|My visit to Prague revolved around Vltava River.|
Besides a mildly absurd meeting with Pavel and Vendula, who live in California and with whom we did not see each other for three years since our move to Wyoming — until we noticed that we would happen to be in Prague during the same week — most of my social activity centered around international camps. Actually, this whole summer represented for me a strange return into the time thirty years ago, which had then given my life a new direction and dimension. I know Vicky from a camp in Prague of summer '91 — and even after all those years we keep in touch and visit each other. Thanks to Vicky, I had then turned up in England, learned the language and traveled the island kingdom during my weekends with LWMNTV (and subsequently visited Brazil with her). During these camps, I met Pepe (same rule applies like with Vicky — we stay in touch and keep visiting), I met rock climbers and became one (which led to vacations in Thailand, Australia and Romania — and to countless trips to Germany and Italy), I dragged Honza, my friend from children's summer camps, into that group. And that's only a fraction of people from my colorful young age.
|Basilica of St. Peter and St. Paul.|
Given the summer weather, a portion of these meetings took place outdoors — thus either at restaurant patios, or along Vltava River, which had impressed me a lot this year — in particular, its right bank from Modřany to Vyšehrad. A bike trail along the river with trees and grass and view to the stream has no flaw — especially being enhanced with stands and kiosks with refreshments — where they made a Turkish coffee for me. I must be old and unfashionable, but all those miniature, expensive and strong (= bitter) cappuccinos irritate me. I want a beautifully smelling, LARGE coffee, which won't strip the skin off my tongue and which I can enjoy over time with more than two gulps.
But back to River Vltava — Pepe and I spent one day at Yellow Bath — talking while sitting on grass or a park bench, with occasional trips to the stand for some refreshments, and it was ideal. I even climbed into the river, but I have to say, it was a fight for survival. I could swim in the lake at Vicky's; in the river I felt like getting a heart attack. When I subsequently noticed a dead fish floating around, I reckoned I had had enough, cowardly returned to the shore and enjoyed the river from a distance for the rest of my stay. The closest I got to Vltava afterwards, was aboard a ferry.
|Inside the basilica.|
|Rower's Island is an oasis in the middle of the city.|
I was departing by train to Munich on Sunday, and had a Monday flight connection to Denver. I admit that for a long while I played with the thought to go directly to the airport on Monday, but Vicky and Holger did quite seriously talk me out of it. After recent experience with Deutsche Bahn a Czech Railways, I was eventually very glad I had surrendered, took the Sunday ticket, and therefore had a one-day margin.
After a relatively unexciting vacation in Prague, the moment I boarded a train had awakened my internal Calamity Jane. While still in Prague, a whole Indian family attempted to evict me from my chosen seat, claiming they had place tickets. It eventually turned out they had place tickets not only for a different car, but more importantly for a different train. I would enjoy subsequent comfort of a modern train car only until it reached Plzeň — there, a sign inside the car suddenly announced that this particular section did not continue to Munich — and I had thought that splitting trains was a purely German specialty! I had to move and find a spot in another car — unfortunately all of them were old Czech cars with 8-seat compartments that I despise. But I improved my situation regarding my fellow passengers, who all spoke English and UNDERSTOOD German, which proved important during later phases of this journey. By then I did not know this, and my greatest worry was trying to complete my flight pre-boarding over train-provided WiFi, as that option opened 24 hours ahead of my flight. I found no free window seat, and picked the second best option — aisle.
|Rowing competition finish line was at the ferry.|
|Calamity Jane in action — we have stopped again.|
After crossing the border to Germany, we were again rewarded by discontinuation of all announcements in any other "foreign" (i.e. non-German) languages (whilst in Czechia, they were in Czech, German and English), and we lost our friendly conductor, so by Schwandorf I fully appreciated my fellow passengers, for it became clear that my car would not continue to Munich. I was to switch again — and look for a seat in cars where attendance had already thickened. After we lingered in the station for about half an hour, a rapid indistinct announcement sounded, and a portion of passengers got up and started running down the platform. Among the deserters, I spotted a guy from my original car — I must have looked frightened, for he managed to holler at me, in the middle of his breaking a world record in 100 yard sprint whilst pulling a heavy luggage, that I should stay in the car and that he travels only to Regensburg and can change to a local connection.
|Maintained palace park.|
|Even the horses had luxurious stables.|
The tiny rest of the evening proceeded very pleasantly — being chauffeured all the way to the house and served hot dinner, I truly could not complain. Only Shade the cat decided to ignore me. During my first visit, he tried to enter my (originally Nico's) bedroom at night. I figured that if I open the door for him, he would discover I WAS NOT Nico and leave. On my way to bathroom in the morning I noticed a weird overflow in my luggage — closer scrutiny revealed that Shade made his bed there. His hospitality was moving — he had apparently concluded that I was surely homesick after our cats — and all the cat hair on my clothes.
During my second visit he probably realized that I was to get back together with my own hair sources, and would not need his care — and he stayed away.
In the morning I demanded a vacation program — we would spend the morning in the park of Palace Schleissheim — we would get there on bikes. Such thing is purely exotic for me — Wyoming's bike-riding is a high-power sport due to weather (strong wind and cold); we live on a county road frequented by crude oil tankers, thus getting in their way would be a health hazard. We also lack palace gardens, maintained for decades or centuries. We have awesome nature, whose magic consists mostly of being NOT maintained.
