May 19

Woke up in the wee hours and set off for the early morning net cafe so I could catch up a bit with B back home.   Getting there, I found it didn’t open for another hour.  Frustrated, I tried using a payphone, but it smelled heavily of urine and ate all my Kuronas.  This nearly made my 3rd Europe cry but I refused to give in.  There are times when you push and push and it’s futile, but neccessary.  Going back to the hostel, I messaged B of my tardiness and set back to the net cafe for its 8 o clock opening.  The internet teller there was a bit of a snipey character and the cafe charged by the tooth, but I got my skype call in!  By now I’d also decided that instead of going to Munich, I needed to go to Vienna.  Feeling all sorted, I even made it back to the hostel in time for the breakfast and the good spirits were renewed.

Booked a hostel and my bus to Austria.  AH appeared, he’d been on a strange journey the night before as well, being led on a wild goose chase by his couchsurfing contact and eventually taking a taxi back to the hostel at some am hour.   By now he had his next stages planned, and we said our goodbyes as he took off out the door to find a festival in Germany.  I’m wondering if we exchanged or were influenced by eachother’s energies, as before Prague I was in Germany and he was in Vienna.  But by now Munich didn’t feel right and getting there was proving difficult.  There are some things you should listen to, for whatever reason.  I took some time to draw.

It was a rainy day, so motivation wasn’t high for rambles.  I went to the Old Town and checked out the Alphonse Mucha museum.  This was fascinating to see as it explained his process in so many ways!  His extremely precise figuration, the decorative motifs… it came thusly:  for the figures, he worked from photographs  of models he clothed and posed in exotic and romantic ways.  Elements such as the circle with a thick border that encloses many of his figures came from his studies of Art Nouveau dishware – picture a plate of porcelain, edged in gold!  And furniture became stylistic silhouettes, buttons were headpieces.. all the everyday elements that were in fashion in objects at the time became the source of his decorative style.

I was going to return North to the market and find some of that incense, and set about looking for a Metro.  Following a tide of pedestrians who I thought were leading me there, I soon found I was in fact by the meeting place AH and N had arranged the day before to meet and busk at.  Knowing plans had drifted, and feeling like a dry place to rest my soaked feet at, I followed my nose to the nearby Lebanese joint.  Having a tea, I completed some drawings I had begun there earlier.  Soon I was joined by N and a friend of his.  He also thought he might find me and or AH there.  It was good to see him again before leaving.  We sat and talked awhile.  Growing hungry and low on Crowns, I left and found a nearby market and made myself some rice back at the hostel.  Then I had a nap and came here to catch up on the blog!  My intent is to get an early night from here to prepare for tomorrows travels.

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May 18

In the morning, I had breakfast and sat down to check the old email inbox.  Soon I was joined by AH and we had a little jam in the hostel front room.  I think someone filmed me playing Cripple Creek, it was a funny moment.  Soon we broke for the town and were called to the hills.  Across the river, I saw we were close to the Lennon wall and brought AH to see it.  He hugged the big peace sign painted on it, and we sat against the wall and played Wagon Wheel again.  The sun was out a bit and little leaves sprinkled out of the sky.

Climbing the streets, AH had a hankering for fresh juice and we happened upon a cozy cafe offering just that.  Enjoying a lemonade with fresh ginger grated in it, I purused the interesting selection of books they had.  There was much by a children’s book illustrator, and a book of poems had a handwritten message that we found quite moving and a good description of the moment/any moment.

“Stepping onto the train, I’m part of the train.
Stepping into the park, I’m part of the park.
Looking up, I see a bird.
A part of the sky is flying away.”  Lucien 2010

It was our intent by now to picnic in the forest above the city, and we searched for inexpensive food which proved to be a futile quest.  Giving up, we beelined for the trees and at the last possible moment found a sign pointing to a food place by a hospital – here was a hidden quick store where we picked up sandwiches.  Luck was with us!

