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Czech it out, yo.

February 27, 2009
By Asmodeane in Posts, Travel

So I’m back. I’ve been back a while, four days, no less. It’s been a fairly nice few days. I’ve been busy playing Silent Hunter 4, trying to get through David Lynch’s terrifyingly awful extended edition of Dune, and idling on IRC. Oh, and enjoying frequent and vigorous bowel movements interspersed with an occasional bit of vomiting. I guess that’s the price you have to pay for eating greasy things stuffed with fat and fried in lard, with a topping of mayo and salt. Blog was far from my mind, as it usually is. But now that things are starting to be forgotten, I think it’s finally time grab myself by the neck and write an update.

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Leaving Helsinki behind.

Leaving Helsinki behind.

Yeah. So how did it all begin? It began with a trip to Slovakia in 2008. We gathered up some friends and booked a week long trip through Blitztours. We loved it, even though Ruzomberok, the town we stayed in, was kinda dull and limited in terms of cultural and entertainment value. The trip was successful largely due to the novelty of experience and the male camradierie, I guess. So we decided to book a trip with the same tour operator for the following year as well, except this time to the Czech Republic. And that’s when things started going wrong. Even though nine people originally promised to come along, most dropped out along the way. One didn’t cancel at all, but stood us up at the ferry terminal, for which he became a target for general scorn and derision. Come February this year there we were, only 4 of us, me and my girlfriend included, standing at the ferry terminal awaiting departure with a forlorn look in our red rimmed eyes. We who were nine, were now only four.

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There he is, the motherfucker...

There he is, the motherfucker..!

So we crossed the sea of gray on a slow and shitty ferry full of slow and shitty people and came to Estonia, where we boarded a fast yellow bus full of shitty people and streaked through the shitty Baltic states and even shittier Poland on our way to the glorious Czech Republic. See, that sentence took about 12 seconds to write, and it compressed about 25 hours of suffering into a neat and tidy package. They say hell is other people. And all it takes is a long bus trip to truly apreciate that saying. There is also a Russian saying that goes something like “Insolence is the second happiness” (наглость - второе счастье) which describes the situation fairly clearly. There were a couple of undesirable elements on the bus that made the trip an infuriating experience by their boorishness and complete disregard for the other passengers, first and foremost a young(ish) couple, the guy a bartender named Kimi something with a moronic little braided beard and the chick Tea or something like that, bloated and red from all the booze she consumed. Fuck they were loud. Jesus christ. And never, not even for a moment, sober. Thank god for ear plugs, but a good taser would have been so much better. There were other antagonists on the bus, but those two were the worst. They were worse than fucking “Matti & Mervi“. My finnish readers will understand the reference.

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The crash...

The crash...

The trip went fine, stops were fairly frequent, scrabble was played on my PDA, Frank Herbert’s Dune was read, beer was slowly consumed and the toilet successfully clogged. We were quietly watching Simpsons on the bus’s TV when suddenly the bus screeched to an abrupt stop. Something was amiss. Our drunk zombies started wobbling up from their seats, intrigued and confused. It appeared that we came to a scene of a bad accident that had happened barely minutes before. Some moron was trying to overtake other cars and plowed right into an oncoming vehicle. One of the cars was burning, dirty yellow flames flickering on our dirty windshield. And that’s when things started happening. Our lovely bus alcoholic and entertainer Kimi mumbled something incoherent, rolled out of his seat, belched, and started loudly demanding to be let out, banging on the door. The driver complied. Kimi tumbled out and made a beeline for the crashed cars. Alarmed, me and my friends decided to follow. And right behind us, out tumbled a completely pissed middle aged woman, and promptly rolled into a ditch beside the bus. Winos to the rescue, indeed… The picture we were presented with was grim. The overtaker’s car was burning, and some drivers from the cars that stopped to help were running around and trying to put the flames out with their tiny extinguishers. They appeared to have succeded at one point, and we came nearer to see what could be done, when the flames suddenly flared up again, and that with all the extinguishers used up..! The drivers nearest to the burning car prudently put the pedal to the metal and raced to safety, plowing debris aside. We also put some distance between us and the burning car, fearing that it would explode in a spectacular Hollywood fashion. But it didn’t. Somebody dug up a spare extinguisher from somewhere and, risking life and limb, reduced the flames to billowing smoke. As I came nearer, I noticed that the driver of the burned car was lolling sideways in his seat, with his head hanging down dripping blood, held in place by his seatbelt, long flowing white hair that had miraculously escaped burning hanging limp. I am still unsure whether it was male or female… The engine was driven inside the salon by the force of impact. The driver was very, very obviously dead. There were some other unidetifiable remains in the car, but I decided not to look to closely. Meanwhile our piss-drunk “friend” has taken it on himself to rescue the driver of the other car. That guy was jammed in tight, and showed no sign of life for the first few minutes, but then started this heart-rending, pain-filled moaning. He was obviously in serious pain, and looked to be badly mangled. But alas, the doors were jammed tight, and besides, what could we have done were we to pry them open? You shouldn’t move victims that might have broken necks and spines before the paramedics arrive, that much is repeated in every first aid training scenario. And that guy looked unable to lift his head. But our heroic Kimi persevered. He smashed out the back window and climbed in, despite our protests that it was a stupid move, since the other car could flame up again, and so, theoretically, could this one. We implored him not to move or touch the fellow, and he thankfully appeared to understand. So he started shouting encouragement in drunken Finnish, which was not a particularly bad idea, but might have been better coming from someone speaking a language spoken by the victim and not reeking of a distillery. To make the matters worse, his drunk girlfriend stumbled along and started shouting at Kimi to get out of the car, and got it into her drunk head that he was stuck there as well and was in peril. It was an embarrassing pandemonium, the drivers of other cars looking at the pair of clowns with badly concealed anger and contempt. There was nothing more we could do, so we dragged the morons away from the cars and carried on driving. Oh, and remember the drunk middle-aged bitch that fell out of the bus and tumbled into the roadside ditch? Well, she stumbled to the back of the bus a bit later and accused us of “belittling her efforts at saving life”. What a piece of drunk shit! We just told her to get the fuck away from us. Needless to say, the rest of the bus trip was, at least by comparison, uneventful.

