Greece / Prague Travelogue, Part VI

(this is part VI of my recent European trip journal. If you haven’t seen them yet, you should read part I, part II, part III, part IV, and part V)

4-9, 11:30 AM, Somewhere over the Atlantic

Wow, has it really been 5 days [since I last wrote]? Shamefully, I did not write at all during the visit to Prague. Now, I’m sitting on the plane from LHR to JFK, so I have time to wrap up this trip journal. (That is, if the worst flight attendant in the world will stop being a jerk about my bags on the floor). [She had given me this really pathetic, patronizing lecture about exit row protocol, using a voice that I would only use with a 2-year-old, wearing a smile that was oozing smug sarcasm. Ugh.]

Well, the morning after I last wrote, my sister and I had some amazing breakfast crepes in Fira–the best I’ve ever had. After that, I did end up finding a greek Orthodox bookstore, where the proprietors did not speak very much English, but I hung out with them for a while, and eventually picked up a wonderful New Testament, with one page of each pair being the ancient Greek, and the other being modern (though I learned they still use the polytonic accents in the modern translation, out of reverence for the text). With that, our time in Santorini was more or less over, and we dutifully endured the long ferry ride back to Peiraias. It was quite a bit more crowded than before, and of course the one screaming child in our cabin was seated right next to me. I don’t understand obnoxious screaming kids. Don’t they get bored or tired after a while? Guess not. I hope to God mine aren’t like that! We got to port just a few minutes after the metro stopped running, so we had to hire a cab for the ride back to our hotstel on Kydathineon street downtown–and of course the cabbie tried to up the price on us when we left. Ridiculous!

The next day was one of traveling. Rachel and I left our hostel mid-morning, taking leave of our traveling companion Victor; we made it to the airport OK, then took a Swiss Air flight to Zurich (before which, we were able to get into the British Airways club for an hour and have sandwiches, beer, and internet–thank you AA Platinum!). Zurich was a well-designed airport, but very hot. Our layover was not long, however, and soon we were on our rather small regional jet over to Prague!

When we arrived in Prague, the weather was cool and very refreshing–I was glad to be able to break out my jacket, finally. We took a crowded bus (it was 6 PM) to the crowded metro [to Namesti Miru], then another crowded above-ground tram to our hostel, the Czech Inn. It was by far the cleanest and nicest hostel I’ve stayed in, and cheap too! It’s brand new, and done in a very elegant modern decor, all sans-serify. Moreover, the bar was excellent, with equally excellent Czech beer on tap, at about $2 a liter. My sister rushed off just as soon as we arrived to go to a dance with a friend of hers from Capernwray, Peter, who’s from Prague. While she was busy being the belle of the ball, I entertained myself with beer and some Czech snacks [consisting of clumps of cheese, oil, onions, and rye bread; it looked and sounded disgusting, but went perfectly with the beer]. After a while, Rachel’s traveling buddy from Capernwray, Vince [who’d been traveling with Rachel in the UK earlier], showed up. He was to join her and my mom and brother (due to arrive the next day) for the next few weeks. I went to bed exhausted and pleasantly full.

The next day (Friday), Rachel, Vince, and I were met early by Petr and his friend, also Petr. The two of them acted as tour guides for us pretty much the entire day, taking us to some of the main spots in Prague, but more often to out-of-the-way places where there weren’t as many tourists. It was wonderful to have people who were knowledgeable about the city, and who could translate for us! [This was particularly important at lunch, when we wouldn’t have been able to tell the (important) difference between, say, pork and tripe] We visited the national park otuside the city, walked through the center, then went to Vysehrad where we had lunch at a very local pub-type place and ate some traditional Czech food.

In the afternoon, I learned that some of Petr’s other friends were going rock climbing, so I asked if I could go with them. Around 4;30, I met up with them at Dejvicka station and we were off to the gym (though they didn’t really speak English, except for one guy, and I never really figured out their names). The gym was pretty far out of town, and it was insane–all top-rope, and all lead–so even the first-timers were being taught how to lead-climb at the same time as they were learning how to tie in! Crazy. I climbed OK–I was dehydrated from too much beer at lunch and no water subsequently, but had a good time nonetheless. [In fact, after a couple hours of climbing, I experienced some strange temporary blindness, until I drank 1.5 liters of water in about 5 minutes] Anyways, I thought we were going to be there about 3 hours, then meet back up with Petr and Rachel and Vince (and hopefully my mom and brother, who were scheduled to arrive then) for tea and dinner. Instead, we were at the climbing gym for about 6 hours–until it closed at 10:30. Ahh culture differences! Well, it was great to climb, and fun to do something, some activity, with all-local people, where we didn’t even really need to speak the same language–climbing was universal! It was fun to have that connection.

Anyway, by the time I finally made it back to the hostel, David and my mom had already arrived and gone out to diner with everyone (they wisely brought back leftovers for me!) and it was great to see them, since it’d been a really long time. We were all exhausted, so I had one more beer for the day, and we all went to bed.

Saturday was our “be a tourist in Prague” day. We went to all the major sites, took pictures, browsed shops, etc… I was surprised at how touristy Prague was for what was, in my opinion, not a whole lot of really remarkable things. Or maybe I just didn’t care as much about statues as those people. Anyway, we had a great and long day, walking, cafeing, talking, etc. That night (last night), since I was leaving this morning, just us Lipps went out to dinner at a really excellent cellar pub, again with excellent and cheap beer. We talked about all sorts of stuff and it felt good to reconnect as a family–we haven’t really all seen each other in a long time.

Back at the hostel, we said our goodbyes and packed up. I was to leave in about 4 hours, and the rest were to be off mid-morning, starting the long train journey around Europe. We each had a shot of Absinthe to commemorate the adventure, and that was it! I woke up on time, made it through the extremely-crowded 5:30 AM bus trip to the airport, and made my flight to LHR. There was some security trouble or emergency there, so I almost missed my connection to JFK, but here I am on the flight!

It really was an incredible trip, and one I will remember forever. I was glad to see new places, to hang out with my sister, to start learning Greek, and to have lots of good transcendental plane/boat rides. Hopefully the fruit of these times will be evident soon–already I’m glad to have been working on my “Things that are true” list, since I believe there are a number of valuable insights there, pertaining to the issues I mentioned in the first entry of this journal. So there we have it! Thanks to God for a safe and awesome trip. Amen.

There we have it, indeed. Not a super-exciting trip journal, but I hope it was at least moderately enjoyable. I think I gained the most benefit from just setting aside time periodically to write, and with pen and paper–no computer glare or anything else to do. As I mentioned, though, most of the more intense and focused writing centered around a certain list, which I very simply titled “Things that are true”. I’ll reproduce that here soon, as the preface to a question I want your help in answering, but first I wanted to get pictures up for you all to look at, which will provide a break from all this text. So stay tuned, pictures coming up!

By Jonathan Lipps

Jonathan worked as a programmer in tech startups for several decades, but is also passionate about all kinds of creative pursuits and academic discussion. Jonathan has master’s degrees in philosophy and linguistics, from Stanford and Oxford respectively, and is working on another in theology. An American-Canadian, he lives in Vancouver, BC and has way too many hobbies.

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