Finding a good spot in the grass overlooking the city, we chilled for awhile and played more music.  Old songs came back to me and I tried to dredge the lyrics from my memory.  It was a bit of a chilly day, so the ideal didn’t last long and the compunction to busk overtook us.  Walking back to tourist central AH found a spot to busk, but I didn’t feel it was right.  He said that we could change the energy there, and I thought that sounded fine so we set up under the Charles Bridge.  On the second song, a fellow stopped to listen then gave us some coins.  Upon introductions, I noticed his name was Lucien and that he looked an awful lot like the picture of the poet from the book in the cafe earlier.  “Do you write poems?” I asked.  It was him!

So we went for coffee with our new friend L and talked about this and that. He invited us to a park with him to meet his friends.  L had a sense of humour, we got there and found an array of peacocks strutting about.

Eventually he had to move on with his day, so AH and I went back to town and looked for a likely dinner location.  Finding nothing that was right, we returned to the lebanese restaurant / tea house / hookah bar from the night before.  When we arrived, we saw N was already there.  He had a feeling we were in the mountains and decided to wait for us where we were sure to show up next.  I was glad to run into him again.

Later we set off for the hostel again, and landed in a net cafe.  By now I needed some self time, and to figure out the next stage of my journey.  N departed, and AH decided to go find a couchsurfing arrangement.  Logging onto Skype, I found my old roomie L-Plex online and we had a good talk!  Soon the cafe closed and I wandered the streets, trying to find a different net cafe which would open at an earlier time in the morning.  Prague isn’t like Berlin, with its 24hr service on every corner.  Getting to bed late, I tossed and turned and had a heck of a time trying to sleep.  It was cold and I sneaked an extra blanket off an empty bed, and soon after withdrew to slumber.

May 17

Synchronicity has been running strong in Prague.

Feeling a little directionless, I aimed my aimlessness towards the old town and rambled its labyrinthine cobbles.  Headed North for the giant Metronome on the hill.  This metronome was once where a 50 meter tall  statue of Stalin stood watch over Prague, in the 60’s the monumental marble figure was demolished by way of explosives and dynamite..

Sat in the park there and thought about music and missed the old geet box.  Walked a few metres heading for a local market, and heard strums of sound resonating in wood.. idling a moment to hear what the fellow was playing, I soon picked out the familiar riffs of Wagon Wheel (a favourite of mine), feeling no reservation, I strode over and joined the guitarist once he hit the chorus.  “Rock me mama like the wind and the rain, rock me mama like a southbound train.”  This is how I met AH, a traveller from Virginia, and an old familiar soul.  It’s funny how some perfect strangers feel like long-time friends.  We took off for the market and chatted about this or that.

The market was a bit of a stale and sterile environment.  Not the lively affair I’ve grown used to in Berlin.  We sat down and enjoyed some Chinese fast food and I ate tofu for the first time in a month or so.  Oh how I missed it!  As we sat there, I was astounded when the strains of a particular song appeared on the speakers filling the air… It was a cover of The Last Unicorn (I didn’t realize it was so big in Europe…)!  I could only laugh at the strange chances.

After that, AH found himself a harmonica and some incense (I was right back on Commercial Drive), and I found a bakery filled with amazing delights.  Walking back to the park, we enjoyed the greenery then headed back to town.  In the city centre, we continued singing and playing music as we went, and AH handed random people gifts of burning incense and possibly lilac flowers.

Down one street we saw a couple who were at the market earlier, with nods of recognition, they accepted the offered incense and we all introduced ourselves.  They were travelling from France and also staying at the Advantage Hostel, and the fellow took up the guitar and played us a song.  Soon we were all sitting on the sidewalk in the middle of the tourist centre of Prague, jamming to French reggae amidst the smoke of incense and maryjane!  We were soon joined by a another friendly soul from Bulgaria, N..  The couple from France soon departed after telling us of a couple good spots to find food and atmosphere.