Our bike trip was fine, only I began to realize how specific are muscles utilized for pedaling and riding — as they began to ache. All the while we were being briskly bypassed by senior lady citizens, and we also spotted a lady who had a cart with FOUR children attached to her bike, and who still did not look even half as worn out as I did. Vicky saved my self-esteem — she pointed out that both senior citizens and the mighty quad-mother, were using electric bicycles. Uff.
|It started raining only when I was leaving.|
|Family lured me to go mushroom-hunting.|
The train was two minutes late, and I eventually caught it easily, despite having to march across half of the platform to reach the portion of the train that is destined to the airport and not Freising. Another round with a dysfunctional boarding pass awaited me at the airport — I bought my ticket from Lufthansa, thus I stood in line there, just to be told that I needed to go to United. There was no line there, so it went quickly in the end. Security checkers were again completely befuddled by my food, but it did not surprise me anymore.
Calamity Jane had been actually satisfied — my traveling complications proceeded according to plan, including the plane being delayed. As I was dawdling on a bench at the gate, watching how they load some airplane, I noticed a strange occurrence — there was a light spot under the plane. I had to get up and make sure that my eyes were not fooling me — indeed, it was raining heavily outside. I had not encountered rain for the duration of my stay in Europe, and it started just in time of my departure, when I was already safe and dry inside the innards of the airport.
Announcements kept assuring us that our departure was delayed, but our planned arrival in Denver would be on time — and after a while, even boarding started happening. Another pleasant surprise came — middle seat of our three-seater remained empty. I was lucky and had a nice and helpful attendant. When I picked "chicken" instead of "pasta" for dinner, I did not expect that the bird would be accompanied by some noodles. The attendant promised to figure something out — and after a while, she brought me food most likely from the business class — salads and fruit and shrimp. I did not have the heart to tell her that I don't eat shrimp, and enjoyed the salads and fruits, adding a variety of potato chips and chocolate from my own supplies. It may not be the most healthy diet, but I would have probably got sick from that chicken in mushroom sauce and noodles.
|It's fall already in Wyoming.|
|Bonnie finally became a properly registered purebred goat.|
Perhaps you think that after trouble with Deutsche Bahn and Czech Railways, next time I would leave out traveling by train, and choose a plane connection for my trip to Prague, but I still think that going by train is better. When I know that after ten claustrophobic hours in an airplane, I would get OUT and there's neither hassle with limited oxygen supply, nor desperate dependence on sparse drink and food delivery, I cope much better. A stopover in Munich with walks outdoors and staying at friend's place in a real bed, became a pleasant interruption of my journey, and an opportunity to gather new strength for the next leg. And I also got to see something new (Munich). On my future trip, I am sure to gladly opt for this alternative — assuming, of course, that I manage again to pack a minimalist luggage so that I'd be able to sprint with it along my next railroad platform...
Now that I was finally back home, I arrived from a hot summer in the middle of a pleasant fall. Sid promised a mushroom-hunting trip, to a spot where Tom and he found a pile of birch and orange boletes. I worried whether it was getting too cold for them, as nightly temperatures approached freezing — but we still found a few mushrooms. For me, the walk in the woods among beautifully colorful trees was much more essential.
Fall also means that I must get used to being home alone — both juniors flew out to their apartment at the university and live their own lives. Fortunately I don't have much time pondering my new life as an empty-nester — there are my goaties, chickens and cats. They give me enough to do. I must figure out how to arrange outdoor access for the cats without us freezing in our house. Throughout summer we could keep a window open in the basement, but with the winter approaching and cold nights already here, it's stopped to be quite practical.
|The cats don't seem to have missed me — they had Lisa.|
|My gardening triumph is best appreciated by migrating monarchs.|
Well, and then I'm occasionally busy with details and diversions such as having a job, and doing the fall work on our property — harvesting feeble leftovers of my agricultural efforts (most were decimated by a July hailstorm), wondering about tomatoes (one bush put on blossoms and formed fruits in September), and planning next — hopefully better — system of plots and raised beds. I would also like to somehow finally finish re-cultivation of our prairie that was ruined five years ago alongside the house construction, and use my overabundance of compost and wildflower seeds to beautify the area in front of the house. Before the sale, its original owner probably had a simple lawn carpet put on top of the construction dirt, without adding any soil. Despite my efforts, the lawn died within a year, now presenting a carpet of dry grass that prevents anything else from growing through. In a spot where I dug away the carpet, put in compost and started a plot of wild flowers, gaillardia, California poppies, flax, centaurea, various bells and small blossoms thrive, many of which I don't even know — now in fall they became the place where various butterflies hang out — including monarchs, who made a stop in our miniature garden on their long way from Canada to Texas.
I have to admit that under the load of fall works and worries, I actually look forward to winter. To the time when I shall drag buckets of warm water out from our house to my goaties and chickens, and shall be bound to buy and supply hay and grains and feed — but I won't feel every waking minute that I may have missed out on some more work. And I will perhaps have time for skis and the quiet of a snow-covered forest.