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Our bus in front of our hotel.

Our yellow bus in front of our hotel.

Early in the following day we arrived in Vrchlabi. The “ch” is pronounced as “h” btw, as we learned during the last day of our stay. The town was very pretty, with ye olde buildings and a cathedral, nice bars and cafes, and very little socialist style construction, all capped by the beginnings of Elbe running through the town. Our accomodation at Pansionat Lucky proved satisfactory, fairly spacious even, with our own kitchenette, except that it looked like somebody had taken a dump on the sheets and then smeared them with blood, although upon closer inspection it turned out to be some kids work of art made with markers. The boys were even luckier, since the hostel reserved a 6 person room for them, a proper apartment with two rooms and lacquered board floors, with a great view down the main street of Vrchlabi. Hostel’s owners were not thrilled with letting two guests use a six person room, but boo hoo, they got paid what they asked anyway, so all their attempts at making us vacate one room and live with the boys were ruthlessly turned down. The only trouble with the rooms came from the boilers. Each room, you see, had its own gas-powered water heaters. Ours was small, and could accumulate 100l of hot water a night for daily usage, while the boys had a larger one in their room, a unit that was also responsible for heating the water radiators. Our boiler stopped working on the second day and didn’t work for the following two days, until one night it just sort of started right back up by itself. The hostel’s boss came by in the morning of the second day, poked it with a screw driver, muttered something about “night electricity” and went off. Guess she was right. Those days we showered in the boys’ shower. A few days later their boiler also had some sort of a nervous breakdown, and started spraying high pressure water-steam mixture, while its internal pressure rose to three times normal, so the boys took the cowards way out and decided to turn it off. It would have been fun to see how the situation would have unfolded if they left it on. Once again the staff were less than helpful… Oh, and one more incident at the hotel. On the morning of the third day I locked our only key inside, sticking out of the lock on the other side of the door, but as we were about to hit the slopes, and had all our stuff with us we decided to go and leave the door opening for later. I did, however, inform the reception about the situation. I thought it would be just a matter of getting the second key from the reception, but noooo… They had old-style locks that you couldn’t turn if there was a key inserted on the other side of the door. So there we were, sweaty and hungry after a day on the slopes, girly quite literally on the verge of a nervous breakdown, and with all our fresh clothes on the other side of the door. Yay. It took the repair man 3 hours to arrive and cost me 500CZK to open the door.

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Typical slope at Spindleruv Mlyn.

Typical slope at Spindleruv Mlyn.

As for the slopes, what is there to say. The slopes at Špindlerův Mlýn and Medvedin were mostly ok. Worse than in Slovakia, that is shorter and lower, but still better than most of those in Finland. The longest one was 2,7km long but very gently inclined, and the loftiest peak was 1235m high (compare that to 2200m in Slovakia). One good thing about the slopes was the relative absence of queues. I recall you could easily spend 20min queuing for the gondola in Slovakia. The weather was good throughout our stay, it was snowing 24/7, there was 2 meters of snow on the slopes, but no proper powder slopes. Although I probably wouldn’t have gone on them anyway. The first day brought a pleasant surprise. I could still snowboard! Whatever lessons I learned in Slovakia didn’t go to waste, as I feared, but were instead ingrained in what I can only assume is “muscle memory”. I was flying down slopes in no time, and this time my ribs stayed intact! My feet were giving me the usual problems even with special soles I had made to fit, but that was to be expected since they are flat and are twisted in some unfathomable way, so I sometimes had to have a sit down on the slopes half way

Me & the slope at Medvedin.

