Monday, June 20, 2005

Have a Nice Life

June 8
Mom wanted to do the backpacking thing, she even worried I’d be disappointed if we got stuck in nice hotels instead of ratty hostels. She thought it would be great to share the backpacker experience with me. She seemed quite convinced of it until we got to a hostel. “I’m too old to share a bathroom,” she decided and we went and checked into the obscenely priced hotel.

When we took the bus from Prague to Cresky Krumlov it turned out they were having their annual Rose Festival, which involves half the town dressing in Medieval garb and the entire town drinking liters of Eggenberg beer. The only place we could find where we wouldn’t have to share a bathroom was way up the hill at the edge of town.

Yesterday night we were way down in the middle of town and it was getting dark. It was 10pm but it was still finishing getting dark, the way it does in June when you’re this far north. We had followed the music to Hostel 99, which is tucked around a cobblestone corner next to one of the bridges that lead over to the King Arthur-looking central town. The hostel is a bar too and we got our half liters of Eggenberg and listened to the Czech band playing their American-sounding songs and tapped our feet on the cobblestones. It was a lovely place, with the music and a bunch of backpackers and a bunch of older people allowing the mother of a somewhat old backpacker to feel at home.

After a while one of the tables opened up and we sat down across from a couple of Czech girls who had taken the bus from Cresky Budejovice (home of the real Budweiser) for the festival. They spoke enough English to convey their preference for metal and hard-core music (that was the brunette sitting on the left) and their observation that I must not like cigarette smoke (the blonde on the right). Mom went to get some beers and came back with Marta, a Spanish girl we’d seen on the bus who was eating dinner alone inside by the bar. Marta is living in Prague, and though she loves the city she’s finding to her surprise that it’s not a great place to learn English.

Mom tried to buy everyone dinner or at least a beer but they declined. It was Marta who ultimately bought us a beer once we didn’t need one. She was happy to have someone to talk to now that her friends have moved back to Spain and she’s traveling alone for the first time. It was her first night in a hostel dorm.

The Czech girls finally got up to leave. We had talked about America and the Czech Republic and music and speaking English and speaking Czech. We had a few beers and we were friends now. “Have a nice life,” mom said, a bit melodramatically, I thought. “Yes, have a nice night,” one of the Czech girls said. I told mom that if I wished everyone a nice life who I knew I would never see again I would be doing it quite often.

When we finished Marta’s unnecessary gift it was time to go home. She took my e-mail and promised to send recommendations for my trip to Spain. We went out towards the bridge and readied for the walk up the hill to our room with it’s own bathroom.

When you stop into a hostel and ask to look at a room, you’ll follow the dingy hallway down to a small box with a couple narrow beds and decide it’s worthwhile to shell out for the obscenely priced hotel. But some night when a Czech band is playing in the courtyard and the long tables are full with backpackers trading stories about their hometowns, you’ll understand what the rooms with their own bathrooms lack. “I’m sad now,” mom said. “I wish we had stayed at the Hostel 99.”

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