I’ve been travelling about quite a bit recently and just spent a very lovely weekend in Krakow with my parents. I suggested Krakow under the mistaken belief that you could fly there directly from Prague. You can’t. Travelling the relative short distance to Krakow actually involves changing flights in Warsaw, which makes the total 1 hour flight time far less convenient as it involves something like a 12 hour stopover. Helpful.
I suppose we could have driven, but I am allergic to driving. Really. I’m not a fan. I like journeys that let me sit back and relax, have a good nap and a bad coffee in a little plastic cup and read a trashy magazine. My experience of long-distance driving variously involves getting lost, being stressed and tired and paying a fortune in petrol. I fail to see the upside.
I know plenty of people (in London and Prague, two cities where common sense definitely says that city centre driving should be avoided at all costs) who are surgically attached to their cars. I know one group of girls who, when I said that I didn’t own a car as I lived in central London, looked at me with such pity that I may as well have said I was homeless. Each to their own of course, but I think people who voluntarily drive in or between busy cities are borderline lunatics.
Anyway, a lack of airplane coupled with a strong reluctance to drive meant that the sleeper train was the only option and so off I trotted to book some tickets. I received plenty of ‘warnings’ about the sleeper train – mainly from people who I think may never have actually used it and expected it to be full of ex-Soviet soldiers or something. All the same, by the time I got to the main station on Thursday evening I was slightly dubious and had armed myself with a rape alarm and a wooden doorstop to deter intruders, as well as a bottle of wine and some ear plugs. Happily, the journey was lovely and intruder-free. Cabins were basic but clean and cosy, and breakfast (in the form of those pre-packed croissants that should taste foul but are surprisingly delicious) was provided with the friendly-ish wake up call.
However, even though you can pay extra for a private two-berth cabin (and I recommend you do), you still have no control over your neighbours. On the way back from Krakow we spent thirty minutes listening to the irritating complaints of the American woman in the next cabin talking about how she was ‘forced’ to come to Prague as her daughter had just moved there and that she had no idea how she would ‘survive’ Europe. It took great restraint not to tell her that this was probably not the best way to make friends.
In other travel news, a couple of weeks ago I purchased my first Opencard, which is the Czech answer to Oyster card. This should make me feel like a proper local apart from the fact that my linguistic shortcomings meant I needed to enlist the help of both my friend and my secretary before I actually got the application process right. Hey-ho.
Anyway, I bought a year’s season ticket for the princely sum of about 167 sterling. On the basis that this is almost what I paid per month in London, for a transport system that all but shuts down at weekends, I thought this was pretty reasonable, even though I recently promised that I would walk to work most mornings…
Some car-obsessed expats (and locals) in Prague tend not to use the metro or tram system very much but I love it. A morning’s commute, as well as being reliable and all of 12 minutes door-to-desk, allows plenty of opportunities to observe some of Prague’s more peculiar residents. In the past week these have included: a woman dressed only in a swimming costume, a one-armed man who snatched my book out of my hand so he could read it, and a man who took his false teeth out and started cleaning them with his newspaper. I love commuting.