September 14, 2006


As the train rolls through the Czech Republic countryside, I'm reminded of home. The fields and streams we pass by could be nearly anywhere in the US. THe only difference is the stark architecture and lack of upkeep on buildings we pass. It's as though once built, no one ever took any initiative to keep them in like new condition. Ohe huge exception is the train station and buildings that surround it in Hohenau. There is no graffiti here whatsoever. NONE. I haven't seen a train station in Europe that isn't virtually tagged over in multi color riots of civil disobedience. The walls don't appear to be freshly painted, but rather that the residents of Honehau take great pride in their city and it's first impression.

Earlier, I saw forests of tall thin evergreen style trees with only green at the very top. Bordering the edge of the forest were giant Birch trees. A beautiful contrast of white and black over brown and green. I wanted to go walking in them and hear the birds chirp and the rustle of other creatures in the underbrush. And then I was gone at a 160 KPH.

As we pull into the station at Prague, I'm one of the last off the train. A mistake. It's past 8 pm and dark. The smell of gunpowder and it's smoke fill the air. THe gray mist of smoke lingers over the silent concrete. The few passengers remaining hurry towards the stairwells leading to the exits. A dirty man with thin creepy eyes watches me hurry past. Into the lower level, I follow the signs to the exit where I hope there will be a taxi.

There is and I hire the driver to take me to the hotel. He shows me on paper how much and I know I'm being gouged already. Price agreed, my bag goes in the boot and we are off careening into the cityscape. Gone are the Mercedes taxies and smooth driving of the Vienna cabs. I wonder if I'd insult the driver by putting on a seatbelt.

He jabbers into the phone in an incomprehensible language into a cell phone and for the first time in a very long time, I experience a surge of fear. We are outside the normal looking city and we cruise by a video store hawking sex videos. The denizens of this area look very capable of slitting my throat and leaving me on the side of the road as they stroll off with my bit of luggage.

I ease the lock on my side of the car into the down position should one of them desire to try at me. I wonder not so nicely if the driver is going to abandon me in the middle of nowhere with a set of thugs to strip of my cash and credit cards.

Eventually, the buildings appear a little nicer and I see two women crossing a street together. Evidently a better neighborhood. I breath a huge sigh of relief when I see the neon lights shining the name of my hotel. A tiny grail found.


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