Tuesday

Prague - At last.

Look, this is not going to be all about planes.. I promise.

The trip from Istanbul to Prague was uneventful - well, it was fun actually, Turkish Air pilots LOVE a banking manoeuvre - they really do, in spite of this there’s just one more thing I want to bring up. Not about Turkish air in particular, but air- travellers in general.

Why do most people stand or at least try to the second it becomes apparent that the plane isn’t actually going to skid haphazardly along the runway OR shoot of into oblivion? EVERY plane I get on seems to have a team of travellers on it that actually quite enjoy standing, getting their gear out of the upper lockers THEN continuing to stand for what may be up to 10 minutes before the doors open.

They’re obviously uncomfortable, given the strained and strangely put out look on their face. What’s more they aren’t saving themselves any time, in fact given some of the positions they get themselves into may COST them time. Most likely with Chiropractors and remedial therapists trying to sort their backs out while those that elected to sit for the arduous 7 minute taxi in to the arrivals gate, are out frolicking in whatever the town has to offer.

Can anyone enlighten me why?

It’s not as if they can get their cases any faster - I am usually last off the plane, and I have yet to walk to a baggage carousel that has even started disgorging the load of bags from my flight onto the belt.

The same people who 10 minutes earlier were doing their best to gain a part in the next stage play centred around Notre Dame and a bell tower, are of course all there before me, but just standing around, and rubbing their necks where they had been in close and solid contact with the overhead lockers.

Really people.

Breathe a little.

We sauntered up to the baggage carousel, last to arrive and waited with everyone else as our bags appeared from the dark reaches of the baggage bay.

From there it was a short wander to the front door, after first securing public transport tickets for ourselves, and half fare tickets for our packs.

As Karma was sorting herself out I unwrapped the hiking packs and inspected them for damage - there wasn’t any - and while praising the qualities of sandwich wrap (the substance I had tied the straps up with) I eased my pack on to my shoulders for the first time in what seemed like forever.

I love my pack, I like the feeling as it eases its weight on to my shoulders. The feeling as I carefully but forcefully pull the load straps tighter, making sure the tension is just right. Moving the hip supports so most of the weight is taken low down rather than dragging on my upper body.

I love it, truly. It’s a marvellous feeling.

Apart from the demonstrative aspect of the pack letting you know that it’s comfortable because you spent time getting it fitted to you, and the money it cost is paying dividends now. A full pack is a sure sign of going somewhere, of an impending adventure.

Karma lifted hers on, but didn’t fuss with load distribution. In fact she was about to head off toward our destination with barely any strap pulling at all. I expressed my concerns and that she was only asking for trouble by not performing the required adjustments.

She looked at me and sighed.

“The bus-stop we need is at the end of that parking zone across the road - it’s a 45 metre walk.”

She looked at me as if that was supposed to mean something.

We summit-ed the bus-stop about a minute after that conversation, and while she won’t admit it, I was far more comfortable in my pack that she in hers. A minute is a long time if you’re uncomfortable.

Our bus was waiting, and empty, which was handy as it meant that we could be the first to stuff our packs in the bag area next to where we would be standing.

I wanted to place my pack’s travel ticket in the pack in the hope that if challenged by a ticket inspector I could direct the attention to the pack itself. While the idea of a ticket inspector questioning a backpack filled me with some kind of warmth, the reality that I may just be asking for a fine and potentially a night in a Czech watch house meant that both tickets remained on my person. I don’t need a cell mate called Bubba if it can be avoided.

The bus was quite full by the time it set off, and I stared with interest at the signs over the pneumatic doors, and on the inside of the windows. There is familiarity about signs on public transport - even if not in English, and looking at them knowing what they mean tends to make one feel as if they can indeed read the local language. A talent that immediately disappears the moment you need to read anything important, like a hamburger menu - or clause 1 on the “you’re about to do something dangerous - if you agree to this and die it’s not our problem” form.

A sign I didn’t need to interpret as it was in straight up English, stated “Beware of pickpockets - Better safe than sorry” So I stood over our baggage like a mother lion over it’s blue canvassed strap riddled cub, while trying to maintain my footing.

First battle - pickpockets (0), Large bald Lioness-man (1)

After 20 minutes it was time to change modes of transport, which meant packs put back on, although this time I noticed that my travelling buddy spent some time doing the adjusting dance. On this leg we were to step into the Prague underground for a few stops.

Easy enough to work out and 300 metres plus 2 escalators later we were on our train. Still wearing our packs, as much to demonstrate that we were hard core pioneering travellers as any real need.

Hardcore travellers who were forced to stand in the disabled section due to the space pack wearers take up in trains. All hard core-ness would be DOOMED if someone needed to use the same space for more legitimate reasons…

LEG 3 off the train and onto the tram, for a really pleasant ride to our get off point which was in Prague proper.

I’d like to say at this juncture that the directions that our lodgings gave us were great. Couldn’t have been easier to follow up to this point. We staggered around a bit looking for the correct road to follow to our final destination, but ultimately found our way to the reception.

That was part way up an Everest steep hill.

Okay, ‘Everest steep’ is a fabrication, but as we powered up the hill, I got the feeling my pack had interests at the bottom of the hill, while my own interests were definitely further up.

‘The Castle Steps’ is a group of apartments on the castle side of the river (hence it’s name) and we found the reception for this fabulous place about half way up the hill, we stood at the door, pushed the perfectly polished brass door bell button and waited.

A perky voice spoke back through the speaker to let us know that she was on her way down.

The perky voice turned out to be Rosie, from the UK. Once it was established that we were indeed who we said we were Rosie pointed up the hill and said follow me.

Up the hill.

UP.

I put on a show of pioneering spirit up until Rosie admitted that she wasn’t particularly enamoured by the whole ‘up’ thing either. So, taking the slow and persistent attitude we made it to our room, which was just perfect.

Our lodgings for the first 2 nights were to be in a room on the 2nd floor of the park side of the building, while the rest of our time was to be an additional floor or two up and on the street side.

The room was beautiful, had a little balcony, and what was listed as a park was actually a valley of parkland on the other side of a convent. Gorgeous. Truly wonderful and more than we could have hoped for.

We "oooed" and "ahhhed" about the room, and began to unpack, then noises were made by my snoozy bride that suggested that she was making inroads to sleeping the afternoon away.

Apparently it’s a trait of the women in my wife’s family to desire to snooze wherever they end up.

Statements like “Oh, this place is wonderful” and “OOOh look at how lovely the town is” are often followed by murmurings of “Might lay down for half an hour” which invariable turns into an hour, and leaves us too late to do anything before having to think about dinner.

I stepped into the breach this time, and offering an excuse about my desire to find running tracks I managed to peel her off the bed, and out the door, not without Karma shooting some longing looks at the still made bed through the crack of the closing door...

…back out into the street.. We were off to the bridge and the old town…

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Andrew Webber is a writer, living in Abu Dhabi with his wife, two cats and two dogs.

His first book "Erasure" was published in June 2012 and was followed in 2013 by the Prequel to Erasure, "Broken".

In 2016 Erasure was a prize winner in the Montegrappa Writing Prize - part of the Emirates Airlines Festival of Literature.

For more information click the "Erasure" book cover on the left side of this site, or simply go to www.athwebber.com

Thanks for visiting.