Sunday, November 10, 2002

Semtex and Cesky Krumlov 2.0

The winter is upon us here in Prague. Today we had our first little bit of snow. It was a depressing, clumpy snow, mixed with rain. It didn't stick either, but I expect that we'll get some more encouraging snow soon. They say it's snowing heavily in the mountains now. It should make for a good Thanksgiving weekend in a cottage. We're going back to the same one our group went to last year, on the border with Poland. I'm already looking forward to going, and it's still a couple of weeks away.

That same week, there will be a NATO summit here in Prague. I would ask that everyone pray for Prague and the NATO summit, because I fully expect some sort of terrorist activity. If not terrorist activity specifically, there will definitely still be a great deal of demonstrating/rioting going on. President Bush, Vladimir Putin, Tony Blair, and world leaders from over 20 other countries will be gathered together in a building which I was just in last Tuesday to watch a performance of "Stomp!" There have been a large number of hand grenades (they estimate over 100) stolen from the Czech military, as well as the extremely effective Czech plastic explosive called Semtex (100 grams of which is quite enough to blow up a building). I don't know how much of that is missing. Needless to say, there is reason for concern. All schools will not be holding class during this event, and most students have planned trips out of the city. I will be in Prague on the first two days of the summit, but I will take care to stay away from dangerous areas, so don't worry about my safety. We're leaving for the cottage early Friday morning, which is the last day of the summit.

On a happier note, I was able to visit Cesky Krumlov again two weekends ago. I went there with Jonny, Randy, and Jon, while the rest of our group went to Krakow, Poland for the weekend. We stayed with the same elderly lady that I had stayed with last year. It was nice this time because I was able to speak a little bit of Czech with her, and I could actually understand everything she said to us. Last year, she said a lot, but I understood nothing. She lives in the old executioner's house on its own island just outside the town walls. The house was unharmed during the floods, but her garden was pretty heavily damaged. For the most part, the town wasn't in very bad shape. A lot of the restaurants that were right next to the river were shut down for the time being, including the excellent vegetarian restaurant which I had enjoyed eating at last year. That was disappointing, but I got over it. There are plenty of other good restaurants in Cesky Krumlov.

Anyway, most of the weekend was pretty uneventful. I took some more pictures of the town and of reflections in the river, but other than that we didn't do much. We wanted to take the bus back to Prague on Sunday evening, so we waited at the bus stop that evening from what we thought was 4:30 until what we thought was 5:20 when the bus was supposed to come. Well, it didn't show up at our expected time, and after waiting an extra ten minutes, we decided to walk up the hill to try to catch a train back to Prague. We got up there at about 5:50 or so, according to our watches. The train schedule said that the train was coming at 6:08 so we had made it just in time. Well, 6:08 came and went, but the train, and therefore we also, did not. We waited a few more minutes before asking another guy who was waiting there if he knew what the problem was with the train. He also had no idea why the train hadn't come. We waited for almost 30 minutes, and still no train. Finally the guy asked a conductor, who had appeared on the platform, what was going on. It turns out that this was the weekend of the time change, and we were conveniently uninformed of that fact. So instead of it being 6:30 or so, it was only 5:30 or so. So we waited another half hour for the train to arrive, and then we commenced our journey back to Prague.

We thought that was the last of our waiting, but alas, we were sorely mistaken. Normally the trip from Cesky Krumlov to Prague takes about 3 and a half hours by train. About two hours into the trip, the train stopped at a station called Jesitice and stayed there for what we thought was an inordinately long amount of time. Usually the train will stop for about a minute at each station. That's long enough for those who want to get off to get off, and for those who want to get on to get on. Well, the train stopped there for longer than that. After about 15 minutes, the four of us noticed that the train had not moved for a while. We thought that was a little odd. Well, 15 minutes turned into 30 minutes, and we began to be slightly concerned. At that point, I got out my 750 page book about Albert Einstein, which I had been reading for the past year and a half (reading off and on, due to having other books I deemed more important to finish, not due to the book being boring in any way). I still had 100 pages to read.

Well, 100 pages and several hours later, the train still had not moved. We were baffled as to the reason for this delay; no one ever came through the train to explain the stoppage. We were supposed to have been in Prague around 10:00 PM, but it was already around 2:00 AM and the train still showed no signs of movement. I'll fast-forward through the next few hours of uncomfortable attempts to fall asleep in the various vertical and semi-horizontal sitting positions that I went through while tring to find one that was conducive to sleep. I finally drifted into a semi-conscious, half-sleep state somewhere between 4:00 and 5:00 AM. My brief, albeit pleasant, coma was rudely disrupted at about 7:00 when the train finally began moving again. I tried to shake off the disruption and lapse back into my comatose state, but alas again, I could not.

We were told later that the reason the train stopped was probably because of heavy winds that night. I'm assuming that they stopped all rail traffic due to winds in excess of 60 miles per hour. It would have been nice to have known that while waiting 9 hours for the train to begin moving again.


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