Our new trio wandered in search of a hooka bar that AH had googled earlier, only to eventually find it didn’t exist, so we went instead to one the French couple had recommended.  There we had some hummus and played some more music, read poems, drew, and exchanged gifts we’d either found or created during our journeys.  We were soon rejoined by the French couple.  It turns out the fellow is a bus driver who also plays in a band, and the woman is an illustrator who just wrote and drew her own children’s novel and is searching for a publisher.  Very kind and interesting folks!  We stayed late, then all went to the hostel where AH also checked in.  We made plans to meet N on the next day.

May 16

Woke up and enjoyed the hostel breakfast.  The typical buffet of bread and cheese, cereal, and coffee.  Admittedly I pocketed some for lunch.  Chatted with a girl from my dorm who is travelling Europe this month on her own before heading back to Japan; it was nice to connect with another solo traveller.

Started the day by taking the tram out to Prague Castle, the largest castle of the world.  My delicious student discount fixed me up with a half price on the full unguided tour ticket.  This included such things as the St. George Basilica, built in the 900’s and a marvel in architecture of its time.

The highlight of this visit was the St.Vitus Cathedral, a massive Gothic monument founded in the 1300’s.   I saved it until the end of the tour, and as I stepped through its doors my heart quickened – upon viewing the length of its interior, from high vaulted ceiling to stained glass covered apse, I began crying from the sheer beauty of it.  I have a thing for cathedrals and this was the mightiest I’ve seen yet.

Outside, I explored the castle grounds awhile, and enjoyed the aromatic blooming trees planted in the gardens.  From there I went to the high tourist area of town and Nerudova Street, with its quaint cobbled streets and air of nostalgia.  Walked up the hills of Kinsky Garden to a mini eiffel tower, the Petrin Lookout Tower, which affords a great view of the city.  300 spiraling stairs later, I was at the top, buffeted by gusty winds and long-range sights.  I gazed at my favourite cathedral from the distance… Making my way back to touristville, I found the John Lennon wall, continually bedecked by pacifists and dreamers in colour and graffiti since the 80’s.   Slogans of peace, Beatles lyrics, and criticisms of the government form its content. ¨The Lennon Wall represented not only a memorial to John Lennon and his ideas for peace, but also a monument to free speech and the non-violent rebellion of Czech youth against the (1980’s Communist) regime.

Crossing the Vltava River back into the Old Quarter, I ran across a small international contemporary art fair called ART PRAGUE and checked it out. It was mostly stuff from commercial galleries in Prague, with some from Berlin and Amsterdam and such as well.  By the time I returned to my neighbourhood I was pretty fatigued by all the rambling, and settled in at a net cafe for a bit.  Afterwards, I wandered over to Praha 3 (Prague is set up in 10 districts) which is a more working class, alternative district.  Saw a great sunset through the trees in a park on a rise.  Rounding about, I came back to the old district and the Jewish Quarter (another big tourist area).  Caught a busker who was playing violin and singing opera.  She was elderly and leaning against a wheelchair, wearing a long dark coat.  She sang Ave Maria.

Stopped at a restaurant to try some Czech food, I’d heard grilled cheese is a big menu feature so ordered that, a pivo (beer)  and a traditional salad.  The cheese was edam, and came breaded and fried in a hockey puck shape… crispy on the outside, gooey in the center…

Back at the hostel, I was chatting with the attendant and he offered to share some Swedish beer, so I stayed up and we talked awhile.  They work 24hr shifts at the hostle, which I thought was pretty intense.  Eventually though the situation became awkward so I excused myself and went to  sleep!

May 14

Check out of Baxpax and into 13 Rooms, a hostel with a little more warmth (as in character, as in… it wasn’t like a prison)!  It was in my mind to maybe go to Prague, as many people were recommending it to visit, and were saying it’s the most beautiful city in the world.  At the moment I was feeling like Berlin wasn’t the right place to be, either.  The sky was grey and it was raining and my mood was off.  A strange displaced and morose feeling that was lasting for days.  So I looked into this rideshare service called Mitfahrgelegenheit which people use in Germany.  It’s very safe and an economic way to get around!  The next day I found a ride, 600km South through Dresden to Prague, for only 20Eur.   That night I packed and wrote down some useful Czech phrases.

