of time in each. I ultimately visited four cities and spent about a week in each.

The first on my list was Prague, and I figured that I would circle around and come back to Paris, where I would finish. For this reason, I decided to buy roundtrip bus tickets to Paris. This was a long ride: I departed Exeter in the morning, around like 10 am, and arrived in London in the early evening, then I rode all night on the bus to Paris, crossing the channel on a ferry. When I finally arrived in Paris it was about 6 am the next day, and I tried to navigate the Paris metro to find my way to a train station where I could catch a train to Prague, the Gare du Nord. I got a ticket for the first train to Prague. What I didn't realize was that this train literally took all day and would deposit me in Prague about 16 hours later at almost midnight. I had a small breakfast at the train station, boarded the train, and then was on the train for a very long time. I assumed I would arrive some time in the arrive, but as the trip grew longer, I realized I had a sinking feeling that I wouldn't arrive until very late.

At one point, late at night, somewhere in the middle of the Czech Republic I thought I saw a sign that indicated that it was my stop and rushed to get off the train. the conductor, a large, surly Czech woman saw me and yelled at me something in Czech and I tried to explain to her what stop I was looking for. She knew it wasn't my stop, since she'd checked my ticket and literally grabbed me and pulled me back on the train as it pulled away. As I walked back to my seat, she openly complained about me in Czech and walked away, and I cried because I was tired and overwhelmed.

When I finally arrived at the last stop in downtown Prague. It was almost midnight and the station was closing. I had been expecting to be able to find info and help finding a place to stay; in fact, there were usually people from various hostels trying to lure you to stay with them. But, at this hour, everything was closed, and security was pushing everyone towards the exits so they could lock up the train station. I checked my guidebook, but my options were limited, since a number of places they listed were a bit too far to walk and required use of public transportation. I had trouble navigating with what maps I had, and asked at a hotel if they knew of any nearby hostels. They said they knew of one near the Old Town Square, but didn't know exactly where. They gave me directions to Old Town Square, down the large and lively Wenceslas Square and through a few side streets to the Square.

When I got there, I started circling around the area in search of any sign of a hostel. I came very close to one, Tyn Hostel, a few blocks east of the Old Town Square, but it was blocked by a huge film crew which had set up on one of the streets to film a movie. They had huge lights flooding the street and they were filling it with artificial fog. Though there was no filming going on at the moment, I didn't want to breach the set.

Finally, I gave up on this hostel and sought out another hostel from my guidebook called Roxy's. It was a bit further away, but within walking distance. Unfortunately, when I arrived there, now well past 1 am, they were completely filled up. I again asked them if they knew of any hostels nearby. They gave me directions to the hostel I had missed, the Tyn hostel. I followed their directions, which weren't too complex, but as I approached where it was supposed to be, I again ran into the film set. Again, I shyly slunk away and tried to find my way around the street they were filming on. After wending my way through the narrow, winding streets, I ended up at the main entrance of the Tyn church where they were filming an interview with an American woman, which I figured was in some way connected to the film crew I'd passed by. I rested there for a few minutes and watched.

Finally, after wandering around ad nauseam, I realized that the only way I could get to the hostel was by crossing the film set. I approached the film set, and timidly asked one of the crew if I could pass through to get to a hostel. He said ok, then made an announcement over some loudspeaker, and I passed through.

As I walked down the streets under the bright lights, I finally saw the sign for the hostel just around the corner. The hostel was in a little courtyard off to the side of the street. I pounded on the door to the hostel hoping they'd have a bed, but no one answered. I pounded on the door again and again, but still no response. At this point, I really didn't want to go back out across the film set, and I didn't know where else to look for a place to stay. I decided that I would just sit in a hidden corner of the courtyard and get a few hours sleep until morning when things opened up again.

But I couldn't get to sleep, despite that I was very tired. I simply couldn't relax. I was on the street, vulnerable, outside. I had my arms stretched out over my bags and everything pulled against me, but I was worried about getting robbed or discovered. I decided to try once more on the door. This time when I knocked on the door, I saw someone peak out of a window. The door was opened and I asked if they had any space. The man there first said they didn't, but then he changed his mind and let me in. I got to the room, which was shared with three other people, all soundly asleep. I could finally drop my bags, which I'd been carrying for hours now. I then practically collapsed into bed and finally slept the full sleep I hadn't had for some 40 hours by then.

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