Monday, April 10, 2006

A Day for Recovery

I was having flashbacks to Costa Rica. Hung over and reeking of booze, off on a 3 hour bus ride into a small town in the hills. Mercifully, a country that broke free of Communism only 17 years ago is far more advanced than the most prosperous country in Central America, and instead of a rickety old school bus climbing unpaved roads, I was treated to a remarkably comfortable - dare I say luxurious - coach with ergonomic seats, ventilation, and music from the driver's iPod shuffled throughout the ride.

The weather started turning to shit, and I could feel the bus splashing through inches of water on the motorway. Looking out at the river alongside the road, I could see some of the more minor effects of the recent flooding in central Europe. Some areas had submerged parks, some bridges were practically touching the river. Knowing this wasn't the worst of it, I wondered how people in other, more flooded areas were doing. The whole region's been on high alert for flooding this week, but until I headed down south, I didn't really have any idea of the potential havok the heavy rains could wreak.

Arrival in Cesky Krumlov was easy. I got off at the bus station and crossed the small bridge into the medieval town, with the Hostel 99 just around the corner. I felt oddly like I was in the movie Hostel, most likely because Cesky Krumlov had filled in for Slovakia in it. In fact, when I got to my nice, comfortable room, I found that the view out the window featured the smokestack that figures prominently in the film. Was I going to get tortured and killed?

I walked into town - past the Museum of Torture, by the way - and noticed it was absolutely dead. I know barely anything is open in Europe on Sundays, but this was beyond anything I'd seen. Other than a handful of tourists walking around and snapping photos, it was practially a ghost town. The serenity and solitude were perfect for an afternoon of recovery, as I meandered about the rolling cobblestone streets and winding loop of the Vltava river that so define the town.

The place is magically beautiful. The skyline is dominated by the tower at St. Vitus' church and the pink and gold Renaissance tower of the castle, and there's color around ever corner, whether it's the plethora of red rooftops or the pastel colored facades of the medieval buildings. This place has pretty much looked like this since the 14th Century, and it's amazing how much of it is intact to this day.

Meeting my new roomies at the hostel was an experience. I walked into the room and saw two dreadlocked girls sitting on their beds, and immediately, the Eric Cartman in me came out and I scowled, thinking, dirty hippies, hoping it didn't slip out loud. My kneejerk thoughts of a room filled with patchouli and Dave Matthews Band or Phish melted away when Janelle and Ashley, introduced themselves and were actually very sweet and funny. Further fears disappeared when we started talking about music and they have nary a note of hippie tunes on their iPod. These travellin' teens were sporting Nine Inch Nails and Deftones. Maybe the new generation isn't lost, after all.

We decided to go out to dinner together. I felt kind of weird walking about town with two youngin's, and felt even weirder when, upon ordering drinks, Janelle revealed that she's only 17. Backpacking makes me feel young and reckless, but experiences like these make me feel like an old fart. Oh well. They were very entertaining and we had fun trying to order authentic - no, really! - Mexican food at the Hacienda de Mexico, one of the few open places around. Believe it or not, my fajitas were up to par, the Sangria was about right, and my albondigas soup just about perfect. All for a few bucks.

Hoping to go out and get smashed, we walked by bar after bar and found them to be empty or occupied by old farts. Older than me, even. This town is seriously sleepy. We ended up hanging out and chatting instead, getting to bed early. Something I desperately needed to do. After some reading and internet time. But before saying goodnight, Ashley warned me that Janelle makes odd sounds while she sleeps, as though "she's getting ass-fucked". Right, whatever. Those crazy teenagers.

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