May 15

Packed up my stuff from the hostel, made my porridge breakfast, and headed down to meet up with my rideshare.  The gathering point was handily in Neukolln, just down from my old place on Friedelstrasse.  At 11 the red van pulled up, and out hopped a rocker with bleached out hair and tight pants.  The back of the van had a logo about being a rock star and some such things.  We then headed out and picked up a trio of girls, the drivers girlfriend, and a musician.  Us travellers were in the back of the van, and a purple leopard print blanket hung over the driver & passenger seats creating a curtain between us and them.  In the back, us strangers soon began laughing at finding ourselves in such an interesting situation, and we chatted intermittedly and with more friendly vigour as the hours passed.  One girl lived in Prague and was working on a grant application for an art gallery she is part of as we drove.  The other two girls were from Berlin and were just starting a film documentary on Poker.  The musician was living in Berlin, had lived in Prague previously, and was returning to play a concert that night.

One of the girls was reading the same book as I, Faulkner’s “The Sound and the Fury.”  It really felt like a ride that was meant to be!  The trip took 4 or 5 hours and passed remarkably smoothly.  Once in Prague they dropped me off at the main train depot, which was just a few blocks from my hostel.  Wandering around on my way over, I took in the amazing beauty of Prague.  It’s a very fancy city!  Old, pristine architecture decorated in the Art Nouveau style proliferate the streets…

Checking in at the hostel, I then wandered to the old center and found a Tesco and got my groceries for dinner.  Returned to my place of stay and after dinner, set off again.  Apparently the thing to do is cross the Charles Bridge at night and view the enormous Prague castle all lit up… On the way I decided to stop at a bar and try Czech beer, which many accounts say is the best in the world.  I searched and searched for a bar that seemed like my type, and found an uncannily accurate match!  It was a sleepy sort of place that looked like it would double as a cute cafe in the morning.  Manned by a single person, and room for maybe 20 people at the most.  The thing that topped it off though, was the radio inside which was tuned to a station playing old country classics by Johnny Cash, Patsy Cline, etc.  I almost walked out because I could have been at home, nevermind sitting in a random bar in the Czech Republik!

After a sleeve, I marched down to the bridge and took in that night view.

May 13

Woke and had a cold shower as the hot water in the hostel was broken.  Normally I only dare a coldie in the thickest summer heat, so this was an unpleasant morning adventure.  To make it better, I pretended I was in the mountains back home, with not but a glacial river to bathe in.  It worked!  Put on my damp clothes (hadn´t dried overnight) and warmed up with a tea.  Soon I found myself making arrangements with my new Macedonian friends to meet for coffee.  Funny what close quarters and perserverence can do!

At the hostel cafe, we sat and I drew up some business cards and they told me more of Macedonia.  They are part of the WWOOFing organization there, which is pretty cool.  It sounds like a lovely country and they assured me there is a wide variety of salads suitable for veggies.  What a couple of characters!

We then parted ways and booked into new hostels.  Apparently this is a big holiday weekend, so people had made many advance reservations (whereas I hadn´t…) and finding hostels with free beds was becoming tricky!

From the Baxpax Kreuzberg, I headed out to find picture frames for my drawings.  Soon I realized the holiday today meant all the stores were closed… Heading to G and K´s, I racked my brain on how I could display my pictures at the opening tonight.  After some interal dialoguing, I decided to make a book and set to work.  This took up the next few hours.

When finished, I had to leave and take care of some business.  Found a hostel for tomorrow night, changed, grabbed champagne, then headed back to the shop for the opening.  I was a little late and people were all ready there, M. made delicious Spanish omlette on bread which I clung to like a bee on a flower.  But the shop was amazing, I was blown away by how it looked!  Very bright and modern..