Archive for July, 2004

Going on Holiday – Czech Style

Ahoj

I constantly have to stop myself and count my blessings that I live in this beautiful city. It does however have two small annoying features. One is the tendency of waiters to take away your beer when you still have a good inch of beer left in your glass, and the other is an annoying lack of ocean.

The second problem is a little more easily solved than the first. Last weekend was a long weekend here and so some friends said “Lets go to the beach”. That sounds like a wonderful idea until you remember that the nearest beach is over 1,000 km away.

“No problem” they say, “we'll drive”.

So there we were on Wednesday night at 10.00 pm setting off for Croatia in a car loaded to the gunwales with people, towels, sunglasses, clothes etc and all the normal beach holiday accessories. In addition, we took enough groceries and beer to last a week. “Groceries are very expensive in Croatia, and they don't have proper beer”.

We also had an A4 map of Europe (it's in the front of the Czech Road Atlas) with which to navigate. Actually navigation turned out to be not too much of a big problem as we simply followed the seemingly endless line of other Czech cars headed in the same direction. Picture driving through Vienna at 130 kph at 4.00 am in a convoy of Skodas all riding low on the suspension, some with rubber dinghies on the roof. When the people in the front turned left, then so did we :).

Other amusing moments on the trip were comments like “These Croatian drivers are all crazy”. I nearly bit off my tongue in an effort to hold back various comments about black pots and kettles which kept springing to mind. It was also fascinating to see the bemused expressions on the faces of the guards on the Austrian, Slovenian and Croatian boarders as they waved us though. One of the borders (I don't remember which) even had a sign saying “Czech Cars – Do not stop”. I can't decide if they couldn't cope with the volume, or just thought we weren't worth the effort. This was good news for me as I am running severely low on passport real estate, and the potential for up to 12 stamps was not something I was looking forward to.

On the drive though the Croatian mountains some 14 hours later we were still in a convoy, but by now going much slower. This was partly due to the poor roads, but more to do with driver fatigue after 14 hours non-stop behind the wheel.

We eventually arrived in a small village near Omis which was an equally fascinating experience. Every single car on the roads seemed to be Czech and the hotel we were staying at were very excited to see me. They had only ever had one English speaking guest before, and that was three years ago. Without exception every other guest was Czech, which meant that communication was no problem. People were also insistent that it is quite possible to talk to the Croatians in Czech, and that they would understand. I think that's a slightly bold claim, but it did sometimes seem to work – sort of!

This area of Croatia seems to have become the Czech Version of Majorca. There were Czechs everywhere, Czech restaurants (why?!), signs in Czech, etc.

We had a lovely relaxing time on beach, floating around on lilos, swimming in beautifully clear water, basking in 35° sunshine, drinking red wine on the beach, watching sunsets etc.

Until of course it inevitably became time to turn around and drive back.

Anyway, so now I'm back at home, looking forward to a relaxing month before I set of to circumnavigate Switzerland on rollerblades next month.

We're now two months into the EU, and surprisingly there have been a few noticeable changes already. Not dramatic, but noticeable;

  • Prices have increased by on average about 5% :(
  • There has been a rush on the little blue CZ stickers that everyone has happy attached to their number plates.
  • I no longer need a Visa to go to Poland :) , but
  • I am in the process of renewing my Visa, and it has suddenly become much more difficult, seemingly on the grounds that NZ is not a member of the EU. The procedure is still the same, but the co-operation level has dropped noticeably. It seems to be even more difficult for the Americans. It took on American friend five attempts before they would finally accept his renewal form! Hanging around in queues at the foreign police is so much fun :(
  • We're apparently going to be issued with ID Cards – which will mean that it will no longer be a legal requirement to carry your passport everywhere (not that anyone actually does) :)
  • We now have two more Metro Stations on the red line – Thanks Trevor :)
  • My local shop has stopped selling eggs by the half dozen, and now only sells cartons of 10
  • I now have a grey hair (I'm not sure it's fair to blame the EU for this, but I'm going to anyway) :(

On a similar note there was a tornado in Olomouc the other day. A friend's neighbour said to her “well it may be true that you didn't like everything that we communists did, and that not everything was perfect, but look what you've got now instead; American Tornados!” He was apparently being serious :)

Have a wonderful July wherever you are

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