8:30am. Meet up with Linda to head to the train station. Linda is my South African next door neighbor who also teaches at this school. We head downstairs, turn off the alarm, unlock the door, walk down the street —-THERE’S THE TRAM! RUN! Run halfway down the block, race around cars to cross the first street, quickly look left as we race across the other street, race into the tram. If you miss the tram, you have to wait. A long time.
At the station, we buy our tickets for the train - we’ll have to switch trains in Beroun. Linda buys some rolls and then we head out to the platform to wait for the train. We’re talking and then all of a sudden, these two police officers come up behind us and just stand there. Immediately Linda hisses to me, do you have your passport? No…should I? I hope not. I just wish those two guys would go away. I’ve seen them hassle people before. I usually stop talking when they’re around so they don’t know I’m not Czech. And so we stand in silence until the train arrives and we race onto it.
We got a German train, so it was really nice - riding trains in Czech is way more relaxed than in China. You don’t have to find an exact compartment or seat, you can just hop on a grab any open seat. And so we ride along to Beroun, race off the train, attempt to find where our other train is (thank you nice railway worker! At this point, Linda was convinced that I was good luck because she has never met a nice railway worker before. That, and we were about to jump onto our second German train.) Ride a couple stops and hop out at Karlstejn where we start walking in what we hope is the direction of the castle. There are signs here and there, and we walk along. It’s after we cross the river that we seriously wonder if we’re going in the right direction. We can’t see a castle anywhere. Soon, we see parking signs and signs for an Info Center, so we walk to that to make sure we don’t have to buy tickets down here. We do not want to walk all the way up to the Castle only to find out that we have to buy tickets down at the base. There would have been tears. And a refusal to walk. And probably paying someone to go buy me a ticket. Or something. Anyway, no tickets can be purchased down here, so we start walking through the little tourist village below. No castle. No castle. No castle. No castle. No castle.
Finally! A glimpse of the castle…and then we realized just how far up we were going to have to climb….
Our tour guide had rather entertaining intonation when he spoke. It was incredibly hard to understand him. He would say something and then three sentences later I would finally figure out what exactly he was talking about. He was also a bit of a spaz. There were tour groups on either side of us, so we would have to wait to move on or have the following tour group come into our room. Each time this happened, he would freak out and either start making up things to say or talk really fast to get us to move on. Linda and I were cracking up by the end.
Karlstejn is said to be the best castle to visit - it is the largest in CZ too. Linda was impressed because the castle actually had furniture in it and wasn’t completely empty like castles usually are.
After the castle, Linda and I tried to go see this display of nativities, but we couldn’t really figure out if we were trying to go in the wrong door or if they were gone to lunch. So, we went to lunch: wild boar for Linda and some trout for me. When the fish was delivered in fish form, Linda went, “OH! I forgot to tell you! Did you know that the fish was going to come that way?” Me: “Yeah. I kinda assumed it would.” Linda: “Phew, ok. Because the last time I was with some Americans that ordered fish, they were less than pleased to see a fish head on their plate.” Me: “Yeah…I think it’s an American thing to not be given the entire fish. I don’t know. This is how I’ve had it in Malawi and China, so I just figured, Czech, probably the same way.”
After lunch, we went back to the nativity exhibit. Walk on in, and then get yelled at. Apparently, even though all the signage out in front of the building says that there is no exhibition fee, it actually costs 45Kc. As we had already walked in and started looking around, it wasn’t like we could, go, oh, no thank you and leave. Let me just tell you, there are many, many creepy nativities out there. The best part had to be when we walked upstairs and it was completely dark.
Linda and I laughed about this for quite a while, allowing our eyes to adjust a bit, but Linda was determined to get the lights turned on because after all, we had paid 45Kc to see this exhibit! We wanted to see it all. We went downstairs and another lady that had also been upstairs in the dark, asked the woman to turn them on. We race back upstairs. BOOMING voice comes over the loudspeaker. Still no lights. Finally, this huge nativity springs to life.
Not bad. Guess it was worth 45Kc. We look at the time and see that we have 20 minutes to get to the train station to make the train, or we will have to wait for an hour. We book it to the station and arrive with plenty of time. Again, cool thing about trains here, you just buy the ticket in one direction and you can come back at any time. So relaxed. So unstressful. So amazing.
We’re pretty sure that we actually ended up on the exact same train, in the exact same car from Karlstejn to Beroun that we had been in on the way to Karlstejn. I went and looked out the window that I had been sitting by before, and I recognized the film that was covering the window. We transferred quick in Beroun and then napped a bit on the way back to Plzen.
Once we were back in Plzen we stopped at Tesco’s to get stuff to make pizzas; we ended up with quite the concoction: chicken, olives, peppers, pineapple, mozzarella (a VERY large chunk of it), tomatoes, pita breads. Mmmm.
Back at the apartment, Linda and I each put in a load of wash, made our pizzas and then watched Superstar! Quite a funny movie. Afterwards, I went to check on my load of wash… I can’t get the door open. So, I go get Linda and see if she can get it open. Nope. Of course not. We turn off the machine, unplug it and wait for the door to unlock. Linda keeps trying to open it when all of a sudden it just comes open and water pours out everywhere! We grab the things on the floor and try to keep them from getting wet. I grab the mop bucket and put it under the waterfall that is coming out of the washer. Linda and I look at each other and go……..what are we going to do?! I head into the kitchen to get a pot large enough to put my soaking wet clothes into and take over to Linda’s to go through her washer. I scoop out one item of clothing at a time, wring them out into the bucket and toss them into the pot. Finally, the clothes are all out, but the machine is still half full of water. I go get a 2 cup measuring cup and start scooping out water. Two mop buckets later, the machine is almost empty. There’s still a little bit of water left in it, but I can’t get it scooped up. We mop up the floor and then just kinda leave it as it is. And from now on, I will be carting my wash down to the basement or using Linda’s machine.