Me & the board at Medvedin.

through to alleviate the pain. Still, my body’s overall performance was much better than last year. I remember getting out of bed after the first day on the slopes in Slovakia. It was hell! I couldn’t move my legs, my abs hurt, my neck was immobilized… But this time it was up & go! I blame the gym for my success. All said though, we didn’t do much ‘boarding. The boys only hit the slopes 2 days out of 6, preferring to stay in and watch South Park on Simiches N95 or booze it up, while I fared slightly better with 3 days and 30 total descents. But there were many factors to blame for lack of activity. We were too few for major fun, the boys were usually too hungover, my girlfriend got sick… Still, it was worth it. Next time I’d like to go somewhere higher, although realistically speaking the slopes in the Czech Republic and Slovakia are probably best suited to my abilities. I did plow down a granny and a kid, even though strictly speaking it was their own goddamned fault for getting in the way of a true pro-rider..!

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Prague, city centre!

Prague, city centre!

We also took a few trips outside Vrchlabi and Špindlerův Mlýn, visiting a local microbrewerey, Pivovar Basta, and Prague. The brewery was utter shit, with crappy overpriced food and even crappier beer, with inept service as an added bonus. I bought dad 5l of their dark beer, and I hope it’s better than what they had on tap that day. Speaking of prices, that was one cheap trip. A beer at a “classy place” would usually cost about 30CZK, or 1 euro, plus - minus 10CZK, usually less, and a good meal would cost about 140CZK at a restaurant! That’s french fries, tartar sauce, chicken breast and vegetables, my usual fare. You could get a full lunch for 100CZK at lunch time from almost any restaurant, and I’m talking a proper soup and a large main course! That’s what shit’s supposed to cost, man. What it really costs. And when they replaced a part of my snowboard bindings I broke on the slopes it cost all of 80CZK, the part included! The part was used, the work to replace it only took about 3min, but that wouldn’t have stopped anyone at a Finnish ski resort from charging me at least 25€! So yeah, expensive it wasn’t. Pragues was… Prague. Very pretty, very big, very lively. A perfect city, were it to have sea as well. Unfortunately our enjoyment was somewhat tempered by the cold weather, but we managed. Prague, even though it is the capital and a tourist destination, isn’t expensive itself. Mulled wine (Glühwein) at the main square cost only about a euro fifty. We had a nice walk about, ate, and boarder the bus back to Vrchlabi, tired but content.

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Peak of Medvedin, 1235m...

Peak of Medvedin, 1235m...

Very soon, just as we started to properly enjoy ourselves and the boys got the hang of waking up early to do that skiing thing, we had to leave. But that’s the way it always is, I guess. And there was still the bus trip home, in the terrible company of the drunk and noisy monsters. The trip back was even worse because we had to sit right behind the bickering alcoholic couple, and the boys didn’t get their back row either, but had to listen to inane drunk chatter of 15 year olds. Brr.  Plus there was heavy fog on the road in Poland, and Kimi, ever wise, was shitting himself in drunken panic, yelling at the driver to stop and wait a few hours for the fog to dissassipate and giving other valuable advice. We were sort of glad that some of our hot-blooded Russian guys that wanted to come along on the trip couldn’t, since Kimi would have had his nose broken in the first few hours of the trip and we would have been removed from the bus already somewhere in Latvia. But yeah, as all things, good and bad, the trip came to an end, and we were back home in grim and gloomy Finland on 22.02.2009 at 19:45. My dear friend Supp came to pick us up, for which he received a bag of gummy bears and our eternal gratitude. I was so glad to get a lift that I would have offered him my virginal arse, but my girlfriend was there and might have objected, and he probably would have declined anyway, the picky bitch.

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Phew. That’s it. Next year we’ll probably go somewhere else altogether, somewhere higher, better… But probably more expensive, as these things go. And without infuriating fuckers on the bus, although that might be hard to arrange. Maybe some Jookoskookos tour with young people… Hmm… They do seem to have a much nicer itinerary.

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Ok, I know that this post ran on for way, way too long, but I’ll still throw in a few links. Here’s an interesting point of view on terrorism and 9/11 in Slate, the first article of a week-long series that just started. They make some good points there… And now on to something completely different. A fitness trainer decided to gain a shitload of weight in order to understand his clients better and to prove that major weight loss and getting fit is really possible and is not that hard. What a fucking show off. Meh. I also took it upon myself to gain a lot of weight. That’s where my brilliant plan ends, though. Then a few quick ones. Mobile phone art, looking suprisingly cool, humongous fucking stingray, and the Top 10 deaths caused by video games! Enjoy! I’m gonna go take a nap or something.

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