Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Little by Little, my first day in Prague.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014. 14:00.
Hostel common room. Empty. Sunny outside.

Dear Aleksandra,
In keeping with the tradition introduced last summer, I will tell you of my adventures in diary-entry format.

My first day in Prague was not pleasant. Czech people are very reserved and have no apparent sense of humour... taking my cheekiness for rudeness. This type of cultural mistranslation I expected, but it was lame to experience all the same.

I checked into the hostel, took a shower and went out to see Eva's flat [ Eva being a person whom I had contacted the week before regarding the rent of a room ]. The flat was surprisingly close to downtown and not too difficult to find - though maps are impossible to follow in a city where there is not a single straight street to be found anywhere!

Eva was nice, but the flat not so much so. The room was old and dusty. There was no living/dining room and the kitchen was quite small. Still, I would have considered it for the convenience of its location and immediacy, except for that Eva was asking for 10,000 Ck deposit on top of the 7,600 monthly to move in. I told her I would think about it, because whipping out 17,600 CK would leave me with very little to live with until I can secure an income.

I took a lonely walk along the riverside worrying about money, rent and work. As I smoked my cigarette, I was haunted by feelings of regret, fear and existentialism.

When I got to the old town square I was starving so I bought myself a bratwurst from a stand. I tell you, Spanish food does not hold a candle to Czech food. Czech food is fucking delicious - the mere scent of it is mouth-watering. The lady there then tried to cheat me from my change. I knew that she would, because I had done my homework and learned that this is what they do to tourists regularly. When she saw me counting the coins suspiciously, she thought better of it and gave me the rest of my change (20 Ck.). Bitch.

Old Town square was full of titi bar peddlers, tour guide hustlers and pickpockets. I did not enjoy it because it felt like a field of tourist traps and, even though I do not consider myself a tourist, not speaking a word of Czech pretty much made me one.

I walked into a random bar for a pilsner beer. This was a local's pub where no one spoke any English. The most awkward transaction followed where I asked the lady behind the counter for a beer, she gave me a receipt for 42 Cz, I handed her a 200 Ck note and she gave me 358 Ck change. I tried to tell her that she gave me too much change - which was weird, since I was prepared to haggle over being short changed, not over changed. The woman said I had given her a 500 note, which still would not have made sense mathematically. I insisted in giving her the 200 note back but she only accepted the 100 one - presumably as a tip. So basically, I was paid 58 Ck to drink a beer at that bar. Sweet.

I returned to the hostel in low spirits, checked my emails, found no replies to my work applications or flat rentals. I then balanced my funds and decided to go for Eva's flat. Unfortunately, Eva replied saying that she had decided for another applicant with whom she had met the day before. Whatever.

Everything was coming to shit quite quickly, so I decided to do what I do best: meet, charm, learn and explore.

I started with the girl at the reception - because talking to girls is always fun. Her name was Hanna and she was incredibly cool and helpful. After confirming some of my views about Prague and providing me with additional resident's information, she directed me to a hole-in-the-wall pub round the corner where I would find English speakers, weed and a piano... My kinda place.

I found the pub after wondering round the streets for a little bit - god damn it is easy to get lost in a city with nothing but crooked streets! I met a friendly dude at the door - Marcus, from Serbia, who spoke good English and guided me inside the pub. He showed me the piano and then took me to the girl with the weed. I prized him with a pint of Pilsner which, at 35 Ck, was a give away. (US$ 1.62, or EU 1.2).

So we ended up outside the pub with a couple and a group of Germans, smoking weed and drinking pints... Right across from a Police Station! Gotta love Europe.

We went back inside and started jamming at one and then another of the three pianos available. They were all fucked one way or another, and barely playable. Anyhoo, I ended at the smokers patio jamming at the piano there with this German/Czech dude playing guitar and this girl singing. People were loving it and clapping between songs. After a while we ran out of beer, so I decided to go around with my hat in my hand asking for beer money for the band. I got enough Korunas to buy three pints and still had some change! Ha!

So we partied until they kicked us out, sometime round three.

I had forgotten what it was like sleeping in a hostel... people walking in and out in the middle of the night, boys and girls in their small clothes - myself included - and random travellers making out in the hallway. It was hilarious. It was rejuvenating.

I woke up the next day for the hostel breakfast. It was awesome. They eat whole grain bread here in Czech (a concept seemingly unknown in Spain), and their sausages (and I am assuming that these must be the cheaper ones) were delicious. So where the eggs, and the cheese, and the pancakes, and the coffee. No, I tell you, Aleksandra, food in Czech is fucking amazing.

Thereafter I browsed the internet looking for a flat and a job, sent a few applications and then chilled for a bit.

I then talked to Brent, whom I had chatted with briefly during breakfast earlier. I had then overheard him talking with the manager about a new employment arrangement. Brent is a painter from Canada who will be redoing some of the artwork along the walls. He referred me to a guy who will be performing a marionette show here later this evening - Jill, who is from Brazil. Jill is teaching Portuguese and some other language, so I will ask him, once I meet him, if he knows of any teaching opportunities.
It was then that I noticed that there was a piano at the common room. Indeed, Marcus had told me the night before that in Prague there are pianos everywhere. So I decided to try it and, to my surprise, it was perfectly tuned and had an incredibly responsive mechanism. Playing it was a delight.

So after playing for an hour or so, and receiving the praise of the guests lounging round the room, I decided to go to the reception and meet the manager. His name is Jacob and he is super cool. I offered him a deal along the lines of playing for his breakfast crowd in the morning in exchange for accommodation. He was open to the idea so we will give it a try tomorrow at 9am. So there you go, all things willing, I will have my accommodation accounted for during the upcoming week(s) by playing breakfast piano.

Little by little, Aleksandra, little by little. 

-Georg Freese

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