Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Sunday in Přeštice

After a leisurely breakfast at Štěpanka’s with the other overnight guests, it was time for us to hit the road so that I could visit friends in Přeštice, which is south of Plzeň while Úterý is somewhat north. It was a quick trip, although when I called ahead to give an estimate of my arrival time and said that I was near Bezdružice, I was told that that was very far and I should do my best to arrive. This seemed unduly pessimistic to me, and indeed we arrived in something like 45 minutes. My idea of far and other people’s idea of far do not always coincide even in the Bay Area, where I regard 45 minutes as about average to get anywhere that involves crossing the Bay or venturing south of Berkeley. But then, some people, even in the Bay Area, never leave their own neighborhoods unless forced.
Once in Přeštice, I was relieved to find that I immediately recognized the street and building we sought. This was especially welcome as I had not only forgotten my address book, but had forgotten to ask when I called from Úterý. I get very nervous conducting phone calls in Czech and generally sound like a complete idiot, especially when calling anyone I actually know but don’t often see. In any case, I said goodbye to Jesse and Amy, who planned to spend the day exploring Plzeň.
While the national holiday is one of World War II liberation, and thus massively celebrated in Plzeň, the reason for choosing this particular time to visit Přeštice was that the town was celebrating its 780th anniversary that week. Since 780 seemed like an odd choice of number, I inquired how often the anniversaries are celebrated, and learned that it is done about every ten years. Although I was, for some reason, incapable of locating the program online ahead of time, I see now that each day of the celebration had a special theme, so I am just lucky that majorettes were not the theme on Sunday (they had been the preceding Monday). Rather, Sunday was a historical day with costumed dancing and jousting. Hana and I spent most of the afternoon roaming the area looking at booths with pseudo-medieval items and profusely decorated gingerbread (always a staple of Czech fairs, and very enticing), and quite enjoyed watching the dancing and jousting. After all, it is not every day one gets to watch jousting, especially in a park surrounded by panelaky. Our view of the action was not ideal, but at least we were as close as anyone could possibly get.
Hana has been diligently studying English for the past several years, and as a retired language teacher she knows how to go about this sort of thing, but unfortunately she has no one to practice with in Přeštice. We have a system wherein she speaks English and I speak Czech, which works pretty well in terms of communication but less well in terms of improving her English, as she is better at speaking than at understanding the spoken language. I, on the other hand, have more experience listening and reading, but can employ a basic vocabulary with considerable success so long as I am not confronted with anything too complicated. An afternoon of this seemed like the ideal practice for both of us—not too long, not too tiring.
And this almost worked exactly according to plan. Hana informed me that there was a new bus service that goes directly to Prague, so we thought that I could easily take this back in the late afternoon and Jesse and Amy could return from Plzeň at their leisure without having to worry about picking me up. Shortly after 5:00 we headed for the bus stop.
Now, generally it can be said that if a bus is supposed to show up in the Czech Republic, it will do so, and pretty much on schedule. There are exceptions, but they are not the norm.
This bus did not show up. Hana admitted that it was not a ČSAD bus, but a privately operated bus. Well, these can be good, but they are less reliable. I examined the bus schedule and did not see any reference to such a bus, but it did look as though there ought to be a bus around 6:00. Hana felt we ought to wait until at least 6:00 for this bus, although I pointed out that I could simply ask my friends to pick me up as originally planned.
We waited. No bus of any sort arrived. Someone else waiting remarked that if there were not passengers for the private bus, it didn’t run. (I was unsure how this bus was supposed to find out whether there were passengers if it did not show up.) As it was getting cold, starting to sprinkle, and the fair booths were being dismantled, I announced that I was simply going to call and ask for a ride, and proceeded to do so. Regrettably, Jesse and Amy were not in a position to find the car and depart immediately, but all the same I supposed they would not be excessively delayed.
As Hana is a highly responsible and maternal person, she was not about to leave me sitting at the bus stop, even though I might have preferred this. (It must be stated that I probably would not have left a guest sitting at the bus stop either, unless I was convinced that they knew how to get around.) By this time we were tired, although neither of us was about to say so. We had been practicing our language skills for hours and said all sorts of things about our families, our daily lives, the anniversary festival, and various other topics. We were going a little brain dead. Words for mundane topics were going out of my head despite my having just used them. Hana was showing signs of that fatal affliction wherein one is thinking so hard about what to say that one cannot understand anything said even in one’s own language. We had had a lovely afternoon, it was over, and we were vastly relieved to see the blue rental car drive up considerably after I really expected it to. I collapsed into the car and began yawning profusely. But on the positive side, I had come up with a whole list of perfect gifts for Hana, like sheet music with fun English-language songs, and cassettes of spoken American English with accompanying written text. On the whole, it was a fine day.

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