Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Report from Prague

Charles Bridge, Prague
Watercolour and crayon
©2011 Charlene Brown

Over the next couple of months, I will be writing about our “European Grand Tour,” an almost totally unplanned excursion that took place over the same May-June period eleven years ago. The text (running longer than my usual 150 words) for the posts will be based on excerpts from emails we sent at the time. Some of the illustrations will be paintings from postcards I sent, and others, such as ‘Charles Bridge, Prague,’ will be recent paintings based on photos from our trip.
On May 1, 2000, the day after my husband retired from Emirates Airline, we arrived at the Dubai airport at 3 am for a 6 am departure. Suddenly we were tourists, so we took lots of pictures of the splendid new terminal (they’ve built two more since then), Abdulqader Al Rais murals, four-story palm trees made out of gold bricks, and other wonders of Arabia – and the next thing we knew we were at the Volvo factory in Gothenburg (time flies when you’re in shock) Sweden. We got a very complicated briefing on our new car – cruise control, diagnostics, locking, alarms, and some other stuff – and took it for a spin on their test track. A pretty careful spin, as I recall.
The next day, we crossed into Denmark at Helsingor, had a quick look at Hamlet’s castle – it was too cold for anything else – and headed south, crossing into Germany the following day on the ferry from Rodyhavn, where we found the menus printed in Danish, German, and Swedish and managed to order parsnip pie for dinner.  And it was really good!
We then took the scenic route via various computer repair places and the Harz Mountains to Meissen, where we found such a great hotel, with a huge biergarten overlooking this magnificent Medieval city, that we toyed with the idea of just staying there for the two months we’d allotted to this ‘driving into the sunset’ grand tour…
But then we proceeded to Prague, getting lost more than once (remember, this was in the dark days before GPS).  It helped a little, but only a little, when we finally found out that Umleitung (usually abbreviated to an enigmatic ‘U’) means ‘Detour.’ Our new car behaved beautifully, unlike the laptop from hell which we had purchased in order to be able to send emails throughout our trip (remember this was in the dark days before iPhones). Fortunately, one of the wonders of Prague turned out to be an Internet Café, where a lovely young man walked us through the Czech instructions for setting up a Hotmail account.